Broadcast: June 10, 2003
I’m Sarah Long with Bob Doughty, and this is the VOA Special English program, SCIENCE IN THE NEWS.
Today -- a look at developments in the fight against AIDS ... and, later, some advice about how to protect against malaria.
President Bush has signed legislation to help prevent and treat AIDS in twelve African countries and two Caribbean countries. The president said the United States has a moral duty to take action against the disease. He compared American efforts to fight AIDS to the United States' rebuilding of Europe after World War Two.
President Bush first announced what he called an Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief during his State of the Union speech in January. The plan calls for fifteen-thousand-million dollars in spending over five years. Congress must approve the yearly amounts.
Eighty percent of the money is to go to treatment and care. Twenty percent will go to prevention activities. Of that share, one-third must be spent on programs that teach only abstinence, the traditional idea not to have sex before marriage.
Some health groups do not like the fact that organizations that teach abstinence-only will get money. Other groups do not want any of the money to go to organizations that also provide abortions to end unwanted pregnancies. The White House negotiated a compromise in the final law passed by Congress. Organizations that provide abortions may still receive money to fight AIDS as long as they record exactly how all the money is spent.
The African countries to receive aid include Botswana, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique and Namibia. The others are Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The two Caribbean countries are Guyana and Haiti.Peter Piot, director of the United Nations AIDS program, strongly praised the legislation. But Doctor Piot says there is still a long way to go for nations to increase spending to the levels needed to prevent and treat AIDS. He says ninety-five percent of the people with AIDS do not receive medicines that can save their lives.
President Bush signed the bill in late May before he traveled to Evian, France, for the yearly Group of Eight Summit. He said every day of delay means eight-thousand more AIDS deaths in Africa and fourteen-thousand more infections. Mister Bush and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia discussed AIDS, among other issues. The leaders agreed to strengthen the United Nations program called the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
More than twenty million people with AIDS have died over the past twenty years. But a new report shows that rates of infection are falling in cities in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The report is from the United States Census Bureau and the Agency for International Development. This is the first time since AIDS was first discovered twenty years ago that rates of infection are dropping in sub-Saharan Africa. The study also found that the increase in H-I-V rates has slowed in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, the Republic of Congo and Senegal.
U-N AIDS program director Peter Piot expressed hope in comments published in the Boston Globe newspaper. But he said it is too early to call the findings a victory. He added, however, that the reductions among young people in some cities -- such as Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Lusaka, Zambia -- likely show the effects of prevention efforts there.
AIDS is caused by H-I-V which stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is carried in body fluids. It can spread when people have sex or share needles used for taking drugs. H-I-V can also spread from mother to baby.
AIDS is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. When people have AIDS, their bodies are not able to protect them against other diseases. There is no cure for AIDS, but there are medicines to control the virus. There are also ways to fight the spread of the disease.
Nine percent or almost one-out-of-ten of all AIDS cases in the world are in Ethiopia. Many different programs in that country tell people how to prevent the spread of AIDS. For the past three years, a Washington-based organization called D-K-T International has printed advice on shopping carts, buses and umbrellas. It has also put the messages on radio and television. The messages tell about abstinence as a way to prevent AIDS. They urge people to remain loyal to their partner if they do have a sexual relationship.
D-K-T also passed out sixty-seven million condoms in Ethiopia last year. Men wear condoms during sex as a way to prevent the creation of babies and the spread of disease.
A health worker with D-K-T in Ethiopia says many girls find it difficult to talk about sex or condoms. That may be changing, though, in part because of the group's radio programs. It began these programs in two-thousand, directed to populations that live away from cities.
The characters, like one named "Ebissa," have everyday problems and talk easily about ways to plan their families and prevent AIDS. One listener said the program influenced her to visit a health care worker and not have more children. A nurse said more people asked for family planning services after hearing about them on the radio. These services help people to decide if, and when, they want to start a family or have more children.
D-K-T also worked with the Ethiopian military to make a movie about protecting families from H-I-V and AIDS. All soldiers began to receive condoms and information about AIDS when they returned home from duty outside Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Evangelical Church and the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council also offer prevention services.
Malaria is a major killer in developing countries. The World Health Organization says more than three-hundred million people get severe cases of malaria each year. At least one-million die. Most of these deaths happen in African countries south of the Sahara Desert. And most of the victims are children.
Experts say one of the most successful ways to prevent malaria is to sleep under a net treated with chemicals that kill the insects that carry malaria.
Malaria is spread through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. They leave an organism, a one-celled parasite, inside a person’s body. Malaria can be cured but it is a long and difficult process. It is easier to prevent malaria.
Mosquitoes are most active at night. It is most important that children and women who may be pregnant or plan to become pregnant sleep under treated nets.
Children do not have the protection that adults sometimes have to fight the disease. Women are more likely to get malaria when they become pregnant. The disease can produce a lack of iron in the mother's blood. Also, pregnant women with malaria are more likely to have babies with low birth weight.
International health organizations and some governments are trying to make sure that it is easy to get nets that are good quality and do not cost too much.
The net should hang from a wall or roof and cover the bed or sleeping mat. The bottom of the net should be placed under the bed or mat so mosquitoes cannot get inside. For people who sleep outside, the nets can be tied to sticks or a tree.
Nets need to be treated again with insecticide at least once a year or after they have been washed three times. Insecticides are the chemicals that kill the mosquitoes. The nets should not be washed in rivers or lakes. The chemicals can get into the water and kill small fish. Water used for washing a net should be put into the ground away from animals or people.
A good time to treat the net is just before the rainy season. Sometimes there are health centers or other places that will treat nets. Nets can also be treated at home. The net must sit in a pan of water mixed with chemicals. You should wear gloves so your hands do not touch the chemical. Any of the water and chemicals left after treating the net can be used to treat curtains for windows and doors.
Health experts say it is important to use the treated net every night of the year, even if you do not hear mosquitoes.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Karen Leggett and produced by Cynthia Kirk. This is Sarah Long.
And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.