Approximately once every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 was infected with HIV last year, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported, calling on governments to “protect, sustain and accelerate” efforts to combat childhood HIV.
Prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations, and in 2019, a little less than half of children worldwide did not have access to life-saving treatment, UNICEF said in a new report on Wednesday.
Nearly 320,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and 110,000 children died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) last year, reports UN news.
“Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before COVID-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
Life-saving HIV services hit by COVID-19
According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in access to life-saving HIV) services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere, and there are serious concerns that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions.
“Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic”, said Fore.
Data from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), cited in the report, shows the impact of control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the redeployment of healthcare workers on HIV services.
Paediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries fell by 50 to 70 percent, and new treatment initiation by 25 to 50 percent in April and May, coinciding with partial and full lockdowns to control the novel coronavirus.
Health facility deliveries and maternal treatment were also reported to have reduced by 20 to 60 per cent, maternal HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation by 25 to 50 per cent, and infant testing services by approximately 10 per cent.
Though the easing of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound of services in recent months, challenges remain, and the world is still far from achieving the global 2020 paediatric HIV targets, said UNICEF.
Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children.
While the Middle East and North Africa region recorded 81 per cent paediatric ART coverage, only 46 per cent and 32 per cent were covered in Latin America and the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, respectively.
The South Asia region recorded 76 percent coverage, Eastern and Southern Africa 58 percent, and East Asia and the Pacific 50 percent.
A Chinese inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been proved safe and tolerable and can induce a quick immune response, according to the findings from early and mid-stage clinical trials published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The level of antibodies induced by the vaccine was lower than those in people who had recovered from COVID-19, whereas it was capable of protecting the human body from infections caused by the virus, the findings said.
The vaccine, CoronaVac, was developed by a Chinese biopharmaceutical producer Sinovac Biotech.
It was tested in randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled phase-1 and phase-2 clinical trials involving more than 700 healthy adults aged 18 to 59.
Vaccination is done with two doses taken 14 days apart, and the vaccine candidate is effective, which makes it suitable for emergency use amid the pandemic, said Zhu Fengcai, one of the authors of the findings.
Zhu added that further research is needed to verify the duration of the immune response induced by the vaccination.
At present, the vaccine candidate is undergoing phase-3 clinical trials to confirm its effectiveness.
It refers to the likelihood that a coronavirus shot will work in people.
Two vaccine makers have said that preliminary results from their late-stage studies suggest their experimental vaccines are strongly protective. Moderna this week said its vaccine appears nearly 95% effective. This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that its shot appeared similarly effective.
Those numbers raised hopes around the world that vaccines could help put an end to the pandemic sometime next year if they continue to show that they prevent disease and are safe.
Effectiveness numbers will change as the vaccine studies continue since the early calculations were based on fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases in each study. But early results provide strong signals that the vaccine could prevent a majority of disease when large groups of people are vaccinated.
U.S. health officials said a coronavirus vaccine would need to be at least 50% effective before they would consider approving it for use. There was concern that coronavirus vaccines might be only as effective as flu vaccines, which have ranged from 20% to 60% effective in recent years.
The broad, early effectiveness figures don’t tell the whole story. Scientists also need to understand how well the vaccine protects people in different age groups and demographic categories.
For both vaccines, the interim results were based on people who had COVID-19 symptoms that prompted a virus test. That means we don’t know yet whether someone who’s vaccinated might still get infected -- even if they show no symptoms -- and spread the virus.
Also unknown is whether the shots will give lasting protection, or whether boosters will be required.
Smartphones, computers and tablets have been a staple in everyday life for a couple of decades now and have gradually evolved into a mandatory component in both work and recreational activities. With lockdowns and office restrictions becoming the norm due to Covid-19, many are forced to hunch over their desks at home and work without interruptions. Binge watching shows and playing video games also extends one’s daily screen time and finding an opportunity to take a break has never been harder. Such strain on the eyes is nothing to scoff at; so here’s how you can avoid screen fatigue.
What is Screen Fatigue?
Technically identified as asthenopia, screen fatigue is an ocular strain that comes from either long term screen exposure or strain when trying to adapt to dim lighting. Symptoms are as follows:
Pain around the eyes
Sensitivity to light
Difficulty keeping eyes open
Other strenuous activities like driving for too long or reading can also cause this, but screens tend to be the most difficult to avoid. Once experiencing these symptoms, it is crucial to pace yourself and take a few hours break, as if this is prolonged, risk factors would include nearsightedness, farsightedness, nausea, viral conjunctivitis (pink eye) and presbyopia. Some of these side effects are long term and it is best to refrain by following these steps:
Resting Eyes/Taking Breaks: The 20-20-20 rule could be your best bet to keep your eyes fresh when you’re grinding away at work for hours on end. How this works is that for every 20 minutes of work, you could look at something in the distance that’s about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. It’s a neat little rule that will keep you accountable and will help you in the long run.
Blinking More Often: This sounds like a no-brainer at first, but the more you think about it, the more difficult it could be to maintain this. Conditioning yourself to blink more often when looking at the screen is basically revamping your screen-viewing habits - which can seem like a tall order. The benefits of doing this is to keep your eyes fresh and moist, instead of letting dry out when you’re in the middle of making swift, regular glances at your monitor.
Monitor Distance: The necessity of this can easily be underestimated, but having the proper monitor slightly below eye level is incredibly important to ensure that your eyes are looking forward at all times without disrupting your posture. Ideally, your screen should be an arm’s length from the screen to minimise eye movement at longer distances. If your desk is at an unconventional height, having an adjustable chair would be the perfect solution.
Screen Settings: Lighting can make and break your threshold when looking at your screen for extended periods of time. Having your screen too bright or too dark will put the most immediate amount of strain on your eyes. An ideal benchmark would be to have consistent lighting in your room (again, not too dim or bright) that will complement the brightness of your screen so that your peripherals are exposed to the same intensity as your screen.
Amid the number of people with diabetes surge, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed need for strengthening health system as many diabetic patients are at “increased risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19”.
“Many efforts have been made to prevent and treat diabetes”, but the disease continues to rise rapidly in low and middle income countries, those “least well-equipped with the diagnostics, medicines, and knowledge to provide life-saving treatment”, said UN chief in his message for World Diabetes Day, on Saturday, reports UN news.
A gloomy picture
Globally, some 422 million adults are living with diabetes (latest figures from 2014), according to the World Health Organization (WHO), compared to around 108 million in 1980 – rising from 4.7 to 8.5 per cent in the adult population.
This reflects an increase in associated risk factors, such as being overweight or obese.
Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional pain to those requiring regular care and treatment who struggle to access therapies for their condition.
A healthy diet, physical activity and not smoking can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes, the UN said.
Moreover, the disease can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with medication, regular screening and treatment for complications.
Next year, WHO is launching the Global Diabetes Compact, “a new initiative that will bring structure and coherence to our complementary efforts to reduce the burden of diabetes”, informed Mr. Guterres.
“Let us work together to make sure that, through this ambitious and much-needed collaboration, we will soon be talking about the decline in diabetes as a public health problem”.
The theme for World Diabetes Day 2020 is “The Nurse and Diabetes", which aims to raise awareness around the crucial role of these health care professionals in supporting people living with diabetes.
Nurses, who currently account for over half of the global health workforce, also help people living with a wide range of health concerns.
People living with diabetes face a number of challenges, and education is vital to equip nurses with the skills to support them.
“As we strive to overcome the pandemic, let us do our utmost to ensure Universal Health Coverage, strengthen health systems and advance good health and resilience for all”, the UN chief said.