This month, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) recognizes Cervical Health Awareness Month. Cervical cancer infects an estimated 12,000 American women each year, of with more than 4,000 die. It is an even greater burden in developing countries. More than 80% of deaths caused by cervical cancer deaths take place in developing countries and it significantly impacts the poor.
The good news is that a vaccine against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer, can greatly reduce the number of infections. “Cervical cancer is preventable through vaccines and screening tests. Making sure these tools reach the most vulnerable women is critical, of course, but so are efforts to educate women about the disease. Accurate, culturally-sensitive information and access to care are an unbeatable combination,” said ASHA/NCCC President and CEO Lynn B. Barclay in a press release calling for the prevention of cervical cancer.
China is taking steps to ensure that the yellow fever outbreak in Sudan does not come back to the country by scanning travelers, reports the New York Times.
Local health authorities were asked to scan all travelers arriving from Sudan for fevers. Chinese citizens planning travel to Sudan were advised to get yellow fever shots. Customs officers were told that containers arriving from Sudan might have stray infected mosquitoes inside.
Sudan’s epidemic is considered the world’s worst in 20 years. Sweden, Britain and other donors have paid for vaccinations. The United States Navy’s laboratory in Egypt has helped with diagnoses.
Estimates of the number of Chinese working in Africa, many in the oil and mining industries or on major construction projects, range from 500,000 to 1 million. Experts onAIDS have previously warned that the workers could become a new means of bringing that disease to China, which has a low H.I.V.-infection rate.
ProMED-mail, a Web site that follows emerging diseases, has tracked reports about the Sudan outbreak, with its moderators adding valuable context. China’s mosquito-killing winters make a large yellow fever outbreak there unlikely, moderators said. But Sudan’s containment efforts are troubled. For example, vaccinated people cannot get cards proving they have had shots, but the cards are reported to be for sale at police checkpoints.
Australia’s now-endemic dengue fever, according to ProMED moderators, may have come from mosquitoes arriving in containers from East Timor.
By Anne Peniston, Nutrition Chief, USAID
Undernutrition has a long-term impact on our nations’ health, economies and security, and in the past two years, the political will and leadership to tackle the issue on a global scale has been unprecedented. While there are many challenges ahead, recent global commitments, country policies and programs, and new partnerships are meaningful indications of nutrition’s elevated role on the development agenda.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently challenged us all to create a world free from stunting. The U.S. is committed to meeting this challenge by maximizing synergies across programs and tapping resources from various sectors such as economic growth, food aid, humanitarian assistance, health and water to maximize investments to improve the nutritional status of women and young children.
January 8, 2012
Uganda is falling short on its goal to provide ARV treatment to 80% of people living with HIV. IRIN reports:
Some 62 percent of those needing HIV treatment were on ARVs in March 2012, up from 50 percent in 2010. Uganda managed to enrol an estimated 65,493 new HIV cases on life-prolonging ARVs in 2012, bringing to 356,056 the number of those receiving ARVs, according to UAC statistics.
But just 8 percent of these cases were children. A recent government survey has revealed that just 49 percent of infants in need of treatment are receiving it. (The government recommends that all HIV-positive infants under age two receive ARVs.) Some 20,000 to 24,000 children are infected with HIV each year, according to the Ministry of Health.
To improve the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the government launched in September 2012 the UN World Health Organization’s “Option B+” strategy, which involves giving HIV-positive mothers triple-therapy ARVs as soon as they are diagnosed, and continuing treatment for life, regardless of their CD4 count.
The government has been urged to set up an “AIDS levy” to generate additional revenue for HIV prevention, treatment and care.
“Budgeting by government for the AIDS response must increase as a matter of urgency for the financial year 2013-14 and beyond, prioritizing recurrent costs such as health worker recruitment and retention and procurement of essential commodities rather than trainings, workshops and seminars,” civil society groups said in a statement.
The Ugandan government recently developed a draft working paper on establishing a US$1 billion HIV fund to explore alternative and sustainable sources of funding for its HIV/AIDS programmes.
Sources of funding listed in the paper, released in September by the Uganda AIDS Commission, include levying taxes on bank transactions and interest, airplane tickets, beer, soft drinks and cigarettes, as well goods and services traded within Uganda.
Small fees would also be levied on civil servants’ salaries. Corporate and withholding taxes would be increased slightly, and a small tax would be added to telephone calls and to each kilowatt of electricity consumed.
By Deputy Editor Tom Murphy
The impact of cancer in low- and middle-income countries is rapidly taking hold with fewer children dying and more people living longer. In fact, more people die from cancer each year than of AIDS, TB and malaria combined. Meanwhile, cancer spending by aid donors is a fraction of what is spent when compared to other health challenges.
“I think cancer and other noncommunicable diseases have been under-recognized and they have been neglected, but that’s not a malicious neglect,” explained Lancet editor Richard Horton to Public Radio International’s The World. “It’s because there’s just been this overwhelming burden of other problems.”
“In many parts of the developing world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the overwhelming burden for many decades has been preventable maternal and child deaths, malaria, tuberculosis, and, over recent decades, HIV/AIDS. And that burden has been so overwhelming to families and to governments that it’s been very hard to see anything else through that very thick fog of death,” continued Horton.
The Union for International Cancer Control is sponsoring a pair of Cervical Cancer Action webinars this month that will lead discussions on addressing the problem of cervical cancer in Africa and South America. Members of the PSI team will be participating in discussion and we hope that you will join us.
Check out the details below:
A cervical cancer free Africa: regional solutions for lasting change
Wednesday, 16 January
Webinar will last 90 minutes, beginning at 9:00 AM EST
Check the time of the webinar in your country
This webinar will be presented in English.
Early efforts to improve screening and early treatment for women and to introduce HPV vaccine to girls are beginning to pick up speed across the continent. Many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are taking bold steps to prevent cervical cancer, but their action may be impeded by common myths and misconceptions. During this 90-minute discussion, regional experts will describe the progress made to date in Africa and describe emerging opportunities, available expertise, and tools to help countries reshape the future of this tragic, and entirely preventable, disease.
January 7, 2013
Pakistan is providing greater security as it resumes polio vaccinations, say officials. From AFP:
UN agencies suspended work on a nationwide campaign to inoculate children against the highly infectious disease after nine health workers were murdered in a string of attacks in the northwest and Karachi in December.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is endemic, but efforts to stamp out the disease have been hampered by resistance from the Taliban, who have banned vaccination teams from some areas, and distrust.
On Tuesday, six women and a man working for a charity involved in polio vaccinations were shot dead in the northwestern district of Swabi.
A senior government official said that instead of pressing another nationwide campaign, authorities had decided to inoculate children in phases, in a low key manner with adequate security arrangements.
Doctor Janbaz Afridi, head of polio eradication in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said that to ensure security, campaigns would be carried out in phases and separately in different districts.
“We had to launch a campaign from January 14, but were not given security clearance, so we reviewed the schedule and modified our policy to do it in phases starting from high-risk districts,” Afridi told AFP.
“The inoculation teams can now go into selected areas with adequate security at any suitable time instead of a province-wide campaign,” he added.
Polio cases in Pakistan have risen sharply in recent years, hitting 198 in 2011 — the highest figure for more than a decade and the most of any country in the world last year, according to the World Health Organization.
Rumours about the vaccine being a plot to sterilise Muslims have long dogged efforts to tackle the disease in Pakistan.
By Emma O’Brien, Peace Corps volunteer
On December 12th, 2012, PSI/Guinea signed new innovative partnerships with ten local universities. The collaboration seeks to strengthen the capacity of young graduates by providing them internship opportunities with PSI/Guinea, enabling them to connect their theoretical knowledge with real-world experiences. PSI/Guinea initiated this collaboration with both public and private universities, citing its commitment to improving not solely the health of the Guinean population, but to meeting its civic responsibilities as well.
The Country Representative, Doctor Salifou Compaoré, spoke at the signing ceremony, saying, “this event that brings us together today demonstrates a fundamental, but sometimes overlooked, mission of PSI/Guinea – the promotion of local skills and competencies. In building this platform for dialogue and exchange with national universities, PSI/Guinea is evaluating how we are meeting our civic duties.”
By Doulaye Kone, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The need to make sanitation accessible to the poor is clear. Some 40 percent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – use unsanitary or unsafe pit latrines or practice open defecation, and the consequences can be devastating. One of the most shocking is this: Every year, food and water tainted with fecal matter cause up to 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea among children under 5, resulting in 1.5 million child deaths.
The flush toilet, as we know it in the developed world, hasn’t changed much since the development of the ‘water closet’ more than 200 years ago. While it has saved lives and improved the health of millions, it also uses a significant amount of potable water, requires expensive maintenance and isn’t a sustainable solution for everyone.
January 4, 2013
Scientists are looking to the clouds to attempt to make predictions for disease outbreaks. The AP reports:
In one recent study, two scientists reported they could predict — more than seven weeks in advance — when flu season was going to peak in New York City. Theirs was just the latest in a growing wave of computer models that factor in rainfall, temperature or other weather conditions to forecast disease.
Health officials are excited by this kind of work and the idea that it could be used to fine-tune vaccination campaigns or other disease prevention efforts.
At the same time, experts note that outbreaks are influenced as much, or more, by human behavior and other factors as by the weather. Some argue weather-based outbreak predictions still have a long way to go. And when government health officials warned in early December that flu season seemed to be off to an early start, they said there was no evidence it was driven by the weather.
This disease-forecasting concept is not new: Scientists have been working on mathematical models to predict outbreaks for decades and have long factored in the weather. They have known, for example, that temperature and rainfall affect the breeding of mosquitoes that carry malaria, West Nile virus and other dangerous diseases.
Recent improvements in weather-tracking have helped, including satellite technology and more sophisticated computer data processing.
More recently, in east Africa, satellites have been used to predict rainfall by measuring sea-surface temperatures and cloud density. That’s been used to generate “risk maps” for Rift Valley fever — a virus that spreads from animals to people and in severe cases can cause blindness or death. Researchers have said the system in some cases has given two to six weeks advance warning.
Last year, other researchers using satellite data in east Africa said they found that a small change in average temperature was a warning sign cholera cases would double within four months.
“We are getting very close to developing a viable forecasting system” against cholera that can help health officials in African countries ramp up emergency vaccinations and other efforts, said a statement by one of the authors, Rita Reyburn of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, South Korea.
Some diseases are hard to forecast, such as West Nile virus. Last year, the U.S. suffered one of its worst years since the virus arrived in 1999. There were more than 2,600 serious illnesses and nearly 240 deaths.