Drug-resistant TB spreading more easily, amfAR makes case for global AIDS funding, Zambia considers condoms in prisons, and more . . . we’re reading the facts behind the arguments

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NewWWRRussia’s drug-resistant TB spreading more easily – The mutations making some tuberculosis strains in Russia resistant to treatment may also be improving the ability of the bacteria to spread, an analysis reported in Nature tells us. Researchers are quoted calling the findings “Truly scary,” but also noting that a strong programmatic response could still be expected to bring incidence of drug resistant cases down, as has happened in the United States.

The Investment Case for Global AIDS Funding – Investments in HIV programs can save money overall, with gains coming in the next few years, this issue brief from amfAR argues. It backs the argument with recorded data, showing faster roll out of antiretroviral treatment linked to more significant reductions in new HIV infections, steadily declining infant infections linked to direct PEPFAR support, and productivity gains outpacing antiretroviral treatment program costs.

Community Health Campaigns offer rapid approach to HIV testing – The opportunities to reduce HIV transmission, illness and death are greater than ever, provided people have learned whether or not they have the virus that leads to AIDS. This study looked at the role that multi-disease community health campaigns can play in speeding that along. It is an effective tool in rural Africa settings, researchers concluded, but still needs to be accompanied by strategies to reach young single adults.

Zambia: Prison Condom Distribution Debate Rages – Dr. Oscar Simooya, the author of this Times of Zambia piece, has been involved in researching and reporting on HIV in Zambia’s prisons for nearly three decades, since noting, as HIV first began to be recorded in Zambia that most of the country’s donated blood supply came from prisons. He has led surveys showing prevalence of the virus among inmates to be nearly double that of the country’s general population. Poor sanitation and nutrition, overcrowding, lack of basic social services, and the instigation all of that provides for transactional sex behind bars has helped contribute to that and the spread of other diseases, he explains. But lest the general public feels protected from all of those, Simooya points out that many of Zambia’s prisoners have high turnover, “moving in and out of prisons throughout the country.” In addition to his roles as a researcher and practicing physician, Dr. Simooya is projects director for In But Free prisons project, which provides medical clinics, shaving equipment, treatment support and other services for prisoners and prison staff. In this piece he explains that while prisoner surveys have indicated prisoners are aware of HIV risks, continued new infections indicate they lack the means to protect themselves. “Although condoms could greatly assist in a reduction in HIV transmission rates,” he acknowledges, “there is a lot of discomfort in society and in many other countries as well, concerning prisoners having access to condoms.” He suggests the “urgent convening” of a consultation of health experts, prison staff, current and former prisoners, the judiciary, media, clergy and others affected by prison health issues, to examine the challenges and answers to HIV and AIDS behind walls.

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