Maximizing the Impact of your Donations

Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer wrote an OpEd for the New York Times this weekend that argues for the importance of supporting the right charity. He uses the example of giving to a local museum verses donating to an organization that helps people with the blinding disease trachoma. He says giving to the trachoma work will yield much more value than giving to the museum.

Suppose you have a choice between visiting the art museum, including its new wing, or going to see the museum without visiting the new wing. Naturally, you would prefer to see it with the new wing. But now imagine that an evil demon declares that out of every 100 people who see the new wing, he will choose one, at random, and inflict 15 years of blindness on that person. Would you still visit the new wing? You’d have to be nuts. Even if the evil demon blinded only one person in every 1,000, in my judgment, and I bet in yours, seeing the new wing still would not be worth the risk.

Remembering US Needle-Exchange Pioneer David Purchase

The needle-exchange movement has been an important development in the effort to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, among drug users. A good amount of credit for the growth of the movement in the United States can be attributed to David Purchase.  In fact, there are unconfirmed reports that Mr. Purchase’s needle exchange work in Tacoma, Washington beginning in 1988 was the first such offering in the United States.

A drug counselor, Mr Purchase used the $3,000 he won in a settlement after being struck by a drunk driver while on his motorcycle to begin to provide clean syringes to his clients. Sadly, Mr Purchase passed away from pneumonia on January 21  at the age of 73. His Point Defiance AIDS Project and the North American Syringe Exchange Network are responsible for keeping 15 million potentially harmful syringes off the streets each year.

PSI and Gates Collaborate to Test Male Circumcision Innovation in Zimbabwe

This week, the New York Times reported on the development of two male circumcision devices: PrePex and Shang Ring. Both are exciting innovations that make it quicker, easier and safer to perform circumcisions on men.

Now that three studies have shown that circumcising adult heterosexual men is one of the most effective “vaccines” against AIDS — reducing the chances of infection by 60 percent or more — public health experts are struggling to find ways to make the process faster, cheaper and safer.

The goal is to circumcise 20 million African men by 2015, but only about 600,000 have had the operation thus far. Even a skilled surgeon takes about 15 minutes, most African countries are desperately short of surgeons, and there is no Mohels Without Borders.

So donors are pinning their hopes on several devices now being tested to speed things up.

Dr. Stefano Bertozzi, director of H.I.V. for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said it had its eyes on two, named PrePex and the Shang Ring, and was supporting efforts by the World Health Organization to evaluate them.

Chairman Mao and the Discovery of Artemisinin

It might come to your surprise that one of the most important figures in the modern fight against malaria is none other than former Chinese leader Mao Zedong. It was his allocation of resources to assist the North Vietnamese battle both American troops and malaria that led to the discovery of artemisinin, the drug that is considered to be a major medical advancement in ending malaria.

This morning, the New York Times has a report on the history of artemisinin that is well worth reading.   One idea that is posited throughout the article is if the discovery should be considered for the Nobel Prize.  Weigh in in the comments section with your opinion.

Mao’s role was simple.

In the 1960s, he got an appeal from North Vietnam: Its fighters were dying because local malaria had become resistant to all known drugs. He ordered his top scientists to help.