Friday April 26, 2019

HIV Outbreak In Southern and Eastern Africa

An estimated 800,000 people in eastern and southern Africa acquired HIV in 2017, and an estimated 380,000 people died of AIDS-related illness, the report indicated.

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More than half of the people surveyed who inject drugs said they avoided health-care services, citing discrimination or fear of law enforcement authorities.VOA

A report by UNAIDS, “Miles to go—closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices”, warns that the global response to HIV is at a critical point. Eastern and southern Africa remain the regions most affected by the HIV epidemic, accounting for 45 percent of the world’s HIV infections and 53 percent of people with HIV globally.

An estimated 800,000 people in eastern and southern Africa acquired HIV in 2017, and an estimated 380,000 people died of AIDS-related illness, the report indicated.

Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania accounted for more than half of the new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS-related illness in the region last year.

The survey also indicated that there was discrimination against HIV positive persons in healthcare settings, especially towards key populations.

Key populations include men who have sex with men, drugs users, transgender persons and sex workers, considered to be most at risk at contracting HIV.

There are nearly 1 million sex workers estimated to need services in the region.

“For us it is important in fact we do have within NASCOP, a key population program, mainly targeting the key populations, the female sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users,” said Dr. Kigen Barmasai, the director at Kenya’s National Aids and STI Control Program, NASCOP “One, we know that this contributes to 33 percent of new infections in Kenya, from this key populations, of course the prevalence varies, we have prevalence from 29 percent in female sex workers to 18 percent among the injected drug users. So as a program we are working on this and we are spearheading the HIV prevention, treatment and care efforts to reverse the epidemic. For the last ten years we have been working on that.”

More than half of the people surveyed who inject drugs said they avoided health-care services, citing discrimination or fear of law enforcement authorities.

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The survey also indicated that there was discrimination against HIV positive persons in healthcare settings, especially towards key populations..VOA

In Kenya homosexuality is illegal and being found guilty can lead to a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. Sex work is also illegal in Kenya.

“The criminal nature of Key populations, and the acts of Key populations that make people shy away from accessing health care and even organizing, coming together so that they can organize,” said Grace Kamau, chairperson of the Key population consortium in Kenya. “The main thing is the criminal nature. People fear to be arrested”

The report said about two-thirds of all people living with HIV in the region were accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2017.

Kamau attributes the successes in reaching large numbers of Key populations in Kenya to availability of HIV resources made possible by donor funding, but she says more people are yet to be reached.

“One of the things we have in Kenya is private clinics that are donor funded,” said Kamau. “That is where the sex workers feel comfortable and that is where they access their services. And that is what has made the number to go high.”

The report indicates that there were 19.6 million people living with HIV in eastern and southern Africa at the end of 2017.

Out of this number 81% were aware of their HIV status, an increase from 77% in 2016.

West and central Africa continues to lag behind as statistics indicated AIDS-related deaths have fallen by only 24% in western and central Africa, compared to a 42% decline in eastern and southern Africa.

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

Nigeria has more than half of the HIV burden in the region and there has been little progress in reducing new HIV infections there in recent years. (VOA)

Next Story

New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

Also Read: Short-Circuit Likely The Cause of Notre Dame Fire, Claims Police Investigators

The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)