Wednesday September 19, 2018

Experts Warn of a Return of the AIDS Epidemic

In the U.S., HIV is increasingly an infection in communities with high rates of poverty and in black and Hispanic populations

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AIDS
Students with their faces painted with messages pose during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018. (VOA)
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Thirty-six million people currently live with AIDS, a disease that claimed the lives of nearly 1 million people last year. Experts predict that by 2030, 100 million people will have been infected with the HIV virus.

Despite the alarming numbers, there have been great strides in treatment. HIV is no longer a death sentence, and researchers say people receiving treatment for HIV are able to live normal lives and do not pose a risk to others when they are being treated proactively.

But success carries a price: complacency. Funding for AIDS research and treatment has declined, and in some places, so has government interest.

“When we talk to ministers of finance, they always say to me, ‘I thought HIV was over because I don’t see anybody dying,’” said Dr. Deborah Birx, a U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who oversees the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “We’re not reaching goals.” He added, “There’s going to be a struggle to hold ground. … There’s a widening deficit of political will and financial capacity that we face some really daunting challenges in prevention.”

AIDS
A man walks past a banner tied on a bus before the start of a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at the Ebute Mata district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, April 21, 2012. (VOA)

Dr. Chris Beyrer, with Johns Hopkins Medicine, predicted that things will get worse if governments and civilians continue their complacency.

“We are not done with AIDS,” he said. “It is much too early to declare victory, and the risks of a resurgent epidemic are real.”

Birx, Morrison and Beyrer discussed the challenges in ending AIDS at a program in Washington to evaluate the messages from this year’s International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

New infections are down from 3.4 million a year, but they’re stuck at 1.8 million per year. And there are 17 million people living with HIV who cannot be reached. They are in high risk groups: young women, particularly young African women; men who have sex with men; IV drug users; those in prisons and other closed settings; sex workers and their clients; and transgender people.

“Those key populations and young women account for over 50 percent of new infections, and they are really hard to reach,” Morrison said.

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Though it’s relatively easy to prevent HIV transmission during childbirth, Beyrer said about 30 percent of all infants born with HIV worldwide are born in Nigeria.

In the U.S., HIV is increasingly an infection in communities with high rates of poverty and in black and Hispanic populations.

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The National Institutes of Health announced Aug. 20 that getting these groups into care is critical to ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. NIH also announced an international program to reduce the stigma around the virus so more people with the disease can seek treatment.

Experts agree it is possible to end the HIV pandemic, even without a vaccine. But to do this, governments and communities need to be involved, funding needs to be continued, and everyone with HIV needs to be treated. (VOA)

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Zimbabwe Officials Trying to Fight Cholera Clash With Street Vendors

A cholera outbreak is the second since a 2008-09 epidemic claimed almost 5,000 lives.

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Zimbabwe, Cholera
Zimbabwe police was in streets of Harare on Sept. 16, 2018 removing vendors as part of efforts to fight cholera outbreak which has killed more than two dozen people over the past two weeks. VOA

Zimbabwe police Sunday clashed with vendors who were resisting being removed from streets as part of the country’s efforts to fight the cholera outbreak, which has claimed more than two dozen lives in the past two weeks.

Vendors were alerting each other of armed riot police and municipality officials coming to confiscate their wares Sunday in Harare. As soon as police officials left, the vendors would resume their business.

One of them is 34-year-old Maria Mange, a mother who three children who says unless she gets employed, she will remain selling vegetables and fruits in Harare’s CBD.

Zimbabwe, Cholera
Vendors in Harare say they not leave their business as they have no other sources of income with Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate said to be around 85 percent. VOA

“I am refusing to leave the streets on the basis that we cause the spread of cholera,” she said. “Our wares are cleaned or boiled before being consumed. It is dirty water which causes cholera, their failure to collect refuse, plus flowing sewage in the streets and blocked sewer pipes. Why concentrate on vendors and not criminals?”

Another vendor is Ronald Takura who says he has to find a way to make a livliehood.

“No, vendors are not causing the cholera. You are disturbing [our] search for money in our country,” he said. “I do not have a job and I do not have work to do. So do not send us out. I do not understand what is happening in this city. E.D. Mnangagwa, we supported, we do not see what he is doing for us.”

Zimbabwe, Cholera
Obediah Moyo Zimbabwe’s minister of health says there is no going back on vendors in streets, in Harare. VOA

He adds in Shona language, Zimbabweans voted for President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the July 30th elections, but he is not supporting the vendors.

But Zimbabwe’s minister of health, Obediah Moyo, says there is no going back.

“The issue of food vending is another issue, we all agreed that has to stop, especially in the area of epicenter [of the epidemic], that the police are helping us to stop the vending of food,” he said.

Zimbabwe, Cholera
In Zimbabwe trash can go for days or weeks without being collected which experts is one of the factors for spreading cholera outbreak in Harare. VOA

Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak has since spread to several parts of the country from its epicenter in Harare’s densely populated suburbs.

Also Read: Video- Zimbabwe’s Newly Appointed President Calls For Unity

International organizations such as UNICEF, WHO, and MSF have since moved in with assistance. But critics say the long-term solution is improving water supply, sanitation and regular waste collection by Zimbabwean authorities.

A cholera outbreak is the second since a 2008-09 epidemic claimed almost 5,000 lives. (VOA)