Tomorrow, as you may have noticed from all the red ribbons showing up around you, is World AIDS Day. Representative Berman, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, just released a statement highlighting the impact of HIV/AIDS on women around the world and urging global efforts to focus more attention on women.
Alongside a number of tools more commonly used to combat HIV/AIDScondoms, anti-retrovirals, educationwe think that controlling one NTD (schistosomiasis) will help us control new HIV infection rates in women around the world. Read more here, and stay tuned tomorrow for more on why World AIDS Day should be an important day for the NTD community.
Of all the most coveted fashion pieces of 2009, few items compare to Global Network t-shirts. Like many other stylish individuals around the world, staff at Check Orphana dynamic and interactive platform dedicated to people working with or affected by rare, orphan or neglected diseasesis in on the trend, wearing our gray t-shirt on their recent YouTube video newsflash.
PS: Nothing says I love you or happy holidays quite like our t-shirts, made of sweatshop-free American Apparel cotton in sizes S-XL. Make a bold fashion statement or give a great gift this season and find out how to order here!
Emily Cotter is a second-year medical student at George Washington University in Washington DC. This summer, through Global Network founding collaborator Helen Keller International, Emily worked on NTDs in Sierra Leone. Below is part 2 of her 4-part series detailing her experiences.
I spent a couple of weeks in the middle of the summer traveling around some northern and eastern areas of Sierra Leone doing more surveillance for schistosomiasis, this time for the type of schisto that affects the bladder (S. haematobium). These weeks of travel were filled with buckets of water for bathing, latrines with small rectangles for aiming, and local “chop” for eating. The dusty and incredibly bumpy roads (good for facilitating digestion) left me feeling filthy, but ah fo do (what can you do, in the local Krio language)…
My co-intern and I went to different schools to collect urine samples from kids and did our lab work in the field. We used pretty ingenious gear for this: a hand-cranked centrifuge and microscopes with mirrors on the bottom that utilized sunlight for the light-beam needed to look at the specimen. We would meet the primary schools in session and have the teachers randomly select 30 children for us to sample their urine for S. haematobium eggs. Once selected, we’d wait until mid-day to have the children run around and exercise for 5-10 minutes, then have them urinate into small plastic vials, a funny or uncomfortable task for them about which they were good sports! Once we had the specimens, we set up our make-shift travel lab and worked outside, leaving me with a stellar tan line going from my elbows down to a line where the latex gloves stopped above my wrist. After we were done with the work we would drive to the next chiefdom, meet with the local Paramount Chief (one of whom was wearing Obama flip flops!) to introduce ourselves, then meet with the teachers and health clinic staff who would find us a place to stay in the village for the night.
This is the first time I have ever written for a blog. My friends will be surprised that it isn’t about food or travel, but they won’t be surprised that it is about parasites and latrines.
In fact, most of my colleagues and friends know that to dine with me is to risk conversations about bathrooms and worms while discussing the difficult choices on the menu (I usually want to try everything and anything that I haven’t eaten before). And they know that I have one of the best collections of pictures of school toilets around the world.
A Latrine in South Sudan
Today isUniversal Children’s Day, which is a significant day for Save the Children because we work to help children survive and thrive through a variety of activities and programs we implement with rural communities. This includes our School Health and Nutrition program, which is implemented in over 20 different countries. The program focuses on making sure school-aged children are healthy enough to learn and play.
Deworming Children in Pakistan
De-worming children is one of the easiest activities that we provide, and it is appreciated immediately by children and their parents, who notice that the children are less tired. Sometimes, in countries where the prevalence of worm infection is very high, children will notice the worms that have been expelled from their own bodies as soon as they get the deworming pill in school.
Amidst the frenzy of World Toilet Day and hysteria in Indonesia, wed be remiss to not wish one of our Global Network Ambassadors, Gov. Tommy Thompson, a very happy birthday!
Gov. Thompson surrounded by children at an NTD control campaign in Rwanda
Thompson, a 4-term governor of Wisconsin and former Health and Human Services Secretary, has also been actively involved with the Global Network since July of 2008. After hearing about the devastation caused by NTDs and the cost-effective solutions available, he jumped at the opportunity to travel to Rwanda to see our treatment efforts first-hand (watch his dynamic trip video diaries here). Hes also been a huge supporter of integrated efforts with the malaria community and the concept of medical diplomacy.
From the entire Global Network Team, happy birthday Gov. Thompson! Thank you for your commitment to advocacy and policy work on behalf over a billion people suffering from NTDs around the world.
Last night, Alanna Shaikh of Global Health Basics brought an interesting article to our attention: following mass drug administration (MDA) to treat lymphatic filariasis in Indonesia, nine people were dead last week and nearly 1,000 had fallen ill with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, muscle soreness and vomiting. Hundreds were hospitalized. She rightfully asked us, what happened here?
As it turns outand its a topic we dont cover much on our blog or websitethese symptoms, even for populations in the thousands, are to be expected for MDA. Like treatment for many other NTDs, when you treat for LF with the drugs DEC and albendazole, infected people will commonly exhibit symptoms including headache, nausea, and fever; those who are uninfected will likely experience minimal side effects. Additionally, when treating populations en masse, it is probable that some may die from other causes within the treatment period; the correlation between receiving NTD treatment and death may just be coincidental or related to un-screened conditions.
The fear and hysteria that occurred in Indonesia is a reminder that effective media, education, and sensitization campaigns are critical in ensuring a successful MDA campaign. We are fortunate to have drugs that are safe and effective for wide population demographics, but individuals and communities must feel comfortable taking the drugs and must anticipate the (highly normal) side-effects if we expect them to return in the coming years for treatment.
Everybody does it, but nobody likes to talk about it. You probably don’t want to read a blog post about it. In short, poo is taboo. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and sanitation are both neglected issues in part because people don’t want to talk about them. Both can be ugly; the disfiguring effects of an enlarged scrotum from lymphatic filariasis and the dangers of open defecation make for equally unpleasant dinner conversation. But today, on , take a minute to think about why you should give a crap about crap.
Gandhi once remarked that sanitation is more important than independence. This is a powerful statement coming from the leader of the Indian Independence movement. But let’s take a look at the numbers: 2.5 billion people don’t have access to proper sanitation. Of these 2.5 billion, about half are defecating in the open. Most illnesses are spread by fecal matter, and one gram of feces can contain up to 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. This is probably information you didn’t want to have, but for children in the developing world, sanitation is an issue of life or death. Diarrheal disease kills five times as many children as HIV/AIDS. This results in the deaths of 1.8 children every year. That’s 5,000 children every day! Diarrheal disease stunts growth, delays education, and eventually affects a country’s economy and the well-being of the nation.
Lack of improved sanitation is also directly related to the spread of NTDs. Of the seven most common NTDs, only one is not directly related to inadequate sanitation. Improving sanitation can reinforce public health gains achieved by de-worming programs by reducing transmission and preventing re-infection. Basic sanitation has been shown to reduce rates of schistosomiasis by 77%. A recent study conducted by the Ministry of Health of Zambia showed that blinding trachoma was 28% more likely to occur in households without improved sanitation.
So what can you do to observe World Toilet Day this year? You can participate in The Big Squat, a one minute squat to raise awareness about sanitation. You can also visit the World Toilet Organization’s website and check out activities planned all over the world. Or, today, when you sit on the toilet, reflect on the fact that defecation is an inevitable human condition, but the diseases caused by lack of sanitation don’t have to be.
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is a major advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)--a group of disabling, disfiguring, and deadly diseases affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide living on less than $1.25 a day.