Nifty Infographic of the Day: #HDX generates a data heatmap for East Africa

Monday, July 27, 2015

I saw this post last week in HDX's RSS feed and thought it was pretty nifty:
The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) team established a Data Lab in Nairobi, Kenya in late 2014 to offer data services to partners and to connect data systems from across the region. One of our first projects was a data hunting exercise on behalf of the OCHA Regional Office for Eastern Africa.
The exercise showed the challenges contributing to the data-deficit in the developing world: data is either not being collected or when it is, it is not shared in accessible formats. These findings are in line with the data availability for indicators included in the Millennium Development Goals, as reported by the UN expert’s group in A World That Counts.

The lack of data has implications for gaining an accurate understanding of regional vulnerability. These caveats need to be made clear when the analysis is prepared so that decision makers don’t mistake an impression with reality. At the same time, new data sources, such as sensors and mobile phones, can be explored to fill some of these gaps. A recent article in The Economist on Africa’s ‘missing data’ explores these issues further.
The team used what they found (and didn't find) to generate a data heatmap for the each of the various indicators they focused on and that data available for them by country. It's fairly large, so I could not get a good screen capture, but you can follow the link to see it.

Things that caught my eye at #IAS2015: Updated treatment guidelines and 90-90-90 targets possible

Friday, July 24, 2015

There were quite a few studies and announcements that made headlines at this year's IAS conference, which wrapped up in Vancouver earlier this week (NAM aidsmap provided some great coverage of the conference), but two in particular caught my eye. The first, which has actually been making the rounds for several months now, is that the WHO is updating its guidelines for HIV treatment with antiretroviral medication. It is now recommended that individuals diagnosed with HIV begin treatment as soon as possible, regardless of CD4 cell count (previous guidance advised waiting until a person had a count of below 350 cells/mm3):

NYT on the relationship between health and climate change: unraveling the science is "tricky" but the risks are real

Monday, July 20, 2015

Last week, the New York Times published a nuanced and thoughtful piece on the complicated scientific relationship between climate change and health outcomes. It lays out several health effects that advocates frequently bring up - vector-borne diseases, natural disasters, and temperature extremes - and examines the strength of the research behind each association.

Good news on the global HIV/AIDS front (with an asterisk)

Friday, July 17, 2015

The UN's Ban Ki-moon proclaimed the possibility of "the end of AIDS" in a cautiously optimistic tone after a new UNAIDS report was released in Addis Ababa this week showing, among other things:
...a 35-percent drop in new HIV infections from 15 years ago.

The positive news was also coupled with calls for more funding, with the objective of eliminating the virus by 2030. The United Nations also warned that continuing stigmatisation of sex workers, drug users and homosexuals were barriers to progress.
"After a decade of unprecedented growth, financing for the AIDS response has levelled off. At the same time, the world now has compelling evidence that people with HIV benefit by accessing anti-retroviral therapy as early as possible," it said.

UNAIDS said further increases and efficient reallocation were needed to address the "increased need of earlier initiation of anti-retroviral therapy" and called for AIDS spending of $32 billion (29 billion euros) annually between now and 2020 in the hope of eliminating the virus by 2030.
The UN has set up an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic, aiming to ensure that 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status and that 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV will receive anti-retroviral therapy.

The third target is that 90 percent of all people receiving anti-retroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
That's the "90-90-90" goal, for short.

While it is certainly true that the world as a whole has made great strides toward "the end of AIDS" (a phrase which a lot of activists nevertheless have issues with) and reduction of HIV transmission in general, efforts to eliminate AIDS as a clinical condition globally will be held back by countries where incidence rates are still increasing and infection is highly stigmatized. For example, new infections in South Korea continue to steadily rise, and most are diagnosed very late, as HIV is largely viewed as a "foreigner's disease" and Korean nationals largely avoid testing, even if they are high-risk.

WHO Video: Touchy-feely response to harsh international criticism?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Yesterday, the WHO released a short YouTube video, "If you can beat Ebola, you can beat anything," featuring the story of a Liberian doctor who contracted Ebola and recovered with the help of his family. After some dramatic music and musing from Dr. Philip Ireland, the video goes on to interview several other clinicians who provide hopeful reflections on how to better prepare African countries to respond to future outbreaks.