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War diverting money from the real issues

Written by Health-e News

The cost of wars in Africa over the last 15 years could solve the HIV/AIDS crisis, prevent TB and malaria, or provide clean water, sanitation and education for the continent, an Oxfam report has found.

AFRICA: Wars cost Africa $300 Billion in 15 years

According to a new study, civil wars and conflicts during the 15-year period ending in 2005 cost Africa some $300 billion.

“This is equal to the amount of money received in international aid during the same period,” said the report.

“Africa’s Missing Billions” – prepared by Oxfam International, the International Action Network on Small Arms, and Saferworld – is the first study to attempt to quantify the effect of war on Africa’s gross domestic product in recent years. It found that 23 countries, or nearly half of Africa’s 53 nations, were involved in armed conflict between 1990 and 2005.

“Our figures are almost certainly an under-estimate, but they show conflicts costing African economies an average of $18 billion a year,” said Irungu Houghton, Oxfam’s African policy advisor.

“This money could solve the HIV/AIDS crisis, prevent TB and malaria, or provide clean water, sanitation and education.”

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose country was devastated by 14 years of war ending in 2003, wrote in the report’s foreword: “At this critical time for reaching agreement on tough international controls on the arms trade, it is essential that all governments understand the economic costs of armed violence and the impact that cost has on development. This is money Africa can ill afford to lose. The sums are appalling.” (Agence France Presse)


UNITED STATES: State, county STD rate ‘a shock’

An estimated 1 million young Californians contracted a sexually transmitted disease in 2005, according to a new study.

“We were expecting high numbers. but this was a shock even to us,” said study leader Petra Jerman, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Institute in Oakland.

The Centers for Disease Control developed a computer model that its researchers used in 2004 to estimate that 9.1 million new STD infections occurred among 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States in 2000, resulting in direct medical costs of $6.5 billion.

Using the same model, Jerman and colleagues estimated that 1.1 million new STD infections took place in California among people in this age group in 2005, resulting in $1.1 billion in direct medical costs.

The new California report estimated 590,000 human papillomavirus infections, 250,000 trichomoniasis infections, 180,000 cases of chlamydia, and 2,900 HIV infections.

The estimated lifetime direct medical expense for each case of HIV is $190,797, for a total cost of $560 million – meaning the HIV cases accounted for more than half the cost of all new infections.

“It’s really disturbing that we have not been able to make more progress” against STDs, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.(Thomas H Maugh II, Los Angeles Times)


SOUTHEAST ASIA: Nutrition key to surviving HIV/AIDS, WHO says

At a recent seminar on malnutrition and HIV held in Bangkok, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Southeast Asia said providing a balanced, nutritious diet where malnutrition is endemic is a major challenge to combating the region’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“This HIV/AIDS epidemic is being superimposed on the already existing malnutrition problem,” said Samlee Plianbangchang. “So if we want to make a difference, we should really deal with both challenges at the same time.”

“HIV affects nutritional status, and poor nutrition in turn leads to faster progression of HIV to AIDS,” Samlee told the health workers and experts gathered at the seminar. “Scaling up care and antiretroviral therapy cannot be addressed without appropriate support for nutrition.”

An estimated 4 million people with HIV/AIDS live in the Southeast Asia region, which the UN defines as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.

Evidence shows that people with HIV have higher energy needs than those who are HIV-negative. Ranga Saadeh, a scientist working for WHO’s Geneva-based nutrition department, said asymptomatic adults or children with HIV need 10 percent more energy than their uninfected counterparts, while those at advanced stages of the disease need 20-30 percent more energy to maintain body weight. (Deutsche-Presse Agentur)


AUSTRALIA: Syphilis and gonorrhea on increase among gay men

Syphilis and gonorrhea cases are on the rise in Australia, according to new figures released by the National Center in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of New South Wales.

The Northern Territory was especially hard-hit, as were gay men in their 20s and 30s, said a report released at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference at the Gold Coast. Experts are warning that prevention messages are not reaching those most at risk for STDs.

Between 2002 and 2006, the rate of gonorrhea increased 29 percent. Nationally, 42 in every 100,000 Australians are infected, but that figure jumps to 774 per 100,000 in the Northern Territory. Men in their 20s and 30s were the most likely to be infected, but traditionally low rates among women are also on the upswing, said Professor John Kaldor.

There were 815 new syphilis infections reported last year, up from 618 reports in 2004. The rise, said Kaldor, could foreshadow an emerging epidemic with the potential for cases to climb to levels seen 30 years ago. (Tamara McLean, Australian Associated Press)


(From: Centers for Disease Control prevention news digest)

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