Responding to diseases in the shadows now, with access to knowledge and treatment . . . We’re reading about equalizing health

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NewWWRXDR-TB is worse than Ebola but we can act – The author, Dr. Philip Lederer, is an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital with a clinical focus on tuberculosis and other non-tuberculous mycobacteria, and a member of TB Proof. Evoking both Albert Camus’s The Plague and David Frances’ How to Survive a Plague, he explains clearly and thoroughly how, for all of the important attention Ebola finally received in the last year, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis poses a more widespread, deadly and resource-draining threat, and the wisdom of responding appropriately now, rather than later.

Men’s self-image puts them in danger of dying from AIDS, research showsReally? The gross generalization of this headline, which is exemplified by the combination of plural and singular (all men have the same self image? Rich men and poor men? Men who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, and men who are not? Men with easy access to health care, and men without?  . . . etc.) is a tip off that something is going astray here. The article and the draft discussion paper (Rights, Roles and Responsibilities) on which it is based carry important and dismaying information: While women are more likely to get HIV in resource-limited settings that include sub-Saharan Africa, men are more likely to go untreated and die of it. The article and the paper that inspired it also include a few relevant recommendations — including greater access to workplace HIV testing, and greater attention to health service barriers that keep men who have sex with men from knowing their risks, their status and their right to treatment. But the emphasis in the headline, the lead and throughout that “Men’s self-image as strong, sexually active risk takers means they are more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than are women” ignores the realities continuing to hinder full treatment coverage that continue to include limited resources and discrimination. And the paper astoundingly cites “gender norms that make it acceptable for men to . . . avoid health services,” as if people have to somehow go out of their way to not access health services in some of the lowest income countries on earth. The paper is very much worth looking at because of the data it offers on unequal treatment coverage that must be equalized to control HIV, but it would be nice, when talking about a disease, to emphasize the importance of medicine, rather than stereotypes.

Protecting the human rights of sex workers – This describes how the world’s largest human rights organization reached the decision to seek decriminalization of sex work worldwide, and the input of people who earn or augment their income through sex work in that decision. The report also looks at the potential impacts of that decision on the rights and health of men and women whose access to care, treatment, and legal protection has been hindered by laws that have been justified in part as protecting them.

The health gap: The challenge of an unequal world – This Lancet article is available free after you log in, and describes how unequal access to health care creates a worldwide caste system, not unlike the deliberately constructed one described in Brave New World.

Sanofi faces criticism at lung conference – “Medicines are a necessity, not a luxury,” activists in Cape Town at the Union explained to Sanofi pharmaceutical company at the Union World Conference on Lung Health. The company stopped making the bacille Calmette-Guerin — or BCG — vaccine, which protects children from becoming sick with the disease, because it didn’t generate sufficient profit, and charges $47 a pill for a medicine that is among the last resorts for people with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis, both moves, activists said, that indicate the company prioritizes wealth over health.

Anita Ashok Datar, life and legacy – Two posts here have commemorated the work of Anita Ashok Datar, who dedicated her skills and compassion to health equity, and who was lost to her family, friends and the global health community in an armed assault in Mali last month. This site celebrates her life, and provides an opportunity to support her legacy.

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