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Colombian Guerrilla group releases Spanish Journalist after week-long captivity

Both ELN and FARC are currently negotiating with government over a peace agreement mediated by Cuba

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Salud Hernandez, correspondent at El mundo . Image Source: elspanol.com
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  • Hernandez went missing on May 21 in a remote region near border with Venezuela
  • Salud Hernandez and Two other journalist were released by the Leftist Guerrilla group
  • The spanish Journalist was delivered to a Catholic priest in the town of Torrán (Bogota, Colombia)

Salud Hernandez , a Spanish journalist disappeared on May 21 was released on Friday by Marxist guerrilla group in Colombia with 2 other journalist after almost a week in captivity.

It seems that she disappeared while covering a story in remote region near the border with Venezuela and was inhabited by the guerrilla group.

Salud Hernandez, correspondent of a Spanish newspaper El Mundo said, “Thank you to everyone who prayed for me,” on Friday in her first interview upon  being freed.

The guerrilla group identify themselves as ELN or National Liberation Army. They delivered Hernandez to a Catholic priest in the town of Torrán. Hernandez confirmed that the other two journalist’s are with them and after  2 hours Correspondent Diego D’Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo, who work for the RCN Colombian TV network, were also released.

Members of the Colombian National Liberation Army(ELN) guerrilla group stand in the mountains of Perija near the border town of Cucuta 06 December 1999 during a meeting with reporters. The Colombian government has begun a track of talks with the ELN, Colombia's second largest leftists rebel group but has not bowed to their demands for a demilitarized zone in the northern Colombia. Image source: Getty Images
Members of the Colombian National Liberation Army(ELN) guerrilla group stand in the mountains of Perija near the border town of Cucuta 06 December 1999 during a meeting with reporters. The Colombian government has begun a track of talks with the ELN, Colombia’s second largest leftists rebel group but has not bowed to their demands for a demilitarized zone in the northern Colombia. Image source: Getty Images

ELN is the second largest rebel group just after Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The ELN  has an estimated 1,200 fighters. It is said that Catatumbo area is filled with ELN people and illegal crops are means of earning in that area. Catatumbo is also home for drung selling.

Both ELN and FARC are currently negotiating with government over a peace agreement mediated by Cuba.

Farc’s leader Rodrigo Londoño, better known as Timochenko, on Friday in an unusual tweet criticised ELN for kidnapping Salud .” Today it’s Salud Hernández, tomorrow it could be any Colombian. Those practices must end for ever in Colombia. Peace demands her freedom.”

Columbian president Juan Manuel Santos has said that peace talks will not begin until ELN releases all the hostages. But the group has not agreed to this and their leader Nicolás Bautista, known as Gabino said “We are not willing to accept impositions,” in an interview which aired before the journalist was kidnapped.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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HIV Drug Is Not Linked to Depression: Study

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression

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A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital, Kampala.
A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital, Kampala. VOA

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression. Researchers in Uganda found that efavirenz, once feared to lead to depression and suicide, did not cause the expected negative side effects in their patients.

Efavirenz is an affordable, once-a-day pill used around the globe to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. It’s “the treatment of choice” in most of the world, according to Africa Health Research Institute’s Mark Siedner, “especially [in] countries that depend on global aid to treat HIV.”

But some fear that efavirenz may come with a cost.

Some studies in the United States and Europe found the drug increased patients’ risk of depression or suicide, although other studies did not.

The mixed results prompted many doctors in the United States to prescribe more expensive but potentially safer drugs.

Siedner wanted to take another look at the risk of depression, this time in an African population. From 2005 until 2015, he and a team of Ugandan and U.S. doctors tracked 694 patients who took either efavirenz or another antiretroviral medication. They regularly asked the patients whether they experienced depression or suicidal thoughts.

No difference

Their analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed there was no difference between the two treatments. Siedner told VOA, “In other words, efavirenz was not associated with a risk of depression. If anything, there seems to be a signal that potentially it was associated with a decreased risk. But it wasn’t a strong enough [signal] for us to say that.”

The authors also reported that of the 17 participants who died in the course of the study, not a single death was a suicide.

Siedner has two possible explanations for why their findings differed from those in Western countries. “One potential cause is that every single ethnic group in the world, of course, is different, and different in many different ways — different socially, different environmentally, and in this case they may be different genetically.” His team is looking at whether the genes that control metabolism of the drug have a role to play in this story.

HIV Aids is a deadly disease.
HIV virus is Not Linked To Depression. Flickr

A second explanation could be the effectiveness of the drug. Because efavirenz is so potent, it could be keeping people healthier than they expected, so patients are less likely to report negative emotions.

The study is important, said Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, because it pushes back against “the initial observation of suicidal ideation and suicide and depression” as caused by efavirenz. He told VOA, “I think now what you’re seeing is that with these conflicting reports, it’s likely someone will come in [with] the proposal to do a randomized study and take a look. So the story isn’t ended with this paper.”

As more research on the safety of efavirenz is conducted, new and cheaper drugs that might replace it are on the horizon. One of them, dolutegravir, might also pose a risk, however. A study in Botswana found dolutegravir was linked to neural tube defects in embryos, meaning it might not be safe for pregnant women. As always, further research is needed to confirm whether this is a common problem or specific to the population studied in Botswana.

Also read: UNAIDS : World Is At A “Defining Moment” In A Battle Against HIV/AIDS

“I think the whole field right now is in a bit of a holding pattern,” Siedner said when asked about dolutegravir and the future of HIV medication. (VOA)