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BY PUJA GUPTA
Continuing the closure of red-light areas in India even after the lifting of the lockdown on May 17 can reduce the number of COVID cases by 72 per cent in a period of 45-days, and delay the peak of cases by 17 days, says a finding by academicians from Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.
The study called ‘Modelling the Effect of Continued Closure of Red-Light Areas on COVID Transmission in India’ finds that Indians are at a much lower risk of getting COVID-19 if red light areas are kept closed after the lockdown until an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. This intervention can help the Indian government significantly reduce the risk of citizens getting COVID-19.
The delay in the peak will provide the government more time and opportunities to plan and execute measures to protect public health and economy, as India moves in Lockdown 4.0. The study also states that there could be a 63 per cent reduction in the number of deaths in the first 60 days after the lockdown ends if red-light areas are kept closed.
In India, there are close to 6,37,500 sex workers as per the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) and over 5 lakh customers visit the red-light areas on a daily basis. The study shows that if the red-light areas start operating, the disease will spread extremely quickly and infect a very high percentage of sex workers and customers. The high transmission rate is because social distancing is not possible during the act of sex. The infected customers could spread the disease to lakhs of other citizens.
Therefore, these red-light areas have a combination of factors that can create a major hotspot. This hotspot can create a large percentage of the disease spread after lockdown ends. To protect citizens against this, the study recommends keeping red light areas closed indefinitely, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report highlights the impact of red-light areas across India and in five Indian cities which are currently in the red-zone and account for some of the largest red-light areas in the country with large numbers of sex workers.
As per the study, if red-light areas are kept closed following the lifting of lockdown, there can be a delay in the peak of COVID-19 cases by:
Up to 12 days in Mumbai
Up to 17 days in New Delhi,
Up to 29 days in Pune,
Up to 30 days in Nagpur,
Up to 36 days in Kolkata
Further, it can reduce COVID-19 cases in a 45-day period by:
21 per cent in Mumbai,
27 per cent in Pune,
31 per cent in New Delhi,
56 per cent in Nagpur,
66 per cent in Kolkata
The report shows that closure of red-light areas can significantly reduce deaths by 63 per cent in India, 28 per cent in Mumbai, 38 per cent in New Delhi, 43 per cent in Pune, 61 per cent in Nagpur and 66 per cent in Kolkata in the first 60 days. These numbers are based on the prevalent reproduction number of 2.0. The numbers could vary depending on the Reproduction number, which is constantly changing with time in different locations.
Commenting on the report, co-author, Dr. Jefferey Townsend, Professor of Biostatistics, Yale School of Medicine said: “At the release of lockdown, there is a very high potential for the increase in the cases, and hence, a modulated approach is warranted. The actual scenario will depend on behaviour of individuals and our model does not predict how individuals will behave. The purpose of our modelling exercises in not to predict what will happen in the future, but to understand the effect of the intervention on the future. Our study findings show that there is a strong effect of the red-light area closures, especially immediately following the lockdown.”
Other countries have also implemented similar interventions. In Australia, brothels and strip clubs are the only businesses that are delineated as indefinitely closed in the country’s reopening plan. Germany and the Netherlands have also closed their brothels to protect citizens from COVID-19. Japan did not close down red light areas in-time and saw an “explosion” in cases because of a red light area that left local hospitals “overwhelmed”.
Speaking about the COVID-19 situation in India, co-author of the report, Dr Sudhakar Nuti, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School said: “The Indian government’s early measures to prevent the high growth in COVID-19 cases have flattened the curve in the country. The continued closure of red-light areas would build on the successes achieved by the government in lockdown. India gained around 40 days of delay in the peak through a lockdown and can gain another 17 days of delay by keeping these places closed. Any effort in delaying the peak reduces the amount of stress on the medical system and potentially translates into lives saved. Preventing the potential surge in cases by red light areas reopening will protect gains made by the lockdown.”
The report has been co-authored by Prof. Jeffery Townsend, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, Prof. Alison Galvani, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Modelling & Analysis, Yale University, and Dr. Sudhakar Nuti, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. (IANS)
By Nikhila Natarajan
In a continuing study on the effects of machine learning (ML) on public conversation, Twitter has confirmed that its algorithms amplify right-leaning political content. "In six out of seven countries - all but Germany - tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group," Twitter blogged.
"Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organisations, see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets." Since 2016, Twitter users are able to choose between viewing algorithmically ordered tweets first in their home timeline or viewing the most recent tweets in reverse chronological order.
"An algorithmic home timeline displays a stream of tweets from accounts we have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content Twitter thinks we might be interested in based on accounts we interact with frequently, tweets we engage with, and more. "As a result, what we see on our timeline is a function of how we interact with Twitter's algorithmic system, as well as how the system is designed."
The new research is based on tweets of elected officials of House of Commons members in Canada, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag, House of Representatives in Japan, Congress of Deputies of Spain, House of Commons in the UK, and official and personal accounts of House of Representatives and Senate members in the US, as well as news outlets, from April 1 to August 15, 2020.
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. | Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
The study was conducted by Ferenc Huszar (Twitter, University of Cambridge), Sofia Ira Ktena (now at DeepMind Technologies), Conor O'Brien (Twitter), Luca Belli (Twitter), Andrew Schlaikjer (Twitter), and Moritz Hardt (UC Berkeley).
The questions probed were:
How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter's algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favour one side of the political spectrum more than the other?
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: algorithmically, timeline, algorithmic, tweets, political, survey
Even as India celebrates reaching a milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses, Snapdeal co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal on Friday lauded a man who facilitated 64 registrations for the vaccine on the CoWin portal. In a video shared on his Facebook and Twitter page, Bansal hailed Sonu Kumar as a "citizen celebrity".
Bansal said that Kumar not only helped "just co-workers and family but complete strangers too. With patience, empathy and uncanny jugaad". He added that Kumar joined him "many moons ago" and completed his open school from a parking lot.
"Education has helped this wonderful man enable others to get India back on track. Bravo! The CoWin portal on Thursday mentioned that a total of 100 crore vaccine doses has been administered so far to the eligible population under the vaccination drive in India, nine months after the nationwide inoculation programme was started to protect the people against Covid-19.
"It's a cause of significant celebration and happiness," Bansal said in the video. He said that while people just help a few around them, Kumar "bridged the digital gap" for 64 people, who were finding it difficult to register themselves online on the vaccine portal. Kumar said he doesn't feel that he has contributed much towards the 100 crore vaccine dose count. "I have been able to help only 64 people, if I was able to help more I would have been happier." (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: cowin, covid, india, people, Rohit bansal, Sonu kumar, vaccine
KAMPALA, UGANDA — Uganda has kickstarted a trial for the injectable HIV drugs cabotegravir and rilpivirine. Researchers and those living with HIV say the trial will likely end pill fatigue, fight stigma, improve adherence and ensure patients get the right dosage.
The two drugs have been in use as tablets. The World Health Organization last year licensed their use as injectables.
While the two injectables already went through trials in Europe and North America, this will be the first time they are tested in an African population for efficacy and safety in an African health care system.
Uganda is one of three African countries, along with Kenya and South Africa, which got approval from the WHO to carry out the trials. However, Kenya and South Africa have yet to acquire approvals to start their trials, expected by the end of the year.
Uganda and Kenya will both have three trial sites and there will be two in South Africa, with a total of 512 participants -- 202 from Uganda, 160 from Kenya and 150 from South Africa.
Dr. Ivan Mambule, the lead project researcher at the Joint Clinical Research Center, says participants will need one injection every two months.
"We are going to choose participants who are already on ART [anti-retroviral treatment] and are stable on ART. And we will randomize them to either continue on their normal treatment, which is the pill that they've been taking, or to switch them to this injectable. The injection is on the buttock," he expressed.
In this photo taken in Nov. 15, 2012 a patient, right, is attended to, at the US sponsored Themba Lethu, HIV/AIDS Clinic at the Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa Image credit: VOA
Uganda has 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Barbara Kemigisa who is living with HIV and founded the Pill Power Foundation working with rural women, says the injectable drugs will increase adherence to treatment and ensure people get the right dosage.
"One of the things that affects adherence is the fact that people have to hide medicine. In the village, people are hiding medicine in the kitchen roof, in trees, in bushes, in a baby's shoe…If someone is wrapping the medicine in like five plastic bags and digs a hole in the garden and keeps the medicine there, by the time someone is taking that medicine, it's no longer medicine, it's poison," Kemigisa points out.
Nicholas Niwagaba, who has worked with young people living with HIV welcomes the trial, saying it will reduce the pill burden and fight stigma.
"Young people feel like, this is a lot of pills to take. Those who are on the first line, they will have to take one tablet a day. There are those who are on second line and they have to take more than one pill and they have to take it in the morning and in the evening. And of course, this requires you to have actually a balanced diet which is really a challenge for most of young people especially those from vulnerable communities," he says.
According to the WHO, there are 25.7 million people living with HIV in Africa. With only the pill currently available to manage the scourge, this injectable may come as a relief for people living with HIV/AIDS. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally by Halima Athumani)
Keywords: HIV, WHO, Africa, Research, Uganda