Are key affected women and girls marginalised at Women Deliver 2013?

Bobby Ramakant - CNS
Women Deliver 2013 is re-energizing the global response to issues of women and girls but has it adequately addressed issues that are unique to the most marginalized women and girls?  Supporters of Unzip the Lips feel that Women Deliver did not adequately address issues of HIV and key affected women and girls. CNS speaks with advocates of the Unzip the Lips on what some of these issues are. Who are key affected women and girls?  The Unzip the Lips campaign defines key affected women and girls in the concentrated epidemic in Asia and the Pacific as including women and girls who are living with HIV, female sex workers, women and girls who use drugs, transgender women and girls, mobile and migrant women, female prisoners, women with disabilities, women in HIV sero-discordant relationships, as well as intimate female partners of men who engage in behaviours that put them at a higher risk of HIV infection.

Down With TAPS--For A Tobacco Free World

Shobha Shukla - CNS
This year marks the 24th consecutive World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in which the international community joins hands to bring attention to the tobacco industry’s underhanded tactics to thwart public health policy. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2013 is: ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship with the view to curb tobacco industry’s aggressive tactics of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) to hook millions of new customers to this deadly product every year.

Bangladesh praised at Women Deliver

Nurul Islam Hasib, Bangladesh
(First published in, Bangladesh on 28 May 2013):  Global leaders, policymakers, experts and rights activists kicked off here on Tuesday the decade’s largest conference on girls and women’s health and rights. Bangladesh figured among the success stories showcased by the 'Women Deliver", whose 3rd conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at Kuala Lumpur with more than 3,000 delegates from over 150 countries. 'Women Deliver' said Bangladesh had significantly reduced death-at-childbirth due to resources allocated by the government and NGOs “to support access to quality maternity care for the large number of women who deliver at home”.

Tobacco-The silent ‘tsunami’

Alice Tembe, Swaziland
Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non smokers, usually called second-hand-smokers (SHS), according to World Health Organization Fact Sheet Number 339, May 2013. It also notes that approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco and accounts for one in ten adult deaths. Tobacco is a silent assassin, which is usually ignored by most health response programs because it takes several years between when a person starts using tobacco and when the health effects are felt. Further, most second hand smokers have minimal appreciation of the health risks caused by smoking and in particular SHS.

Investing in women's reproductive health is smart economics: Report

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 
A new World Bank report released at Women Deliver 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, demonstrates that investing in women’s reproductive health is smart economics. This report, formally called "Investing in women’s reproductive health: Closing the deadly gap between what we know and what we do", Jeni Klugman from World Bank said that women are important contributors to the global economy: about 40% of the global labour force and more than 60% of workers in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Poor health reduces labour supply and contributes to lost wages, so improved reproductive health outcomes can increase female labour supply and productivity and therefore should be of great concern to policy makers.

Unmet family planning needs: Bad for economy and health

Bobby Ramakant - CNS
[CNS Images from WD 2013
222 million women in developing countries, who want to use modern contraception methods, are not able to have access to them. Meeting women's family planning needs would prevent 54 million unplanned pregnancies, 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths. There are other savings too, for every USD 1 spent on family planning saves countries USD 4 in areas such as education, healthcare, water and sanitation, said delegates at Women Deliver 2013.

Unzip The Lips on HIV and key affected women and girls

Unzip The Lips, an Asia Pacific regional campaign supported by a range of organizations and networks, is gaining momentum as Women Deliver 2013 opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Unzip The Lips campaign made a six-point appeal to estimated 5000 delegates who are attending Women Deliver 2013.

Turning point: More girls in Malaysian colleges than boys

Malaysian PM Haji Abdul Razak
Bobby Ramakant - CNS
A girl in Malaysia today is more likely to go to a university than a boy. “65% students enrolled in tertiary colleges are women” said Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak at Women Deliver 2013. While many countries are grappling to bring down deaths of women during pregnancy and child birth, Malaysia’s maternal mortality rates have dipped down by nearly half today compared to what they were in 1990. And undoubtedly Malaysian economy is strong in the region (USD 1 = RM 2.84).

Misconception about Asthma

Diana Esther Wangari, Kenya
Mwololo is a ten year old girl from a Semitic community in Kenya. The little manyatta that serves as her home is inhabited by seven other children; her siblings and cousins. Temporary shelters, communal sharing of resources and caring for their herds is the way of life for this small nomadic group. With such fragile societal structures, the uniting factors remain to be their livestock and the healer. The healer is believed to be a person chosen by the gods and he could cure all diseases and more importantly he was able to read the skies and lead the community to greener pastures (literally) that could sustain their livestock.

Go well Shiv...

Decriminalize and engage MSM and transgender populations in HIV responses

Shobha Shukla - CNS
In memory of the light and force in the struggle of gender justice and sexual rights, late Shivanand Khan OBE, we are reproducing what he said to CNS in the recent past:
 [Audio podcast] Policies that criminalize same-sex behaviour and punitive laws continue to impede access to existing healthcare services for those at heightened risk of HIV such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender populations. The 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (10th ICAAP) is being organized in South Korea - a country where a lot more needs to be done to provide safe, supportive and dignified access to services for LGBT community. "South Korea doesn’t have a very good record regarding programming around sexual minorities and HIV. If you look at the data, one of the highest number of people dying among young LGBT people are here. There is a whole issue around shame and culture that impacts upon their lives. The government is not very responsive, and no education system exists on these issues" said Shivanand Khan, Chief Executive of Naz Foundation International and Co-Chair of Asia Pacific Coalition on Male sexual health (APCOM).

Stigma within healthcare facilities blocks access to services for MSM and transgender

Shobha Shukla - CNS
In memory of the light and force in the struggle of gender justice and sexual rights, late Shivanand Khan OBE, we are reproducing what he said to CNS in the recent past:
[Audio podcast] Stigma within healthcare settings blocks access of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender populations to existing services to an alarming level. "The Asia Pacific Coalition on Male sexual health (APCOM) has been looking at this issue of stigma within healthcare settings which prevents people from accessing services and in fact kills people if nothing else. So what NFI and APCOM are doing is engaging more with the UN system, WHO, and other stakeholders to improve quality of education for the health sector, to engage in issues around health sector reforms and to improve services at grassroots level" said Shivananda Khan, Chief Executive of Naz Foundation International (NFI) and Co-Chair of Asia Pacific Coalition on Male sexual health (APCOM) at the 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (10th ICAAP) in Busan, South Korea.

Asthma needs serious attention in Ghana

Bernard Appiah, Ghana
(First published in Joy Online, Ghana on 17th May 2013): Many adults in Ghana with asthma—a disease that causes swelling of the airways of the lungs and thus make the airways become narrow—usually know very well such symptoms as wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing. But researchers trying to establish the factors that influence asthma in Ghana, especially in adults, have very little information on the disease. Most studies have focused on asthma among individuals aged 5 to 16 years and therefore very little information on risk factors associated with asthma among adults in Ghana is known, says Abena S. Amoah, principal Research Assistant at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, and colleagues in a research to identify studies on asthma in Ghana.

The unsung heroines of the slums

Shobha Shukla - CNS
Pratima refused to finalize the marriage of her son till her husband agreed to construct a toilet in their house located in a Kanpur slum. She did not want her daughter-in-law to suffer the same fate of open defecation as she did. Sushma raised the banner of women’s education, persuading her illiterate slum neighbours to send their daughters to college. Against all odds, Urmila and her team mates prevailed upon their local corporator to build tiled roads in their waterlogged slum. Ashiya worked hard to get more toilets constructed and the sewer lines laid in her slum.

Asthma treatment, care still expensive

Gugulethu Nyazema, Zimbabwe
(First published in Daily News, Zimbabwe on 7th May 2013): ASTHMA is one of the most common chronic diseases and it is largely treated as private health matter not warranting public attention, said a local health expert, Manikai Nyandoro a local doctor said that asthma is slowing becoming prevalent among children and the chronic disease is treated mostly on an emergency basis. “The percentage of children reported for asthma has been increasing significantly. It is very much linked to the fact that they were not aware of these asthmatic conditions,” he said.

Special Report: Women and Tuberculosis - It's Impact on Nigerian Women living with HIV

Olufunke Osindele, Nigeria
(First published in Ogun Radio, Nigeria on 8th May 2013): As the world marked another International Women’s Day celebrated March 8 every year this gives the world opportunity to reflect on how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and girls in terms of access to healthcare, education and social ammenties. According to WHO Tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS and maternal causes, are the three top killers of women of reproductive age globally. TB is a global health burden which countries are trying to control but the good news is that it is curable. It is one of the opportunitistic infections people living with HIV have to battle and this is never a pleasant experience for them especially the women folks.

Malawi struggles with asthma

Sam Banda Jnr, Malawi
(First published in The Daily Times, Malawi on 14th May 2013): The world on May 7 joined hands to commemorate the World Asthma Day, a disease that has suffered little attention despite millions of people in almost every region being affected. It is an issue of international concern and this is why an annual event is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.The theme for this year's commemoration was "You Can Control Your Asthma." However, this year GINA also introduced a sub-theme, "It's Time to Control Asthma."

IAS 2013: Innovations in HIV Testing, Cure and Care

The world’s largest open scientific conference on HIV/AIDS – the 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 30 June-3 July 2013. Held every two years, the conference, which is one of the world´s leading open HIV scientific forums, provides a unique opportunity for the world’s leading scientists, clinicians, public health experts and community leaders to examine the latest developments in HIV-related research, and to explore how scientific advances can be translated quickly into effective interventions to prevent and treat HIV, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

Call to improve asthma care and control

Rahul Kumar Dwivedi - CNS
When there are evidence-based methods to control asthma effectively, then why is the disease burden growing over the past 30 years, particularly in the low- and middle- income countries? This fact is stated clearly in the Global Asthma Report 2011 published by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).There is no doubt that much more needs to be done to effectively control asthma at all levels. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects 235 million people worldwide.This lifelong condition  affects people of all ages, but increasingly more number of children are getting diagnosed with asthma.

Addressing the burden of asthma in Nigeria

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, Nigeria 
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Nigeria on 6th May 2013): Priscilla, a 40-year-old public servant, has been living with asthma for the last 32 years. When Priscilla was first diagnosed of asthma, her grandmother called her an ogbanje because of the way she struggling to breathe. Narrating her story, Priscilla said that growing up was not easy, as she was hospitalised on several occasions. She stressed that she had to consciously avoid cats, dust, fur and feathers, recalling that her contacts with such objects usually triggered asthma attacks.

Call for better asthma treatment option

 Paidamoyo Chipunza, Zimbabwe
(First published in The Herald Online, Zimbabwe on 9th May 2013): AN international organisation is calling for a range of effective asthma treatment to better manage the condition as the world commemorates World Asthma Day. World Asthma Day is commemorated every year on May 7. This year's commemorations are running under the theme: You can Control Your Asthma. Pharmacist and coordinator of the Asthma and Drug Facility with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Mr Christophe Perrin said effective management of asthma requires two major drugs namely  bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids.

Should asthma control us or we control asthma?

Prof Rajendra Prasad, Director, VPCI
Photo credit: CNS
Bobby Ramakant - CNS
Managing asthma and controlling it well is the only way to live normally. Despite knowing this evidence-based fact and also recognizing estimates of alarming asthma rates in children and adults, most governments have neglected asthma control and not done enough.  Professor (Dr) Rajendra Prasad, Director, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute in Delhi, said to Citizen News Service (CNS) that asthma is a chronic and lifelong disease. It is important whom we consult and also to be regular with medicines as well as to be regular in consultations with the treating doctor.

Reduction in tax on cigarettes and cigars against public health interest

The UP government decision to reduce VAT on cigarettes and cigars from the existing 50% levels to 25% is against the public health interest. According to WHO, increasing the price of tobacco through higher taxes is the single most effective way to decrease consumption and encourage tobacco users to quit, which will directly reduce the rates of major non-communicable killers such as heart disease and stroke, cancers, and other life-threatening diseases and disabilities attributed to tobacco use. This was a clear message coming out of Vote For Health session held at Dabble College, Lucknow.

Asthma: Recognising the triggers

Carolyn Kavita Tauro
Globally, asthma is one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality. Cases have increased in the past 20 years especially in children. Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases with over 200 million suffering from it worldwide. If urgent action isn't taken, the deaths due to asthma will increase in the coming decade. Although asthma cannot be cured, good control and management lies in early and proper diagnosis, treatment and patient education. 

Access to medicines is key to reducing suffering from asthma

Bobby Ramakant - CNS
7 May: World Asthma Day
Asthma causes disabling symptoms in millions of people who struggle to breathe, making ordinary activities extraordinarily difficulty – things like going to school, working at a job, looking after children or aging parents, running or even walking. About 235 million people in the world suffer from asthma and the number is increasing – asthma is a neglected epidemic.

No more business as usual: Call to manage asthma well

Shobha Shukla - CNS
Despite evidence that asthma can be effectively managed, not only asthma-related health literacy is very low in most settings but also quality-assured affordable essential medicines are very seldom available. With slow growth in awareness of asthmatic conditions, increasing number of children and adults are being diagnosed with asthma. Once diagnosed, we must ensure that they are educated about asthma, empowered to live positively with proper management of asthma, and in-country mechanisms are robust enough to ensure uninterrupted supplies of required quality-assured affordable essential medicines, healthcare workers are skilled enough to comprehensively support people who need care, and aggravating factors or triggers are controlled effectively where possible.

Asthma control requires affordable, accessible quality-assured essential medicines

"It's time to control asthma", according to this year's World Asthma Day theme, but the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) says the low availability and the prohibitive cost of asthma inhalers continue to be serious challenges in low- and middle- income countries.  With the vast majority of the 235 million people affected by asthma living in such limited-resource settings, The Union established the Asthma Drug Facility (ADF) to help overcome these barriers.

Unavailability of asthma drugs in Malawi -report

Sam Banda Jnr, Malawi 
(First published in The Daily Times, Malawi on 2nd May 2013): A survey conducted in some of the country's private pharmacy hospitals, national procurement centre and public hospital pharmacies has revealed an unavailability of some of the asthma drugs and this is highlighted in the global asthma report 2011. The report which is the first of its kind says the survey conducted on availability of surveyed inhalers by country, type of health facility and national essential medicines list in the world, shows that Malawi has a lot to do, as some drugs were not available in the private pharmacy, national procurement centre and public hospital pharmacy.

Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease

Since majority of tobacco addiction takes root in young age, children and youth need to be informed of tobacco-related diseases, disabilities and deaths to make a wise choice and say NO to tobacco, said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General’s Awardee (2005), and Principal of Career Institute of Medical Sciences at Delhi Public School (DPS), Sector-19, Indira Nagar, Lucknow. Prof Rama Kant is also the Dean, College of Surgeons of India; and former Chief Medical Superintendent and former HOD Surgery, KGMU; and was plenary speaker at Vote For Health session at DPS.