Also In Global Health News: WHO Flu Response; Sanitation In Mozambique; Interfaith HIV/AIDS Summit; HIV/AIDS In Uganda; South African Hospital Renovations; HIV Vaccine Development

Chan Defends WHO’s Response To H1N1

On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan defended her agency’s response to the H1N1 flu pandemic saying, “I personally do not believe that WHO exaggerated the threat,” and that “[a] new disease is, by definition, poorly understood as it emerges,” Reuters reports. Chan continued, “Had the virus turned more lethal, we would be under scrutiny for having failed to protect large numbers of people.” Reuters notes that Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s top flu expert, “has admitted the six-point pandemic alert scale caused undue confusion as the virus spread in a seemingly milder form,” but also said extra caution was taken because of the initial concern that H1N1 was affecting young and otherwise healthy people (MacInnis, 9/28).

CNN Reports On Musician’s Efforts To Expand Sanitation Education In Mozambique

“With his internationally-known band, Massukos, [musician Feliciano dos Santos] spreads his life-saving messages to the most far-flung areas of Mozambique where scores of people still struggle due to lack of clean water and waste management systems,” CNN writes in a story examining Santos’ efforts to improve sanitation in the country. “Step by step, people are using the music – this means that the song’s there and every time they wash their hands, they remember the song and they sing,” said Santos, who in 1996 co-founded the Estamos, “an NGO working to solve the problem of sanitation, promote sustainable agriculture and educate about HIV/AIDS” (McCarthy/Kermeliotis, 9/28).

PTI Examines Network For Religious Leaders Affected By HIV/AIDS, Interfaith Summit

INERELA is “an international network of religious leaders” affected by HIV/AIDS founded by Anglican priest Reverend J. P. Heath, who said HIV-positive religious leaders “face double the stigma, double the discrimination” because of people associate HIV with “immoral sex,” Press Trust of India reports. INERELA “works with various countries in Africa and also countries like India, [and] has advocated the SAVE programme which refers to treating HIV/AIDS in a holistic manner,” PTI writes (9/28). In a separate article, PTI examines a “two-day interfaith summit on HIV” that that just concluded in Bangalore, India. As part of the summit, “religious leaders … signed a declaration that chalked out a strategy to combat AIDS, which includes working in close partnership with organisations and networks of people living with HIV” (9/28).

HIV/AIDS Conference In Uganda Addresses PMTCT

The New Vision reports on a three-day HIV/AIDS conference that kicked off in Uganda on Monday, attended by “hundreds of child health specialists in HIV, donors and researchers,” that discussed preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus. “The UNAIDS country coordinator, Musa Bungudu, blamed the new HIV infections in children on the failure of the” country’s PMTCT program and “said about 40 children are born with HIV everyday in Uganda.” Health Minister Kenya Mugisha “said Uganda has good policies which are not implemented, while neighbouring countries have successfully adopted and implemented policies emulated from Uganda.” The article also quotes the country’s PEPFAR coordinator Michael Strong, who “added that there is need to integrate access to paediatric HIV drug formulations into public health as well as child survival programmes” (Baguma, 9/28).

South Africa To Upgrade 5 Public Hospitals

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday said that the country will spend billions of rands to upgrade some hospitals, SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports. “We will put in massive investment – it will be more than what the country spent during the Soccer World Cup,” Motsoaledi said during a meeting in Durban to prepare for the revamp of King Edward VIII Hospital. A total of five public hospitals are slated to undergo renovations. “The revitalisation is [part] of the 10-point programme which is needed in preparation of the national health insurance,” he said (9/27).

Scientists Develop Technique That Could Aid In Future HIV Vaccine Development

Disabling a key protein in the HIV virus from changing shape could “prime an immune system to develop antibodies against the virus. Such antibodies, elicited against specific protein segments, could one day serve as the basis for a vaccine to fight many different strains of HIV or other swiftly mutating viruses,” Nature News reports. “[S]cientists in the United States have devised a computer model for identifying a protein that could serve as a type of scaffold, locking [the piece of protein] into the structure to which a neutralizing antibody can bind. ‘We’ve figured out how to pull out those snippets, retain their structure, and teach the immune system to recognize them,’ says Peter Kwong, a structural biologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID] in Bethesda, Maryland, and an author of the study, published [Monday] in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (Katsnelson, 9/27). A NIAID press release is also available.

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