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  • RSS BBC News – Africa

    • Pistorius forensic tests challenged April 17, 2014
      The tests carried out by a forensic expert for Oscar Pistorius' murder trial are being rigorously challenged by the state prosecutor in South Africa.
    • Algeria votes on Bouteflika's future April 17, 2014
      Polls open in Algeria where 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who suffered a stroke last year, is seeking a fourth term in office.
    • Fate of Nigeria kidnap girls unclear April 17, 2014
      Mystery surrounds the fate of more than 100 teenage girls abducted from a school in the remote north-east of Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants.
    • Guinea-Bissau run-off to pick leader April 17, 2014
      Officials in Guinea-Bissau say a run-off vote will be held next month after no candidate won an outright victory in Sunday's presidential election.
    • Remittance fees 'hurt Africans' April 16, 2014
      Communities in sub-Saharan Africa are being "hurt" by high fees charged by money transfer operators, charity Comic Relief says.
    • UN mulls medal for peacekeepers April 16, 2014
      The UN Security Council hears a proposal to create a medal for bravery in UN peacekeeping, to be named after a Senegalese soldier who saved lives during the Rwandan genocide.
    • Head of oldest African park shot April 16, 2014
      The Belgian director of Africa's oldest national park - Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo - is shot and wounded in an ambush.
    • 'Last' Chadian soldier leaves CAR April 16, 2014
      Chad has withdrawn all its peacekeepers from the Central African Republic, an official confirms, after accusations they sided with Muslim rebels.
    • South Sudan rebels 'seize' oil hub April 15, 2014
      Rebel forces in South Sudan say they have recaptured the oil hub of Bentiu and want oil companies to halt operations.
    • Elite marathon runner misses flight April 15, 2014
      A London Marathon runner from Sierra Leone is missing after she disappeared and failed to catch a flight home.
    • Jordanian envoy kidnapped in Libya April 15, 2014
      Masked gunmen kidnap Jordan's ambassador to Libya in the capital, Tripoli, in an attack that left his driver wounded, officials say.
    • More than 70 killed in Nigeria blast April 14, 2014
      More than 70 people are killed in a powerful explosion at a crowded bus station near Nigeria's capital, Abuja, officials say.
    • VIDEO: Hunt for 100 abducted girls in Nigeria April 16, 2014
      Security forces in Borno State in Nigeria are searching for dozens of teenage girls abducted by suspected members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
    • VIDEO: Pistorius trial day 23 - in 60 secs April 16, 2014
      The girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius was shot in quick succession as she fell down, a forensics expert has told the South African athlete's murder trial.
    • AUDIO: 'Killing books' in Libya April 15, 2014
      Libyan author Mansour Bushnaf says Libya does not have much of reading culture because under Col Muammar Gaddafi, people were afraid of books.
    • VIDEO: At site of Nigeria bus station blast April 14, 2014
      A powerful bomb blast has ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, killing at least 71 people.
    • VIDEO: Cleaning up Cairo's waste system April 14, 2014
      The Egyptian government is turning to its traditional rubbish collectors - the Zabaleen - to revolutionise Cario's waste disposal industry.
    • VIDEO: Pistorius trial day 21 - in 60 secs April 14, 2014
      The prosecutor at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial suggests the South African athlete is using his emotions "as an escape".
    • VIDEO: Ghana's 'waste to wealth' initiative April 12, 2014
      Suzanne Vanhooymissen reports on the large and smaller-scale enterprises set up to segregate waste and encourage recycling in Ghana.
    • VIDEO: Stalemate for SA's platinum miners April 12, 2014
      Lerato Mbele reports on the impact of the platinum workers' strike in South Africa, which has so far lasted for almost three months.
  • RSS BBC News – Home

    • Weather blights S Korea ferry search April 17, 2014
      Bad weather, murky water and strong currents are hampering the search for survivors of a stricken South Korean ferry, from which almost 300 people are missing.
    • Putin cautious on force in Ukraine April 17, 2014
      Russia's President Putin says he hopes he will not have to exercise his "right" to send troops into Ukraine, as crisis talks are held with Western leaders in Geneva.
    • Co-op Group reports £2.5bn loss April 17, 2014
      The Co-operative Group reports losses of £2.5bn, the worst results in its 150-year history, after what its chief executive calls a "disastrous" year.
    • Lorry driver held over M26 crash April 17, 2014
      A lorry driver is arrested following a five-vehicle pile up on the M26 in Kent in which two people died and seven others were injured.
    • RBS: No evidence of small firm fraud April 17, 2014
      Royal Bank of Scotland says law firm Clifford Chance has cleared it over allegations that it forced small firms to close so it could make a profit.
    • Pensioners could get death estimate April 17, 2014
      Retirees could be told how long they are likely to live after stopping work, says pensions minister Steve Webb.
    • Catholic Church refuses poll request April 17, 2014
      The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales turns down a request by members for the results of a sexual ethics survey to be made public.
    • Lamb takeaways 'often another meat' April 16, 2014
      Takeaway owners are to face a new testing programme, after a watchdog found nearly a third of lamb takeaways it checked contained a different meat.
    • Royals visit bush fire-ravaged town April 17, 2014
      The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet families whose homes were destroyed by bush fires that ravaged parts of Australia last year.
    • Busy roads warning ahead of Easter April 17, 2014
      Motorists are braced for what is set to be the busiest day of the year on the roads so far, with up to 16m cars expected to be used over Easter.
    • George Alagiah treated for cancer April 17, 2014
      BBC News presenter George Alagiah is diagnosed with bowel cancer and will take a break from broadcasting while he receives treatment.
    • Palace loss should not stand - Cardiff April 17, 2014
      The BBC obtains a letter sent by Cardiff City that says the defeat by Crystal Palace in early April should not stand.
    • Cancer hopes and ferry disaster - papers April 17, 2014
      The prospects for the latest clinical trials of cancer drugs make some front pages, while many feature photographs of a ferry sinking off South Korea.
    • Removed Banksy taken to city museum April 17, 2014
      The Banksy picture at the centre of a row over ownership is moved from a youth club by police and taken to Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.
    • Leigh and Loach selected for Cannes April 17, 2014
      Veteran British directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach see their new films selected for competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
    • O'Sullivan to face lowest seed Hull April 17, 2014
      Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan is drawn to face Robin Hull in the first round of the World Championship in Sheffield.
    • Man City 'suffered Liverpool hangover' April 16, 2014
      Manuel Pellegrini says his Manchester City side were still thinking about defeat at Liverpool as they were held by Sunderland.
    • Bale finally emerges from Ronaldo's shadow April 17, 2014
      Gareth Bale proves he can be a game-changer on the big occasion for Real Madrid with the winner in the Copa del Rey final
    • World Cup goal drives resting Carter April 16, 2014
      New Zealand legend Dan Carter hopes a sabbatical will keep him fresh to sort out some unfinished World Cup business
    • Westwood leads by a shot in Malaysia April 17, 2014
      England's Lee Westwood shoots an opening-round 65 at the Malaysian Open to lead by one shot from Nicolas Colsaerts.
  • RSS Reuters: Politics

    • California Governor Brown wants rainy-day fund in constitution April 17, 2014
      SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday stepped up his efforts to enshrine a rainy day fund in the state's constitution, stealing some thunder from Republicans backing a similar measure as he seeks an unprecedented fourth term.
    • Detroit pension deal approved by one retirement system April 17, 2014
      (Reuters) - The board of Detroit's General Retirement System on Wednesday approved economic terms of a settlement with the city that include cuts to pension benefits, putting in place another key component of Detroit's effort to exit bankruptcy by October.
    • U.S. calls for more investment-friendly Indian government April 17, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday urged the Indian government that emerges from ongoing elections to follow economic policies that encourage investment, saying Washington would like to see bilateral trade grow to $500 billion a year.
    • Obama, Republicans openly feud over immigration legislation April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Partisan bickering over immigration reform legislation intensified on Wednesday as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans accused each other of standing in the way of progress one year after bipartisan Senate legislation was introduced.
    • Two incompatible gun ballot measures lead in Washington state April 16, 2014
      OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Two incompatible ballot measures on background checks for gun buyers in Washington state enjoy majority support in a poll released on Tuesday, but the one advancing stricter gun controls is more popular.
    • Detroit pension deal approved by one retirement system April 16, 2014
      (Reuters) - The board of Detroit's General Retirement System on Wednesday approved economic terms of a settlement with the city that include cuts to pension benefits, putting in place another key component of Detroit's effort to exit bankruptcy by October.
    • Wisconsin passes law to curb private custody transfers of children April 16, 2014
      NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wisconsin has adopted a law to limit private custody transfers of children, the first law of its kind in the United States, responding to a Reuters investigation that exposed the dangers of the unregulated practice.
    • Obama, Biden visit Pennsylvania to promote job-training plan April 16, 2014
      OAKDALE, Penn. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took a trip to a Pennsylvania community college on Wednesday to promote a plan to train workers for skills they need for hard-to-fill jobs.
    • Former New York Mayor Bloomberg to spend $50 million on gun control April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control.
    • Obama looks to salvage Asia 'pivot' as allies fret about China April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON/MANILA (Reuters) - When a Philippine government ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters of the South China Sea last month, a U.S. Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter.
    • Obama's departing health chief mulls U.S. Senate run: report April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who took withering criticism over the botched rollout of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
    • F-35 fighter jet to make first trans-Atlantic flight in July April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department has approved the first trans-Atlantic flight of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet in July to take part in two international air shows near London, U.S. and British officials said Wednesday.
    • HUD's Donovan says U.S. Senate housing bill is best chance of reform April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's top housing official on Wednesday said a proposed Senate bill provides the best chance to overhaul the mortgage finance system this decade, but more debate over down payment requirements for government-backed loans is needed.
    • Paul, Rubio lead potential Republican 2016 contenders in spending April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Groups supporting Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio lead the pack of potential Republican presidential candidates in spending money and investing in possible campaigns this year, more than 20 months before the first votes are cast in 2016.
    • Ex-con, ex-governor Edwards raises $33,000 in Louisiana run for Congress April 16, 2014
      (Reuters) - Former Louisiana Governor, Edwin Edwards, a convicted felon now running for the U.S. Congress, has raised nearly $33,000 in donations since launching his campaign last month, according to a contribution report.
    • Michigan, White House discuss federal money for bankrupt Detroit: report April 16, 2014
      (Reuters) - Michigan officials and President Barack Obama's Administration are discussing a plan to free up $100 million in federal money to aid Detroit's retired city workers, the Detroit Free Press reported on Tuesday.
    • Bill signed allowing surprise inspections of Arizona abortion clinics April 16, 2014
      PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Tuesday signed into a law a bill allowing state health authorities to conduct surprise inspections of abortion clinics without first obtaining a warrant, handing another victory to abortion foes.
    • Two incompatible gun ballot measures lead in Washington state April 16, 2014
      OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Two incompatible ballot measures on background checks for gun buyers in Washington state enjoy majority support in a poll released on Tuesday, but the one advancing stricter gun controls is more popular.
    • Pentagon says automatic budget cuts would hit F-35, other weapons April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Tuesday detailed $48.3 billion in cuts to major weapons programs like Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet that would kick in from fiscal 2016 to 2019 if Congress does not reverse automatic budget cuts that are to resume in 2016.
    • Senators press Delphi for answers on recalled GM cars April 15, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers probing how General Motors used faulty ignition switches in many vehicles are turning their scrutiny to the supplier of the part, Delphi Automotive.
  • RSS CNN.com – Africa

    • Luxury shoes made in Ghana April 15, 2014
      Fred Deegbe was standing outside a shop window five years ago, marveling at the shiny pair of wing-tip Oxfords he'd just bought, when he started wondering whether such beautiful designer shoes could ever be produced in his country, Ghana.
    • Meet Nigeria's 'Mark Zuckerberg' April 3, 2014
      At 23, many people around the world are still at university -- at that age, Gossy Ukanwoke had already started one.
    • Why we need more geek girls April 3, 2014
      "It was like taking a big leap of faith."
    • 'Uncle Ebo' revives Ghanaian theater April 15, 2014
      African Voices meets James Ebo Whyte a passionate storyteller with a series of successful plays to his credit.
    • How medics saved lives at Westgate April 9, 2014
      When gunmen stormed into Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders on the scene. As head of Kenya's Red Cross, he was in charge of coordinating services for people in need.
    • Embracing Ghana's natural beauty April 1, 2014
      She started her business with just £100, lugging her beauty bag from door to door, but some 25 years later Grace Amey-Obeng has built a multi-million dollar cosmetics empire that's helping change the perception of beauty for many.
    • Africa's most endangered April 16, 2014
      Africa is home to much unique wildlife, but many of its iconic species are threatened. Find out more about its most endangered animals.
    • Secrets of 'gorilla whisperer' March 25, 2014
      Zain Verjee visits Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park -- the home of half of the world's endangered mountain gorilla population.
    • Savannah from the sky March 13, 2014
      It's almost impossible for a photographer to find fresh visual perspectives these days. Brooklyn-based Zack Seckler had to travel to a different continent and strap into an ultra-light aircraft to find one. His Botswana series presents the country from between 50 and 500 feet, providing a unique and captivating view of the savannah.
    • Rating Pistorius's defense April 16, 2014
      After five days of intense cross-examination, has Olympian Oscar Pistorius helped or harmed his defense that he did not intentionally kill his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkam?
    • Pop art condoms saving lives April 15, 2014
      The Center for African Family Studies in Nairobi has teamed up with Kenyan artist Michael Soi to create eye-catching condom wrappers to promote safe sex and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among young people.
    • Ebola: A swift and bloody killer April 16, 2014
      It took only moments to feel the impact of what was happening here.
    • 'I lost my fingers, made new ones' April 14, 2014
      A South African carpenter lost his fingers in an accident -- now he's making mechanical fingers and hands for others.
    • Kenya double in London Marathon April 13, 2014
      World record-holder Wilson Kipsang completed a Kenyan double at the London Marathon Sunday as home hope Mo Farah disappointed on his debut over the 42km distance.
    • Pistorius at mercy of 'bull dog?' April 11, 2014
      He's known as the "bull dog" in South Africa's legal circles, and just two days in to Gerrie Nel's merciless cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius, it's easy to see why.
    • 'Now is the time for Afro-realism' April 11, 2014
      Over the last 20 years, the narrative on the African continent has shifted from Afro-pessimism to Afro-optimism. The truth lies somewhere in between. Now is the time for Afro-realism: for sound policies based on honest data, aimed at delivering results.
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      Here are your photos of the tastiest -- and most unusual -- African street food.
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      A South African designer is making sure that when Xhosa boys come of age, they're dressed to the nines.
    • Egypt's sex pest epidemic? April 9, 2014
      A university student cowers in a pharmacy as a mob outside threatens her with sexual violence. A law student is groped by her classmates, the dean cites her "inappropriate attire." Frightening allegations but advocates say this is an everyday reality for women in Cairo.
    • Day that changed Kenya forever April 9, 2014
      When gunmen stormed into Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders on the scene. As head of Kenya's Red Cross, he was in charge of coordinating services for people in need.
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Archive for May 20th, 2011

SOME GOOD REASONS TO INVEST IN KENYA

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2011

• People
When one asks foreign investors in Kenya what they consider the country’s greatest asset, the answer is almost always “People”. Kenya is one foreign investor in insurance, for example, it speaks of the calibre of its workforce providing his company with the prospect of becoming a “world-class service provider”. It is not uncommon to hear the Kenyan workforce described as “skilled, hard-working and enterprising”, an assessment of employees rare elsewhere in Africa.
This asset is one reason why Kenya has remained the leading economy in the region despite the difficulties it has faced over the 48 years since independence. It is also why Kenya has the potential to be the regional hub for a variety of services such as auditing, marketing, logistics and education.

• Market access
Kenya is one of the three members of the East African Community (EAC), the others being Tanzania and Uganda. The EAC has established an integration process that might see political federation by 2013.
The EAC customs union came into effect on January 1, 2005 and internal trade will be fully free in five years in this market of 93 million consumers. Investing in Kenya also provides investors with access to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which has 385 million consumers. As a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), Kenyan exports have privileged access as well to the European Union – as they do to the United States under the provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

• Opportunities
Climate and soil are ideally suited in some parts of Kenya for the development of agricultural produce for export, and the country has established a track record in this area. Kenya is the world’s second largest exporter of tea, and its horticulture sector is now its top export earner. The climate, says one foreign investor in horticulture, is the best thing about the country. The climate, along with the coastline and the abundance of wildlife, is also a great asset for tourism. Kenya has a fairly well-developed tourism infrastructure (hotels, lodges, tour operators, air transport), and the attractions of the Maasai Mara and the Mombasa coast are widely known, although many other areas with tourism potential remain unexploited.
Yet other opportunities can be found in manufacturing, where Kenya has a well-established base for exports to the East African region, and in services, which can draw on the country’s well-educated workforce.

• Development
As one of the developing countries, there is need for infrastructure around the country as the population has risen dramatically. There is an urgent need for housing development which seems to be thriving very well at the moment offering shelter to all and sundry as well as business venture for investors.

The Millennium Development Goal of the international community emphasizes the potential role of the private sector in helping countries reach their development goals and targets. Foreign direct investment is recognized as an important factor in this context, since it brings to host countries capital, technology, innovation, management know-how, as well as access to supply chains and new markets. Under the right policy conditions and institutional frameworks, it can thus contribute to economic development and growth.

Welcome to invest in Kenya the land of potential.

By: Carol

Related: UK seeks investment opportunities in Kenya

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Earlier initiation of HIV treatment led to a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission to the uninfected partner

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2011

HIV/AIDS: ARVs as prevention must move quickly “from science to action”

Photo: IRIN
Earlier initiation of HIV treatment led to a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission to the uninfected partner

NAIROBI, 13 May 2011 (PlusNews) – A landmark study showing major reductions in HIV transmission among discordant couples due to early treatment may fail to have a significant impact on HIV prevention unless governments and donors are willing to turn the science into action, HIV advocates say.

“These are very exciting results that we hope will begin to change the debate and the discourse over the issues around HIV treatment and prevention,” Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), told IRIN/PlusNews. “Coming right before the UN High Level Meeting on HIV in New York next month, we hope that the results will take the discussion from rhetoric to reality.”

While several observational studies have shown similar results, these are the first results from a major randomized clinical trial to indicate that treating an HIV-infected individual can reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV to an uninfected partner. Known as HPTN 052 and funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the trial was due to end in 2015 but an independent data and safety monitoring board recommended halting it early because of overwhelming evidence of benefits.

In 2010, UNAIDS launched a new HIV treatment and prevention approach, called Treatment 2.0, which aims to drastically scale up testing and treatment based on mounting evidence that people on ARVs are much less likely to transmit the virus. The organization estimates that successful implementation of Treatment 2.0 could avert 10 million deaths by 2025, and reduce new infections by one-third.

Overwhelming evidence

“Take the example of male circumcision as an HIV prevention tool – there were several observational studies that seemed to point to its effectiveness for HIV prevention, but it was not until the clinical trial results in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda that we saw guidelines, policies and programmes developed – and funding made available,” Warren said. “This is what we hope these results will achieve in terms of a targeted response to treatment and prevention within sero-discordant couples. We also hope to see more trials of other groups to strengthen the evidence further.”

''The biggest donors globally seem to be shutting their eyes, ears and mouths when it comes to the evidence of what will work to lower infection rates and treat people living with HIV''

HPTN 052 began in April 2005 and enrolled 1,763 couples in Botswana, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the US and Zimbabwe. At enrolment, the HIV-positive partners had CD4 cell counts – a measure of immune strength – between 350 and 550 so were not eligible for ARVs based on most national guidelines. The UN World Health Organization recommends beginning ARVs at a CD4 cell count of 350 or below. The couples were randomly assigned to either a group where the HIV-positive partner received ARVs immediately, or to one where HIV-positive partners deferred initiation of ARV treatment until they were eligible under national guidelines.

Out of 28 HIV infections among study participants, 27 occurred among the 877 couples in which the HIV-infected partner did not begin antiretroviral therapy immediately. The study’s authors concluded that earlier initiation of HIV treatment led to a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission to the HIV-uninfected partner.

Hope, caution

“These results are the best evidence of the need for treatment, not just in cases of sickness, but also for prevention, especially in countries where new HIV infections are rising among couples,” Sharonann Lynch, HIV policy adviser for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “It adds to the prevention toolbox we already have; we now have more tools than ever and we need to use all of them.”

“HIV-positive people are the happiest – they now know if they start treatment early they are unlikely to infect their loved ones, and at the same time, they may stop being seen as people who are likely to infect others, which will hopefully reduce stigma,” said Nelson Otwoma, coordinator of Kenya’s Network of People living with HIV/AIDS. “For HIV-negative partners, they will now feel less at risk if their partners start treatment early, and they will also feel safer trying to conceive children.”

Otwoma warned that counseling would need to be an integral part of any new policy to ensure people were well-informed of the remaining risks and the need to continue with other methods of HIV prevention such as condom use.

He also said in order for any policy to be developed, countries such as Kenya would need to step up the availability of CD4 testing technology and drastically increase the availability of ARVs to enable all those in need to access them.

AVAC’s Warren noted that implementing the results would go a long way towards achieving the goal of universal access to treatment, prevention and care. An estimated six million people around the world are on ARVs, but this is a fraction of the global need.

Finding the money


Photo: M. Sayagues/PlusNews
Donors and governments will have to step up ARV programmes

However, MSF’s Lynch noted that the recent retreat by major HIV donors could severely hinder plans to implement the study’s results.

“Unfortunately, the biggest donors globally seem to be shutting their eyes, ears and mouths when it comes to the evidence of what will work to lower infection rates and treat people living with HIV,” she said. “This study was sponsored by the US government – the US needs to listen to its scientists to inform their policies.

“With political will and the right policies, we can triple the number of people on treatment without tripling the costs,” she added. “When HIV treatment first started several years ago, the funding was not all available, but gradually, treatment programmes began; growth may be slow, but it will expand.”

A recent MSF report recommended ways of achieving increased treatment efficiency, including putting people on treatment earlier, decentralizing ARV provision to local clinics and empowering nurses to provide ARVs. The report further noted that because of funding problems, treatment programmes in several countries – including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe – were under threat.

According to Lynch, major donors were also backing away from committing to global HIV treatment targets. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently outlined a new target to ensure HIV treatment for 13 million people by 2015.

“The large donors seem unsure about setting targets; it’s is a bit of a scandal, really. If 10 years since the first UN High Level Meeting on HIV we are not working towards targets, then the fight against HIV treatment and prevention is rudderless,” she said. “We are looking at a case of the best science and the worst policy.”

kr/mw source www.irinnews.org

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Breakthrough in AIDS vaccine research

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2011

HIV/AIDS: Milestones in vaccine research

Breakthrough in AIDS vaccine research

NAIROBI/JOHANNESBURG, 13 May 2011 (PlusNews) – News of an experimental vaccine that successfully protected more than 50 percent of macaques from the monkey equivalent of HIV will give a much-needed boost to vaccine development, which has seen little progress of late.

The researchers gave 24 healthy macaques a vaccine containing a genetically modified form of the virus, called the rhesus cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The vaccine was designed to produce antigens that attack Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), the monkey equivalent of HIV. It protected 13 of the 24 macaques in the study, and remained effective for up to one year in 12 of the vaccinated monkeys.

The findings could be useful in understanding how to develop a vaccine that could protect humans from HIV and have been published in the science journal, Nature.

Milestones

False leads and disappointing outcomes mark the long road to developing an effective HIV vaccine. IRIN/PlusNews has compiled a list of milestones in AIDS vaccine research:

1987 - The first clinical trial of an HIV vaccine in the United States. A Phase I safety trial enrols 138 HIV-negative volunteers and finds that the candidate vaccine has no serious side effects.

Since then, more than 50 vaccines have been tested, involving more than 10,000 human volunteers.

1997 - US President Bill Clinton sets a goal of developing a vaccine for HIV within 10 years. “It is no longer a question of whether we can develop an AIDS vaccine; it is simply a question of when. And it cannot come a day too soon,” he is reported as saying. 

Late 1990s – researchers start recognizing that vaccines which help the body generate antibodies against HIV, the most commonly used method, will not work because the HI virus mutates too rapidly.

Research shifts to cellular immunity, in which vaccines that stimulate one particular arm of the immune system delay or prevent HIV progression and reduce transmission, even if they don’t block infection.

2003 – AIDSVAX – an experimental preventive HIV vaccine – had no noticeable effect on HIV infection rates in the 2,546 intravenous drug users in Bangkok, Thailand, who participate in the study, nor does it slow the disease’s progress in volunteers who take the vaccine and later contract HIV.

2007 - Pharmaceutical company Merck announces that it is ending the enrolment and vaccination of volunteers in a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) after the vaccine fails to lower the risk of HIV infection or reduce the severity of infection in volunteers who become HIV-positive during the trial. 

The data comes from Phase II clinical trials in North and South America, the Caribbean and Australia, which began in December 2004. The volunteers were mostly homosexual men and sex workers considered at high risk of contracting HIV.

After 13 months, 24 cases of HIV are found in 741 people who received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 21 infections in the 762 volunteers who received a placebo. The vaccine also fails to reduce the amount of virus in the blood of those who become infected.

A second phase II trial of the vaccine in South Africa is also discontinued.

2009 – A six-year clinical trial in Thailand yields the first evidence that an AIDS vaccine could provide some protection against HIV infection. The rate of HIV infection is 31 percent lower in trial participants given the vaccine than in those who get a placebo.

Researchers later question the statistical significance of some of the study’s findings, but experts are confident that the RV 144 vaccine – a combination of two vaccines – could potentially be developed into a functional vaccine.

2009 – Two powerful new antibodies that can cripple the HI virus are discovered and described as “broadly neutralizing” because they can make a high percentage of the many types of HIV found worldwide ineffective.

These antibodies are only produced in a minority of HIV-infected individuals but are widely believed to offer the best hope for developing an AIDS vaccine that could teach the body to produce its own antibodies before exposure to the virus. Only four HIV antibodies widely agreed to be broadly neutralizing have been found.

2009 – A Phase II randomized, controlled trial starts in 2009 with more than 1,300 US men who have sex with men testing a vaccine developed by the NIH.

The study is not expected to prevent HIV infection, but will examine whether the vaccine significantly reduces viral load in HIV-infected individuals. Results are expected in 2012.

2010 – Kenya starts a Phase I trial to test the safety and efficacy of an HIV vaccine candidate – a modified vaccine virus, Ankara, (MVA.HIVA) – in infants.

The UK Medical Research Council and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership are sponsoring the trial, which will enrol 72 infants in Kenya and Gambia, and monitor them for one year.

Scientists in the Kenyan arm of the study say so far the vaccine has not led to any adverse effects in the infants.

kr/kn/he source www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Uganda: There has been intense local and international pressure against the bills

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2011

UGANDA: MP to persevere with anti-homosexuality bill

There has been intense local and international pressure against the bills

KAMPALA, 17 May 2011 (PlusNews) – Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and HIV Prevention and Control Bill are likely to be carried over to the new session of parliament, despite international and local pressure.

David Bahati, the Member of Parliament who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), said he fully intended to re-introduce the bill into the next session. The new parliament was sworn in on 16 May.

“The closure of this parliament is just pressing on the pause button,” he said. “I’m committed to the fight against behaviour and promotion of behaviour that is going to destroy the future of our children.”

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are considered by the Uganda AIDS Commission to be a “most at-risk population”, but because homosexual acts are illegal, there are no policies or services targeting HIV interventions towards them. AIDS activists say the bill would only drive an already stigmatized population further underground, leaving them even more vulnerable to HIV.

MSM are often referred to as a “bridging” population for HIV to the general population, given that many also have sex with women. According to a 2010 survey of 303 MSM in the capital Kampala by the US Centres for Disease Control, 78 percent had had sex with women while 31 percent had been married. The study also found HIV prevalence among participants was 13.7 percent, significantly higher than the city’s average rate of 8.5 percent; knowledge of the risks of HIV was also low.

Amendments

Following consultations with various stakeholders, including the government, civil society and the clergy, the Committee of Parliamentary and Legal Affairs has adopted a number of amendments to the original bill, including the removal of provisions criminalizing “attempted” homosexuality and those requiring anyone who knows of homosexual conduct to report it to the police within 24 hours.

However, according to Human Rights Watch, despite Bahati and other supporters of the bill agreeing to the deletion of the bill’s “death penalty clause”, the parliamentary committee retained the death penalty for those accused of “aggravated homosexuality”, by suggesting it be redefined as “aggravated defilement”, which is also punishable by death.

The committee further recommended the creation of the new crime of conducting a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex, punishable by three years in prison, and suggested deleting the crimes of “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” and “conspiracy to commit homosexuality”, but included a penalty of seven years in prison for “procuring homosexuality by threats”.

Bahati said he would not be pushing for the death penalty but the focus would now be primarily on targeting the “promotion” of homosexuality, which could extend to public health policies. The Most at Risk Populations’ Initiative, introduced in 2008 by the Ministry of Health to target HIV counselling and prevention toward specific populations, including MSM, could, for instance, see health practitioners and members of civil society imprisoned.

''The closure of this parliament is just pressing on the pause button. I’m committed to the fight agianst behaviour and the promotion of behaviour that is going to destroy the future of our children''

Bahati said the bill had the support of an overwhelming number of MPs and he expected it to be debated and passed by the end of the year. Stephen Tashobya, chairman of the Committee of Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, said the bill could, in theory, be tabled any time from next week, but that the government agenda would take precedence.

However, even if passed, the bill would require assent from President Yoweri Museveni, who holds strong views against homosexuality but amid international condemnation last year said he would not back a bill with either death penalty or “aggravated homosexuality” provisions.

Nevertheless, activists say a weaker version of the bill would retain the illegal nature of homosexuality and keep gays and lesbians in the closet while encouraging dangerous stigma against them in society. Homosexual Ugandans say they live in fear, especially following the murder of prominent gay activist David Kato in 2010 shortly after he was “outed” by a local tabloid.

HIV Prevention and Control Bill

Also left pending by the previous session of parliament and likely to be carried over into the next session is the HIV Prevention and Control Bill (2008), intended to provide a legal framework for the national response to HIV, as well as protect the rights of individuals affected by HIV. However, certain provisions – such as punishing the deliberate transmission of HIV with the death penalty – have been heavily criticized by human rights activists, who claim they would only serve to increase stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

Attacks on people living with HIV are also not uncommon, with several acts of aggression and murder reported in the press over the past few years.

Major Rubaramira Ruranga, executive director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, says if passed, the bills would breed an environment of distrust and secrecy around an epidemic that benefits from open dialogue.

“People need to be counselled, people need to take informed decisions to disclose their HIV status,” he said. “Above all, it creates a situation where people do not want to present themselves to health institutions, even for HIV testing.”

The opposition politician and vocal HIV-positive activist said some of the two bills’ most harmful provisions were a blatant denial of human rights.

“They do not consider certain people to belong to society, they look at certain people as sinners, as criminals – and that kind of discrimination is anti-people,” Ruranga said.

pc/kr/mw source www.irinnews.org

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