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Galvanizing global ambition to end the AIDS epidemic after a decade of progress

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A new report from the United Nations Secretary-General, Galvanizing global ambition to end the AIDS epidemic after a decade of progress, has been presented to United Nations Member States during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Member States gathered at the United Nations in New York, United States of America, to review progress and share their own progress and challenges.

“A world without AIDS was almost unimaginable when the General Assembly held its first special session on the epidemic 18 years ago,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in the report. “Since then, the global determination to defeat one of history’s greatest health crises has produced remarkable progress … and … inspired a commitment within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

The Secretary-General’s report shows that results once derided as impossible in low-income settings have now been achieved following a decade of progress in the response to HIV. Between 2008 and 2017, there was a 43% reduction in AIDS-related deaths, a 45% reduction in new HIV infections among children and a 19% reduction in new HIV infections among adults globally. The number of people living with HIV on treatment also increased, by 5.5 times, reaching 21.7 million of the 36.9 million people living with HIV in 2017.

“The enormous achievements in the response to HIV in recent decades, under the strong leadership of UNAIDS, is one of the best examples of multilateralism in action,” said María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the United Nations General Assembly. “It is most definitely an indication of what we can achieve when we work together around a common cause.”

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The report shows that progress has been most marked in eastern and southern Africa, where AIDS-related deaths fell by 53% and new HIV infections among adults and children fell by 36%. An epidemic that once killed more than a million people in the region per year now claims fewer than 400 000 lives per year.

In other regions of the world, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, western and central Europe and North America, increases in the coverage of HIV testing and treatment services have achieved significant reductions in AIDS-related deaths over the past decade. Most of those regions have also experienced declines in new HIV infections.

Notable exceptions are eastern Europe and central Asia, where the annual number of new HIV infections has risen by 30% since 2010, with an estimated 960 000 people newly infected over this time, and in the Middle East and North Africa, where deaths from AIDS-related illnesses increased by 11%, an estimated 140 000 people newly infected, over the same period.

The report notes that services focused on key populations within those regions are few and far between, and harsh punishments for same-sex sexual relationships, drug use and sex work in those regions and elsewhere are proving to be formidable barriers to the few services that are available.

In western and central Africa, insufficient domestic funding, weak health systems, formal and informal user fees for health care, humanitarian situations and high levels of stigma and discrimination continue to undermine efforts to scale up HIV testing and treatment.

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Many challenges remain, including stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV and harmful gender norms. Laws and policies in many countries prevent young people, women, key populations―gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs and prisoners and other incarcerated people―indigenous people, migrants and refugees from accessing health and HIV services.

Funding for HIV responses in low- and middle-income countries globally has also remained flat for most of the past five years. In 2017, donor and domestic investments in low- and middle-income countries were US$ 20.6 billion, about 80% of the 2020 target.

“As the Secretary-General’s report makes abundantly clear, to protect the gains we have made and to tackle the challenges that stand in the way of our promise to end AIDS by 2030, we need to firm up our resolve, strengthen our partnerships and say no to complacency,” said Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director, a.i. “Let’s start with a successful replenishment that results in a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that will enable it, along with its range of partners, including UNAIDS, to continue to deliver evidence-informed, people-centred and human-rights based support to the people and communities who need it the most.”

The report outlines that there is an important opportunity to seize the growing momentum to achieve universal health coverage, a core principle of which is leaving no one behind. Collaboration between health systems and community groups has been shown to reduce stigma and discrimination and to help to deliver services to the people in greatest need―a key recommendation of the report is the strengthening of the vital role that community groups play in the AIDS response.

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In the report, the United Nations Secretary-General urges Member States to adopt the following recommendations to galvanize political will, accelerate action and build the momentum necessary to reach the 2020 targets agreed to by the United Nations General Assembly in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS: (a) reinvigorate primary HIV prevention; (b) diversify HIV testing and differentiate the delivery of health care to reach the 90–90–90 targets; (c) establish enabling legal and policy environments in order to reach marginalized and vulnerable populations; (d) mobilize additional resources and allocate them where they are most needed; (e) support communities to enable them to play their critical roles; and (f) incorporate a comprehensive HIV response into universal health coverage

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Health

138 NYSC members test positive for COVID-19, NCDC reveals

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No fewer than than 138 members of the National Youth Service  Corps (NYSC) had so far tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and have been isolated, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed.

NCDC also revealed that 34,685 people have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) across all the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps in the country.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known on Monday at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Dr. Ihekweazu added that those whose samples were collected included corps members and NYSC officials in various camps.

“We tested over the last few weeks a total, so far, of 34,785 people of which we found a total of 138 positive only.

“So, we have a total prevalence of 0.4 per cent; in fact, about one in 200 new people coming into the camps turned out to be positive.

“None of them were allowed into the camp; all of them were excluded and either managed at home or the treatment centre depending on if they had symptoms and what state they were in,” the NCDC boss added.

He also spoke about the progress made so far in the area of vaccination against the disease, noting that four vaccines had already been announced.

Dr Ihekweazu stated that while these have brought excitement, there were lots to consider to guide decisions on which to go for when they became available.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who also briefed reporters, gave an update on COVID-19 infections, treatment, and fatalities.

He was that Nigeria was by no means out of the woods yet and urged the people to present themselves for testing.

Dr Ehanire said the PTF would continue to keep vigilance as COVID-19 cases surge in other parts of the world.

He gave an assurance that the ministry was taking measures to ensure that vaccine security was sure once they were available for the public.

The minister also disclosed that it has been confirmed that the strange deaths in Delta and some other states were as a result of yellow fever.

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Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Shows 95% Effectiveness – Pfizer, BioNTech

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Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that a completed study of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine showed it was 95 percent effective.

They said the two-dose vaccine had no serious safety concerns and that the companies will apply for emergency use authorization from US regulators “within days.”

The announcement came as coronavirus cases are surging in the US and other parts of the world, and boosted hopes for an end to the pandemic that has upended life around the globe.

“The study results mark an important step in this historic eight-month journey to bring forward a vaccine capable of helping to end this devastating pandemic,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

“With hundreds of thousands of people around the globe infected every day, we urgently need to get a safe and effective vaccine to the world,” he added.

Pfizer had said last week after a preliminary analysis that its product was more than 90 percent effective.

On Monday another biotech firm involved in the race to develop a vaccine, Moderna, said its own vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, according to a preliminary analysis.

Pfizer has previously said it expected to contact the US Food and Drug Administration to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization by the third week of November.

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The FDA had imposed a requirement on Covid-19 vaccine makers of having at least two months of follow-up with volunteers after their second dose, taken 28 days after the first, in order to ensure the drugs are safe.

Moderna developed its vaccine along with the US National Institutes for Health.

Both vaccines use mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) technology to deliver genetic material to the body that makes human cells create a protein from the virus.

This trains the immune system to be ready to attack if it encounters SARS-CoV-2.

Other vaccines that are in late-stage trials, such as one being developed by Johnson & Johnson and another by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, use modified viruses to deliver genetic material for the same purpose.

No mRNA vaccines have ever been approved, but Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease scientist, told AFP Tuesday the technology had now “established itself.”

-AFP

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Health

Oyo govt. denies cholera outbreak in community

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Oyo State Government on Wednesday denied reports of alleged cholera outbreak  in Lagun Village of Lagelu Local Government Area of the state, declaring that there is no evidence to back recent claims.

According to a report of the Ministry  of Health’s technical committee that investigated the matter, signed by the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Bashir Bello, the claims of cholera outbreak were unfounded.

The report, titled “Re: Rumours of suspected cholera outbreak in Lagelu LGA of Oyo State,” revealed that investigations by the state’s Epidemiological Team, including the DSNO and LGA Teams in Lagelu and surrounding LGAs, showed there is no evidence to back such rumour.

Dr. Bello in a statement issued by Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, added  that the team dispatched to carry out the investigation, was also not shown any fresh grave or fresh burial ground to ascertain claims of mass death.

The statement stated, however, that the Ministry had placed pre-positioned antibiotics and intravenous fluids at the state’s health facility in Lagun to prevent an outbreak of cholera in the area.

The Commissioner further  disclosed that the state has also begun an active case search in affected communities and neighbouring states as well as community engagement and enlightenment on the prevention of diarrheal diseases including cholera.

He explained that findings from the field showed that the ailment recorded affected only four individuals and not 10 people as claimed in the media and that there was no evidence to back the claim of six deaths.

He maintained that the ailment could be ascribed to poor hygienic conditions, adding that the Ministry also suspected cases of gastroenteritis or likely food poisoning.

The report stated: “The Ministry of Health received reports of suspected cases of cholera in Lagun Village on Friday, 6th of November, 2020. Following the notification, the state and the LGA surveillance network began intensified action at investigation and response, and findings from the field investigation are as follow:

“Ten (10) cases of diarrhoea and vomiting were reported to have occurred in Lagun Village by members of the community. Six of the cases were said to have died.

“But, upon investigation, no freshly dug graves were found in the said community and we only found two cases at Faith Clinic, Ejioku, and another two cases at the Lagun Rehabilitation Centre both private hospitals.

“All four cases are alive and are no longer stooling, therefore, stool samples could not be collected from them for confirmation of the aetiological agent (causative), while they have also been treated and stabilised.

“We observed poor sanitary conditions in the village, as the wells were not covered and were in poor sanitary conditions.

“We hereby confirm that with the active efforts of the state epidemiologist and his team (DNSO, LGA Team in the affected LGA and neighbouring LGAs), no real death attributable to cholera had been confirmed.

“The reported deaths were neither seen nor traceable and, therefore, cannot be attributed to cholera outbreak, as no patient within the community actually reported to any government or local government facility in the said local government.

“The ailment recorded (and deaths, if any) could be ascribed to very poor hygienic conditions and we suspect cases of gastroenteritis or likely food poisoning in the affected community.”

Speaking on preventive steps already taken by the Ministry, Bello added: “We have pre-positioned antibiotics and intravenous fluids at the General Hospital, Lagun, for care of emerging cases. 

“The Ministry has also embarked on community engagement and enlightenment on prevention of diarrheal diseases including cholera.

“We have also embarked on active search in affected communities and neighbouring communities and have also alerted the neighbouring local government areas.”

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