More HIV discrimination from the ROK government: Korea disqualifies students with HIV from receiving scholarships

Monday, December 14, 2015

Regular readers will be familiar with the Korean government's ongoing misrepresentation of its HIV-related immigration restrictions: while it continues to receive undeserved recognition from the UN for being a country free of HIV-related travel restrictions, it mandates HIV tests for native-speaking English teachers, EPS workers (manual laborers), and entertainment workers. Despite claims from KCDC and Korea's ministry of foreign affairs that immigration restrictions have been lifted, one English teacher won a discrimination case with the UN CERD earlier this year, and another case is pending with the ICCPR. I was even successful in pushing through a resolution on immigration restrictions tied to HIV status at this year's APHA Annual Meeting that called Korea out specifically for its double-talk.

Now there more evidence of discrimination to add to the list. The Korean Government Scholarship Program, which provides funding and airfare for non-Koreans interested in pursuing post-graduate degrees at a Korean university, is open to a small number of foreign nationals each year and is actively advertised on Korean embassy websites and even featured on several university websites for current undergraduates who might be interested. The program "is designed to provide higher education in Korea for international students, with the aim of promoting international exchange in education, as well as mutual friendship amongst the participating countries," and the payment includes tuition, airfare, a monthly allowance, a research allowance, relocation (settlement) allowance, a language training fee, dissertation printing costs, and medical insurance. Which sounds lovely, except:
Applicants must submit the Personal Medical Assessment (included in the application form) when he/she apply for this program, and when it’s orientation, an Official Medical Examination will be done by NIIED. A serious illness (For example, HIV, Drug, etc) will be the main cause of disqualification from the scholarship.
It is also worth noting that pregnancy can disqualify candidates as well. Awesome.

The best part is that this information is not even hidden: a Google search on the above line pulls up dozens of results, and the restrictions on prominently featured on the websites of Korean embassies to the US, the UK, Australia, Malaysia, plus the Korean Education Center in New York, GWU's Sigur Center for Asian Studies, and even Seoul National University (DOC), the most prestigious university in the country.

Public data set highlights: Mass shootings and foodborne illness outbreaks

Friday, December 11, 2015

The last two editions of Data is Plural have featured databases and commentary on mass shooting data in the U.S. I was disappointed to see Jeremy feature in the first one with very little commentary, considering the methodological disagreements on gun death data collection that have been pointed out by WaPo, NYT, Reason, and Vox:
Mass shootings in America. provides datasets listing all U.S. mass shootings — defined as “when four or more people are shot in an event, or related series of events” — since 2013. So far in 2015, mass shootings have killed 447 people and wounded an additional 1,292.
To his credit, however, he included a follow-up entry in this week's edition with more links to editorials discussing the finer points of data collection on the politically fraught issue:
More data (and discussion) on mass shootings. Last week, Data Is Plural highlighted, a source for data on shootings that wounded at least four people. Other resources include the Gun Violence Archive and Mother Jones’ detailed database of mass shootings since 1982. The Mother Jones database takes narrower approach, focusing on shootings that killed at least four people in a public setting. In a New York Times op-ed, published shortly after last week’s San Bernardino shooting, the editor behind that database argues that broader methodologies don’t distinguish between a “a 1 a.m. gang fight” and “the madness that just played out in Southern California.” A Washington Post article weighs the pros and cons of broader and narrower approaches.
I am getting really sick of the dead-horse-beating that is happening on the interwebz about gun violence, so (in a rare departure from my usual m.o.) I will refrain from comment. What I will highlight, though, is the very real damage done by the Dickey amendment: it is impossible to have an informed debate on gun violence because Congress continues to block funding for CDC research that would lead to authoritative research and statistics.
"If there is no research, it is harder to make suggestions for policy reform," said Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. "And if you have a vested interest in stopping policy reform, what better way to do it than to choke off the research? It was brilliant and it worked."
Or, put much more succinctly by Dr. Jeffrey Swanson at Duke University, "It’s odd, but if you’re trying to do policy-informed research, you run into the fact that there are elected officials who don’t want to know the answer."

Doesn't seem that odd to me.

Anyway, in a much more classic public health vein, this week's Data is Plural also featured CDC data on foodborne illness outbreaks:
Good FOOD, bad food. The CDC’s Foodborne Outbreak Online Database (FOOD) contains 18,000+ outbreaks, which resulted in 358,000+ illnesses and 13,000+ hospitalizations, from 1998 through last year. In 2008, a multi-state Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak hospitalized 308 people — the highest count in the database.

@WHO Video: Reforming its emergency response

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Note: This was cross-posted to the IH Blog.

Last week, the WHO posted a five-minute video to YouTube outlining the intended reforms to its emergency response protocols. The video opens with some fairly dramatic clips of an explosion or two and then mainly consists of clips of primary and emergency medical care being administered to a wide variety of harrowed-looking disaster refugees mixed in with people waiting in line for food and shots of damage caused by a mishmash of catastrophes. The voiceover, which sounds like somebody reading from a technical report, explains that "[g]uided by an advisory group of global emergency experts, WHO is instituting change to make the organization more adaptable, predictable, dependable, capable, and accountable in its work in outbreaks and emergencies. It is adopting game-changing measures across all levels of the organization." The rather verbose narration contrasts oddly with the quietly urgent soundtrack.

The accompanying description reads:
WHO launched in 2015 a wide-ranging reform of the Organization's work in outbreaks and emergencies with health and humanitarian consequences. The outputs of the reform will include creating a unified programme for WHO's work in outbreaks and emergencies, featuring a platform for rapid response to outbreaks and emergencies, a global health emergency workforce and a Contingency Fund for Emergencies. Guiding this reform process is the objective of strengthening Organizational capacities, particularly in-country, to better prevent and prepare for, respond to and recover from outbreaks and emergencies.
I certainly do not disagree that the WHO needs reforms, but they might consider sending their social media guy to a class on how to make engaging videos (or maybe just connect him with MSF's guy).

The WHO has actually been doing quite a bit this year in the way of assessing its response protocols and drawing up a roadmap (PDF) for improvements. They even have a newsletter! Unfortunately, none of this information is mentioned in the video or linked to in the description.

@MSF Video for World #AIDS Day: People with #HIV still face major hurdles

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Note: This was cross-posted to the IH Blog.
Another year and another December mark the passage of another World AIDS Day. This has been an exciting year for HIV research and policy, with the WHO updating guidelines to recommend that anyone diagnosed with HIV get on ARVs, PrEP gaining traction in the US (even in my own Lone Star State!) and approval in France, new optimism in the effort to development a vaccine, and talk of ending AIDS by 2030. Aw, yeah.

Alas, we are not there yet - and World AIDS Day is an important day to remember that. While many countries have turned the tide of their HIV epidemics, it is getting worse in several others and, in South Korea's case, presents the potential for a fast-approaching crisis. MSF is always a good resource for bringing optimists back to reality. In this video, they remind us that in order to keep up the progress we have made against AIDS by treating HIV, we need to make sure that those who are infected stay in care - which will take sustained efforts in treatment, policy, and funding.