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Also In Global Health News: WHO H1N1 Advisory Committee; Malawian President Pardons Gay Couple; Debate Over Mandatory HIV/AIDS Testing; Lancet Child Deaths’ Study Methods; Access To Toilets

WHO Advisory Committee To Discuss Whether To Declare H1N1 Pandemic Over

“A panel that advises the World Health Organization on pandemics will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to declare the H1N1[swine] flu outbreak over,” Reuters/New York Times reports (5/31). “The WHO’s latest update on Friday said the most active areas of pandemic swine flu virus transmission are currently in parts of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, where low level circulation is occurring,” CBC News reports (5/31). CTV News adds that the committee will also assess the effect of winter’s onset in the southern hemisphere (5/31).

Malawian President Pardons Gay Couple On ‘Humanitarian Grounds’; U.S. Praises Move

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika “on Saturday pardoned a gay couple who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered their release but insisted that homosexuality was still illegal in his conservative southern African nation,” the Associated Press/TIME reports. The president “announced the pardon on ‘humanitarian grounds only’ during a press conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Lilongwe, the capital,” the news service continues (Tenthani, 5/29).

The U.S. praised the move by Mutharika, Agence France-Presse reports. “We hope that President Mutharika’s pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country’s history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe,” according to a White House statement released Saturday (5/29). In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed the White House’s reaction to the pardoning of the Malawian prisoners (5/30).

Debate Over HIV/AIDS Testing In Zambia

A high court in Zambia on Friday ruled that the Zambian Air Force (ZAF) violated the human rights of two employees when it tested them for HIV without their knowledge and subsequently fired them, IOL reports (5/28). BBC News looks at the debate over HIV testing in Zambia. According to the news service, “It is estimated that one in seven Zambian adults have the virus, yet only around 15% have gone for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT).” The article features comments from Elizabeth Mataka, the U.N. secretary general’s special envoy for AIDS in Africa, the former president of the Zambia Medical Association, and several human rights advocates, who weigh in on mandatory testing’s potential affect on HIV/AIDS rates in Zambia and the country’s health system as well as fears over how it could lead to increasing stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS (Fidgen, 5/28).

Economist Examines Lancet Child Deaths Study

The Economist examines a recent Lancet study, which found that global child deaths have decreased faster than expected. The article focuses on the study’s statistical methods, which has been “challenged by some.” The researchers used “Gaussian process regression (GPR), which is not commonly used in the field of global health, but which they believe is more accurate, to plug the gaps and make the forecasts,” according to the magazine. The article features comments from Christopher Murray of “the Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which is home to several of the paper’s authors,” and others such as Kenneth Hill, a demographer at the Harvard School of Public Health, who said the authors do an “impressive job” of using information from a range of sources, but also thinks that a “much stronger evidentiary base is required” to make such strong conclusions (5/27).  

IANS/Times Of India Reports On One Innovator’s Effort To Bring Toilets To Developing World

IANS/Times of India reports on the work of Indian innovator Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh movement, who recently described to the World Environment and Water Resources Congress “how his technologies could help achieve the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation to provide toilets to half of the 2.6 billion people who are without toilets by 2015 and to all by 2025.” According to the news service, “Pathak said he planned to open Sulabh Sanitation Centres in 50 countries in the next five years and to train the local people and engineers so they can implement the programmes in their own countries.” His group has started projects in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Laos, Madagascar and Mozambique. “Besides maintaining more than 7,000 public toilets in India, Sulabh has also built public toilets in Bhutan and Afghanistan,” the news service adds (5/27).

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