The end of AIDS
Posted on September 29th, 2005
The day that every one has waited for may come around sooner than expected, not due to anything that human kind has done, but due to nature. I’m talking about the disappearance of AIDS. The HIV virus may be weakening according to claims in an article published in the journal of AIDS claims Replicative fitness of historical and recent HIV-1 isolates suggests HIV-1 attenuation over time.. In their conclusions the authors of the research write”Conclusions: These findings suggest that HIV-1 replicative fitness may have decreased in the human population since the start of the pandemic. This ‘attenuation’ could be the consequence of serial bottlenecks during transmission and result in adaptation of HIV-1 to the human host.”
In the BBC online the researcher Dr Eric Artz said: “This was a very preliminary study, but we did find a pretty striking observation in that the viruses from the 2000s are much weaker than the viruses from the eighties. … Obviously this virus is still causing death, although it may be causing death at a slower rate of progression now. Maybe in another 50 to 60 years we might see this virus not causing death.”
This is quite a claim and if true could be a very important finding.There are some notable precedents of devastating epidemics which disappeared suddenly and naturally; the 1918/1919 Influenza pandemic that killed at least 40 million people worldwide, and the Black death (bubonic plague) pandemic of the mid-14th century (1347 – 1350) that wiped out a third of Europe’s medieval population. In the same BBC article a WHO HIV expert said “disease such as smallpox, TB and syphilis – had shown the same tendency to weaken over time. …There is a natural trend to reach an ‘equilibrium’ between the agent and the host interests, in order to guarantee concomitant survival for a longer time,”. The official went on to stress the latest findings should not lull people into a false sense of security.
Does it mark the beginning of the end of the AIDS pandemic? It is far to early to say…but one can hope.
Parallax View from the Flat Earth
Posted on September 27th, 2005
Tens of thousands of protesters descended on Washington D.C. in the week that just passes, protesting amongst other things the World Bank and IMF and their ineffectualness. They had come to Rally Against “Economic Apartheid” . Officials from developing countries have expressed strong dissatisfaction with their current “under-representation” at the World Bank and the IMF, warning that they are losing their significance. In the flat earth of the development world, where events are viewed through prisms of the parallax view, the performance of Wolfowitz seems to be all the more perplexing. When acknowledged his performance to date wins grudging approval, but in general it is just ignored, because it just doesn’t fit. Somehow Wolfwitz managed to get a reluctant US administration to honor the pledges made at the recent G8 summit for debt relief. Is this the true face of compassionate conservatism?
In a world where things are back to front, it somehow seems appropriate that rather than development taking place, regression seems to be the order of the day. How else can you explain what is happening in Zimbabwe, where people who once drove cars are now forced to walk, a country that was able to feed itself is on the verge of starvation. But it seems that members of Mugabe’s government are not satisfied with the pace of regression, turning the clock back to previous decades is just not proceeding fast enough. They want to ensure the complete degeneration, descent, deterioration and destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy in the shortest time possible. How else can one explain the insane proposal to seize properties owned by global commodities giant Anglo-American Corporation, properties that produce all of Zimbabwe’s sugar output, and are an important source of foreign exchange.
If you think labelling the Zimbabwe govt’s proposal as insane is a tad extreme, I would remind you of a former African leader that tried the same; one infamous Idi Amin Dada – transferring sugar plantations formerly owned by departing Indians to his cronies. And the rest was history, Uganda is still paying for Dada’s disastrous folly. But it seems there are plenty of fools still alive in Zimababwe, ready to repeat the mistakes of yesterday. Clearly they are looking through reversoscopes – this is what telescopes are called in the parallax world of flat earth…They allow one to view the past as if it were the future.
Just to round off the back to the future Topsy-turvy world we are currently living in the the Wall Street Journal reported that The Open Society Institute, founded by billionaire financier George Soros, filed a lawsuit against USAID over a U.S. policy requiring that recipients of federal HIV/AIDS service grants pledge to oppose commercial sex work..things have now come full circle..it’s back to the 80′s style policies with a healthy dollop of dogma, ideology, lashings of stigma, declaring fidelity to Abstinence faith based policies in the fight against AIDS. The result is in chat rooms and forums all over prevention is no longer on the agenda, the debates rage about Abstinence over condoms, the wicked scallywags who engage in efforts to ‘condomize’ righteous folk..is it surprising then that Uganda the only country in Africa to successfully reduce its HIV prevalence, has seemingly decided to abandon providing condoms, one of the pillars of its successful prevention program in favor of the Bush administration’s policy of emphasizing abstinence-only prevention program, what’s next abandon anti-retro viral treatment in place of prayer and faith healing? Anything is possible in the parallax world of the flat earth.
In East Africa the world is flat
Posted on September 27th, 2005
The world is flat in East Africa, to those who are ignorant of geography and current events. The sun rises in the North and sets in the South, the earth circles the moon. Such distortions to the political landscape can be the only reason for the curious juxtaposition of two events that occurred recently….sadly there was no eclipse to mark them…no matter. The two events I refer to are the release of a document by the Human Rights Watch that made headline news around the world accusing the Ugandan Army of Abusing Civilians – Uprooted and Forgotten:Impunity and Human Rights Abuses in Northern Uganda, and less widely reported a three day a three-day conference on combating terrorism in East Africa held in Sudan, with delegates from several East African nations and U.S. observers attending.
First to the HRW report… I have some gripes about such reports and it is not the first time I’ve commented on barbs and accusations aimed at the Uganda government..I have nothing against the HRW and their work is very welcome, indeed necessary if only to safeguard our rights and freedoms, and where they are under assault, to bring it to our attention.
The HRW report raises the issue of human rights violations by the Ugandan military and I commend them for this. The Uganda army cannot be excused of any such violations of human rights and they should be answered for. In the context of such events, the report from the HRW and its timing seems a little off..HRW claims to be impartial, yet it seems to be playing the part of the whitewash patsy to a tee. To mention what the LRA has done in the same breathe as the actions of the Uganda military is just wrong, somehow blaming the Uganda govt for the situation in the North… let’s not forget the real culprits, the real perpetrators,.the one’s in the bush creating all the terror, the ones who have refused to negotiate…the LRA… Peace at Any Cost? …
But I say again let us not forget it is those bandits, murderers, thugs etc elevated to so called rebels, the LRA – so called because they have no cause and even after 19 years no one really knows what they are about… who have been terrorising the people of Northern Uganda . Every once in a while, perhaps due to shame or whatever, NGO’s and donor organisations are goaded into reminding people that this is one of the most neglected human rights issues in the world, they make the same old tired accusations and then forget about it again.
The Uganda government should answer as to why this war has gone on for so long.. and not to the NGO’s or donors, the West or other outsiders, but to it’s own people. These are after all Ugandans who are dying. How have so called ill trained bandits been able to rampage with impunity? Such questions should be answered fully; but it is equally clear that the LRA have had a lot of help, a great, great deal of aid from the Sudanese government – yet they are rarely mentioned, except in passing, let alone been called on to answer for their actions and role in the continuing tragedy.
Why has Sudan never been brought to task over their role in the crisis in Northern Uganda…they have supplied, armed and generally allowed free rein to Kony and his henchmen to commit the most heinous atrocities for almost two decades..yet they are hardly mentioned. Which is why it it is a cruel irony that a so called conference on terrorism is being held in a country that is the chief proponent of terrorism…any body forgotten the little fact of Bin Laden using Sudan as a base at one time. The presence of US officials is just beyond me…this really is reflections through the looking glass..nothing makes sense. Has anyone forgotten Darfur? A report in the BBC online said “Special UN advisor on preventing genocide Juan Mendez said Khartoum had done little to disarm militias or end the “culture of impunity” there”.
The timing could not be more unfortunate. Maybe it’s just my well toned conspiracy theory muscle, but it somehow seems a prelude to getting Sudan off the hook about Darfur…Which leads me to the second point, Sudan hosting an anti-terrosrism conference..huh? What’s that all about.In East Africa it seems the world is flat, white is black, victims have become perpetrators and in the spin of self deluded reporting, how long will it be before the continued rights violations are blamed on the rebels…and not the militia supported by the Sudan government..I await the next report on the human rights situation…
Health News Watch
Posted on September 22nd, 2005
Men have been rediscovered in the fight against AIDS so says an article in the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2005/09/19/in_africa_aids_programs_target_fathers/?page=full
Meantime I’ve posted a number of terrorism related stories as East African nations met to discuss terrorism in region – how soon will it be before the development agenda is hijacked by the so called security agenda? If indeed it hasn’t been already…
Elsewhere UNICEF released a report saying that “Women, Water, Hygiene – Key to Change in Africa” - wow who would have thought this. While I welcome this, I think it is a sad indictment of setting priorities for the development agenda when you consider the statement that scrolls at the front of this website: If the cure for HIV was only a CLEAN CUP OF WATER, we would still BE UNABLE TO FREE AFRICA FROM AIDS Medilinks
As the Gulf Coast of the USA is once again being threatened by another potentially catastrophic hurricane, the world is being menaced by an even greater disaster as potential for an outbreak of influenza leading to a devastating global pandemic of biblical proportions increased with reports from Indonesia of more human cases of bird flu…it now seems a case of not if but when the epidemic happens….
Move over Niger, where things seem to be going so well the UN was forced to deny plans for moving out….it’s now Malawi, where a million kids are threatened with starvation in the the worst food crisis since 1994
The big thing in Niger is malaria, with the WHO sending in tens of thousands of doses of treatment as an emergency….actually malaria in Africa is a hot issue of the moment see (ETHIOPIA: Six million at risk of malaria epidemic)….seems the World bank has rediscovered malaria…still no solutions on the scourge though…the controversies still go on, the chattering classes of Africa related forums can’t agree on how best to combat the disease..use bednets…residual spraying…ddt etc..
These and other stories can be found at: Health News
UN Summit Review
Posted on September 21st, 2005
The UN Summit took place last week celebrating the 60th birthday of the UN. Time for a report card check…how are we doing…Not good was the general consensus amongst the most optimistic. The flagship project of the MDGs which includes achieving universal primary education, cutting hunger and poverty in half, and sharply reducing maternal and infant mortality by 2015 looks almost surely moribund as everyone gloomily acknowledged that they were unlikely to be achieved. ‘A Miserable Performance,’ said Thabo Mbeki as he scolded the UN going on to describe poverty-fighting efforts towards those goals as “half-hearted, timid and tepid.”
Others were equally disheartened “It seems that world leaders have done their best this week to make poverty win,” says Hellen Tombo of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), described as the world’s largest anti-poverty movement (IPS Africa). There was more posturing than progress.
Elsewhere Bob Geldoff appeared on the Global stage, but perhaps mindful of whose hand seems to feeding him these days, meekly chided the richest nations for reneging on the promises and pledges made at the G8 summit.
It seems “We fought a war against poverty — and poverty won.”
Bad Advice, Bad Medicine
Posted on September 14th, 2005
Bad advice like bad medicine kills…Tell it to Uganda, once the champion in the fight against AIDS, winning praise and lauded all over…Many awards have gone to Uganda and her citizens accorded in recognition of their efforts. But somethings gone awry…Now we hear stories of suspension of funds from the GFATM, rumours that the HIV rate is on it’s way back…the efforts to stem the spread of AIDS are fialing. Wha’s going on? Things began to go wrong when the government started taking advice from the wrong people. Who are these people? They are the ones making policy in the US government of late, the religious right. They are the purveyors and supporters of Intelligent Design and taking a leaf from their faith based policies told the Uganda Government that the best way to take the fight against AIDS forwards was to promote Abstinence, despite their being any hard scientific evidence to show how much it had contributed in the decline of AIDS in Uganda. But intelligent design doesn’t need scientific proof only faith, and so Uganda AIDS officials swallowed it.Or perhaps Ugandan officials were also swayed by the promise of millions more dollars in funding if they chose Abstinence over the unholy condomizing of Uganda, condemning the people to a fiery after-life.
The result…the HIV rate in Uganda is creeping up, prevention programs are in disarray, the message of be safe use condoms has gone, and to make it worse the country has run out of condoms…all on the whispered advice of the sections of the US government promoting the agenda of the religious right. Bad Advice..bad, bad advice. Always check your source before taking their bad advice. If there is any doubt….the hapless and quite frankly incompetent response to a hurricane Katrina, a disaster of immense proportions….has of course proven the dangers of ignoring scientific evidence.
Katrina is an example of how to turn a disaster into a catastrophe. Surveying the damage Katrina had left from 30,000ft, GW claimed that no one could have foreseen such calamitous events…and taking their cue from him…to a man, his officials concurred. Presumably because it was an act of God. This despite the fact that for years officials and scientists had warned of the real and present dangers to New Orleans of a hurricane striking New Orleans, even running a simulation just last year predicting the very same. So much for science. Members of the government pleaded in their defence that it was hard to know what was really going on “on the ground” as people cried out for help, corpses floated rotting in festering water. All they had to do was to turn on the TVs which millions of us had done to find out what was going on…
These are people more interested in ideology than fact, wish fulfillment than reality. They wish their world conformed more to their desires of good religious order rather than secular reality. Remember these are the same people advising Ugandans, Africans to abandon proven methods that have saved lives for the pseudo-scientific claptrap.
If this course of action is embarked upon, how many thousands who may have lived will die? The bottom line is about saving lives, Uganda lives, the people cannot afford to base their futures on such advice…In this case bad advice like bad medicine really does kill…
Sir Bob where are you?
Posted on September 13th, 2005
Has any one seen Sir Bob lately? BishBob to those of you who know him well. Ever since the end of the G8 summit he’s been MIA. I’m so worried, if any one knows where he is please email me.
Posted on September 13th, 2005
This week it will be the UN’s 60th birthday. The U.N. summit billed as one of the largest exercises in futility when the biggest gathering of world leaders gets together to discuss poverty will take place in NY. Wait a minute, did I get it right…but who cares…it will all be rhetoric, hot air and meaningless phrases. I care about poverty, but I can’t find it in me to care about this conference, summit or whatever. An editorial in today’s NY Times mentioned something about collection of hypocrites…that may well be. In the grand scheme of things…no even in the small scheme of things, the minutest, tiniest, smallest scheme of things, the historic UN summit will change nothing for the poor…there will be discussions, televised debates and blah…blah…blah…second, minutes, hours will tick away..thousands of men, women, children will die of disease, or lack of food or lack of something…
Tomorrow is another day…the poor will still be poor.
Posted on September 2nd, 2005
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. All week I have been glued to the Internet and TV, watching in disbelief the unfolding disaster in the Gulf Coast in the deep South of USA. Towns inundated by flood water, bodies floating in the submerged streets, armed gangs of looters, people living like refugees in the, dying of thirst surrounded by dirty, infested, sewage tainted water, days with out food. This is not happenng in some third wolrd nation, no, not at all; the most astonishing thing is that these unimaginable scenes are taking place in in what was once the modern city of New Orleans, in the richest nation in the world. Once again nature has shown man who’s really in charge. We’ve seen the effect of the tsunami, something that happened in Asia in December 2004; it was something that could not be foreseen. But Katrina announced her presence weeks ago and the possible effects of a hurricane hitting the Gulf coast of Amreica were well known. So why were authorities taken so much by surprise? But the question that I ask, everyone’s asking is why has it taken so long to get relief supplies, why were the authorities so unprepared?
The disaster has cruelly exposed the fault lines that exist in the richest nation on the earth, because the people affected are the poor, the aged, marginalised, and ethnic minorities (mainly black). This has prompted much soul searching in America.It was self evident (or should have been) that these would have been the most vulnerable; this is not the benefit of hind sight, for those least able to help themselves are the ones always most affected by natural disasters. Yet astonishingly, despite all the resources available, the wealth of information, knowledge, years of planning, scenario developments, it seems no provision was made for these people. They didn’t figure in the plans, any plans. As so often happens, the poorest get left behind. How many survived Katrina’s wrath, injured, only to die waiting for help, we’ll never know. There are lessons for the nations of the developing world that aspire to be so much like USA…..