Clean water and HIV, new look and features for watchdog Aidspan site, “good Samaritans” living in poverty, and more . . .

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Safe Water Critical to health of HIV-positive people: Clean water and accessible sanitary toilet facilities are essential to the success of HIV care and treatment, this IRIN story notes, focusing on conditions in Ethiopia. It cites Wateraid, saying that patients on antiretroviral medicine need at least a liter and a half of clean water a day to take their medicine as effectively as possible. The article cites a 2009 study that showed less than 62 percent of people getting home-based care for HIV had access to acceptable sanitation, while little more than 4 percent had places to wash their hands near toilet facilities, the lack of both increasing their exposure to opportunistic infections. The article is one more illustration that for epidemic fighting efforts to be successful they have to address basic rights.

New Aidspan Web site and Global Fund Observer: Aidspan’s site has had an overhaul, with a new logo and new features making it look brighter and actually bigger. It includes a new “live articles” feature, starting with a dialogue-provoking  “Corruption Quiz”  which invites comments. It also offers related news links and Global Fund data in an easy-to-navigate format, along with, of course, links to current and past editions of the Global Fund Observer. The latest GFO edition offers up details on which countries got transitional funding to ease the pain of the Round 11 cancellation, discusses civil society concerns on the Fund’s approach to new allocation formulas, and summarizes a report from the Fund’s Developing Countries NGO delegation citing procedural challenges that continue to hobble grantees.

Community health workers get the job done: The day a delirious HIV-positive patient bit volunteer Thab’sile Ndlovu (“she could have infected me if I was not already HIV-positive,” she observes), came a week after she was bitten by a dog she encountered on her rounds, and the day before she was chased by a bull. This story, written in observance of World Humanitarian Day, describes the conditions and challenges the people on the front lines of treatment efforts face, and the essential nature of their roles, for which they usually receive inadequate, token or no compensation. While taking the expensive burden of patient care out of hospitals, making treatment and testing programs possible, they often use their own scant resources to fill gaps — buying food, toting water, providing social support — while living in extreme poverty themselves. “Many think we are just good Samaritans without any needs,” a care worker quoted in this story says.

A Step Backward for AIDS Prevention: What’s not to like about federally funding an effort that prevents HIV and hepatitis transmission and helps get people into treatment for drug abuse? After the prohibition against federally funding syringe exchange programs was lifted in 2009, New York, for example, expanded syringe exchange efforts that had seen HIV transmission through drug use drop from 52 percent of new cases in 1992 to 5.4 percent in 2008, this column by Human Rights Watch senior health researcher Megan McLemore says, with programs delivering more drug abuse treatment referrals, getting more used needles out of circulation. “The sad irony” McLemore goes on to point out, is that the reinstated ban last year, which was attached to a spending bill, “likely will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.” She calls on President Obama, whose 2013 budget proposal authorizes syringe exchange funding, to fight for the funding, and for federal agencies that administer the funds to educate involved agencies and the public about the life-saving importance of the funding.

Possible Cause of Immune Deficiency Cases in Asia Uncovered by NIH Researchers: A combination of genetic and environmental factors might explain the onset of an immune deficiency condition that has been called “AIDS-like” after it was noted among middle-aged adults in Southeast Asia, according to National Institutes of Health investigators whose research, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, is summarized in this Medical News Today article.

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