News in the Humanosphere: Israeli artillery strikes shelter, killing at least 15 | 

A boy looks through a schoolbook as he sits in the rubble of a home destroyed during an Israeli air strike on the city of Khan Yunis.
A boy looks through a schoolbook as he sits in the rubble of a home destroyed during an Israeli air strike on the city of Khan Yunis.
UNICEF

At least 15 people were killed when artillery struck a UN school functioning as a shelter for displaced Gazans. The death toll also includes an untold number of UN workers. Meanwhile, John Kerry drafted a ceasefire proposal while in Cairo. He leaves the region, but the negotiations go on. (AFP)

New Human Development Report is Out..Norway is first and Niger is last. Some 2.2 people are in or on the brink of poverty, says UNDP. Global investments are needed now to ensure that fewer people are below the poverty line. (Humanosphere)

Valerie Amos Wants Relief Funding Reform…The supply has not kept up with the demand. “The U.N.’s top humanitarian official called Thursday for major changes in the delivery of relief, as funding falls short because of a growing number of conflicts and disasters…In an interview in Tokyo, she offered several ideas for improving aid delivery and addressed the crisis in Gaza.

Ebola Makes its Way to Nigeria…A Liberian man in his 40s is being tested for the deadly Ebola virus in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people. If confirmed, this would be the first time Ebola is found in Nigeria.

International AIDS Conference

The US ambassador to Australia said it should not be a crime to be a member of the LGBT community. Ambassador John Berry told the 20th international AIDS Conference that the fight against the disease cannot be won by relegating segments of the population to the shadows. (VOA)

Africa

An Air Algerie flight that went missing en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, said an Algerian aviation official. (Reuters)

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Visualizing progress against HIV, TB and malaria | 

A newly-diagnosed HIV positive woman, who arrived at the hospital with symptoms of tuberculosis (TB), lies in the treatment ward of the Mildmay Uganda clinic, which receives funding from the US government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Kampala, Uganda.
A newly-diagnosed HIV positive woman, who arrived at the hospital with symptoms of tuberculosis (TB), lies in the treatment ward of the Mildmay Uganda clinic, which receives funding from the US government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Kampala, Uganda.
AP

First, the good news: Death rates for people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria all have decreased globally since the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were established in 2000, according to a report published Monday as part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD).

Also, in regions such as Latin America and Eastern Europe, researchers found that the HIV epidemic was smaller than previously thought. The study found that interventions such as antiretroviral therapy (ART) and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV saved 19.1 million years of life. That represents all the years that all the people who might have contracted and died from HIV/AIDS were able to live instead. The vast majority of these years of life were in developing countries.

The bad news? HIV infections in 101 countries continue to rise — more than half of the countries in the study — and not all ART programs are saving as many lives as they could. Researchers found that the quality of treatment varied widely across programs.

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Global action needed for 2.2 billion ‘poor or near-poor’, says UN | 

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the HDR 2014 launch event in Tokyo.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the HDR 2014 launch event in Tokyo.
UNDP

Some 1.5 billion people in 91 countries are living in poverty right now. An additional 800 million are on the brink of poverty. The global community needs to get in order and work together so that fewer people are living in poverty, says the United Nations Development Programme.

The UN agency released its annual Human Development Report today. It takes stock of the progress of development in every country in the world each year. The accompanying Human Development Index that is a part of the report acts as a sort of scorecard for countries.

This year’s report that steady progress against poverty has come under threat. Natural and man-made disasters have led to significant set-backs over the past few years. Last year saw the Central African Republic and South Sudan descend into a violent political crisis. Meanwhile, the Philippines was slammed by a typhoon, taking thousands of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage and economic loss. Income inequality and changing food prices are also held to blame for some of the more recent challenges.

“If people remain at risk of slipping back into poverty because of structural factors and persistent vulnerabilities, development progress will remain precarious,” says Helen Clark, Administrator for UNDP, in the report introduction. “The eradication of poverty is not about ‘getting to zero’ – it is about staying there.”

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News in the Humanosphere: #BringBackOurGirls, 100 Days On | 

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Stephen Melkisethian

And the more than 200 missing girls are still no-where in sight. “The only information comes from Boko Haram’s leader, who said in a video they are being held captive as “slaves” and will not be returned unless the government swaps imprisoned militants for girls. “The sadder thing is the conversation between the citizens and our government leaves a lot to be desired. Leaves a lot to be desired,” says Obi Ezekwelizi, one of the leaders of Bring Back Our Girls. Activists say they plan to continue near daily “sit-outs” in Abuja until the girls are rescued. But the group and the kidnapped girls are also now in the center of Nigerian politics, with the government accusing Bring Back Our Girls of being agents of the opposition.” (VOA)

UN Human Rights Council Authorizes Gaza Probe…“Twenty-nine countries voted for an investigation to be carried out by the body, notably including China, India, and several South American countries. There were 17 Abstentions, mostly from EU member countries. There was a single, definitive vote against an investigation: the United States. The EU abstentions speak to the political influence of their relationship with the United States. The votes for investigation by South American countries is no surprise either, given their poor trade and diplomatic relations with Israel. The blatant vote against investigation by the U.S. was expected, but interesting nonetheless given the fact that the vote is just for an investigation, not an automatic accusation. “ (UN Dispatch)

HIV/AIDS

The vast majority of AIDS patients are of working age, according to statistics from UNAIDS. And so, as the working population changes, AIDS activists say the workplace also needs to adapt. (VOA)

Africa

Gambia has taken steps to improve its poor human-rights record after the European Union suspended 150 million euros in development aid this year, activists said, urging tougher action by the international community. (TRF)

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TB detection innovation holds potential to reduce infection’s spread | 

Sputum samples containing tuberculosis bacteria fluoresce.
Sputum samples containing tuberculosis bacteria fluoresce.
Jeffrey D. Cirillo

A newly discovered way of testing people for tuberculosis (TB) dramatically cuts the time it takes for a diagnosis to under an hour. The development by chemist Jianghong Rao of Stanford and microbiologist Jeffrey Cirillo of Texas A&M Health Science Center could not only make TB diagnosis faster, but prevent new infections by confirming someone has it before they are contagious. All that for a test that will cost roughly $5.

Initial human trial results are in, showing that the new diagnostic test has an 86% sensitivity, far better than the 50% to 60% sensitivity for the commonly used smear microscopy method. The findings were published earlier this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie. The results come from a test of 50 sputum samples. The test was able to detect 80% of samples that contained Mycobacterium tuberculosis that were not detected by a microscope. It is a major improvement over traditional methods.

The innovation is in the discovery of a unique enzyme present in TB. A substance developed by Rao and Cirillo reacts with the enzyme create a fluorescent hue that can be read by a battery-powered device. Efforts are underway to develop a paper-based test, making it easier for the test to be used.

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News in the Humanosphere: Central African Republic Peace talks suspended; Widodo wins Indonesian presidency | 

Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo.
Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo.

Peace talks between the Central African Republic’s sectarian rivals were suspended Tuesday after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up less than a day before the deadline of a deal. (Yahoo)

Indonesian Political Phenom Wins Presidential Election…Joko Widodo was certified the winner in a highly contentious election. He defeated the son-in-law of Suharto, Prabowo Subianto, a retired general who is not conceding defeat. “Mr. Joko, a thin, unassuming figure with what he has described as a typical “village face,” will be Indonesia’s seventh president and the first not to have emerged from the country’s political elite or to have been an army general.” (NYT)

HIV/AIDS

The ongoing International AIDS Conference in Melbourne has led to a spike in news reports about HIV/AIDS. We are collecting some of the top news here.

There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses. (AP)

With HIV and AIDS disproportionately affecting indigenous people across the world, there is a strong need for culturally appropriate programs designed, championed and delivered by indigenous people, activists and experts say. Many indigenous women are living in silence with even their immediate families not knowing that they have HIV. (IPS)

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AIDS 2014 – Plenty of slogans & new science but not enough money | 

downloadAt the world’s biggest AIDS meeting this week in Australia, one long-time activist and attendee sees lots of slogans and important new research findings but not nearly enough money to make use of either the potential new tools or the rallying lingo.

A new drug, Truvada, has been shown effective at preventing HIV infection and recently was endorsed by the World Health Organization for use by those most at risk of infection. Despite some disappointing news about efforts to come up with a cure for AIDS, scientists point to other research fronts, though less sexy than a cure, where progress is being made on the search for a vaccine, on treatments for preventing disease and spread of HIV.

“This is one of the most exciting times in terms of HIV science, but one of the worst of times economically,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC (AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, which despite the name works across all aspects of disease prevention), who spoke with Humanosphere by telephone from Melbourne where the International AIDS Society is holding its biannual meeting AIDS 2014.

At the last big AIDS confab, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to help create an AIDS-free generation. Others spoke optimistically about the ‘end of AIDS’ as if the world is now at a tipping point, as if we are poised to end the pandemic.

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