Wrong numbers: We’re reading about what happens when people don’t count

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NewWWRIn 2009 the Zambian government released a midpoint review of its national AIDS strategy and noted a problem that had become clear in the three years since the strategy had been launched: ” . . Some risk behaviour groups (i.e. multiple concurrent sexual partners, discordant couples, uncircumcised men, and MSM) were missed out,” reviewers wrote, “therefore, no interventions are specifically targeting these groups.” While some attention has since been paid to some of those groups, a vicious circle continues there, and in other countries where criminalization, bias, and discriminatory neglect remain obstacles to getting accurate counts of populations needing services, or even acknowledging that they need to be counted. This week, we’re reading about efforts to make sure everyone counts.

HIV and emergencies – the data quandary: The news here is not surprising — if services for marginalized people fall short to begin with, they will fall shorter still in crisis situations. Among the “blind spots” in humanitarian responses that stand between food aid, shelter and medicine and people likely to need them most are missing medical records, frequently destroyed or inaccessible in  disasters but needed to supply an accurate picture of the need for antiretroviral medicines. In addition, policies to serve women and children first leave gay men and transgender individuals who have been rejected by their families without resources, and underestimations of risks confronting youths leave them fending for themselves in emergencies.

Where There is no Data
: A new website, blog, Twitter feed and facebook page is a response to the crippling effects of data deficits on global health responses. A source and outlet for researchers, policy makers, advocates and implementers, it provides an opportunity to document, share, and fill in the blanks, where failures to count lead to failures to serve. While the blog’s early entries address particularly marginalized populations — men who have sex with men, transgender people and people involved in commercial sex, its authors write that they look forward to broadening discussions.

The Disabilities Treaty- It’s time for action: After strongly urging fellow Senators to ratify the Disabilities Treaty last December, Secretary of State Kerry has returned to the topic from his current post, reminding policy makers that the treaty “does not contain one single onerous mandate. There are no mandates. It simply says that other countries should do what we did 23 years ago when we set the gold standard and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.” What the treaty would do is make the funding the U.S. sends overseas to combat HIV and other global health threats more effective, by increasing the chances it could reach more vulnerable people, including people with HIV.

Zambia: Govt Aims to Wipe Out TB in Prisons: ” . . . recent research conducted by the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) indicates that the prevalence of . . . confirmed TB among Lusaka Central Prison inmates was four times higher than the general population,” Zambia’s Home Affairs Minister is quoted saying in this story. Disease prevalence behind prison walls is frequently both a missing number, and missing piece of the puzzle of why health responses fail. This article says the government of Zambia now is aware of the need to relieve prison congestion, increase health facilities in prisons and employ more health workers to address the nation’s highest rates of tuberculosis.

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