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COVID-19 pandemic threatens to set back battle against AIDS by 10 years, UN warns –



The global fight against AIDS was faltering even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the coronavirus now threatens to put progress against HIV back by 10 years or more, the United Nations said Monday.

“The global HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached,” UNAIDS, the agency that co-ordinates the UN’s efforts to curb the spread of HIV, said in a report. “Even the gains made could be lost and progress further stalled if we fail to act.”

Four years ago, the United Nations set goals for limiting HIV infections and improving treatment by the end of 2020, and all will be missed because the coronavirus pandemic is hurting access to care, the report concludes.

The report said the coronavirus, which was officially identified in China in January of this year and was declared the source of a global pandemic by the WHO in March, has already “seriously impacted” the AIDS fight, with lockdowns and travel and trade disruptions delaying or halting HIV treatment and testing.

In many countries, said UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima, health workers testing for and caring for people with HIV have switched to fighting COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus; supplies of medicines and condoms have been disrupted because of lockdowns; and many health clinics have closed.

Latest data from 2019 show that 38 million people worldwide are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, the report said, a million more than in 2018.

The United Nations agency reported last year’s numbers at the start of an international AIDS conference.

“Every day in the next decade, decisive action is needed to get the world back on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” Byanyima said.

Some 25.4 million HIV-positive people were on antiretroviral treatment in 2019. That’s a huge advance on a decade ago, the agency report said, but it means 12.6 million people are not getting medicines that can keep the virus at bay and prevent its spread.

The report says just over half of children and teens with HIV are getting treatment compared with 67 per cent of adults.

Pakistani villagers wait outside a hospital in Ratodero for blood screening for HIV in May 2019. During the pandemic, many health workers usually dedicated to testing for and caring for people with HIV have switched to fighting COVID-19. (Fareed Khan/The Associated Press)

“We are making great progress against the HIV epidemic … but the bad, bad news is that kids are lagging behind,” said Dr. Shannon Hader, deputy executive director of UNAIDS.

There were 690,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2019. That’s down 39 per cent from 2010 but short of the target of under 500,000 by the end of this year. Children accounted for 95,000 of those deaths.

Far behind goals in preventing new infections

The report also found the world is far behind in preventing new HIV infections, with 1.7 million new HIV cases in 2019, down from 23 per cent since 2010 but far short of the 75 per cent reduction goal.

Eastern and southern Africa have greatly curbed new infections, according to the report, but they’re rising elsewhere — by about 20 per cent since 2010 in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and 72 cent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

WATCH | COVID-19 fear spreads in Africa:

COVID-19 arrived in Africa later than in most of the world and so far it has had a less terrible impact, but across the continent people are worried about what could be coming. 2:02

The UN agency report says a six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500,000 extra deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year, bringing the region back to levels of AIDS death rates last seen more than a decade ago, in 2008.

A World Health Organization survey found that 73 countries are at risk of running out of HIV medicines and 24 have critically low stocks.

“Access to HIV medicines has been significantly curtailed” since the coronavirus pandemic began, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We must not turn our backs on HIV while fighting COVID-19.”

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Serum Institute tells Modi govt how pandemic is affecting clinical trials of non-Covid drugs – ThePrint



Serum Institute of India produces 1.5 billion doses of vaccines annually | Twitter | @SerumInstIndia

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New Delhi: The Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) — one of the world’s largest manufacturers of vaccines — has reached out to the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), highlighting the difficulties it is facing in continuing clinical trials of non-Covid-19 vaccines, ThePrint has learnt.

The company, which produces 1.5 billion doses of vaccines annually, has highlighted difficulties in continuing clinical trials for at least three of its non-Covid vaccines due to the pandemic.

The company has told the DCGI, the apex body that approves vaccines and their clinical trials in India, about difficulties in conducting trials on Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis) vaccine, Hexavalent vaccine and Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV). Hexavalent vaccine, as the name suggests, gives immunity against six diseases, whereas HPV protects against various cancers, including cervical cancer. 

“The firm presented the difficulties in continuing the clinical trial due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic and also presented proposed amendment in Phase II/III clinical trial… in already enrolled subjects,” according to the minutes of the meeting of the Subject Expert Committee (SEC), accessed by ThePrint. The SEC has been appointed by the DCGI to review proposals related to clinical trials and advise the regulator on them.

The meeting was held on 6 July and the DCGI has granted the “proposed amendments”.

The SII is among the top companies in the world working on three vaccine candidates for Covid-19. It is working on vaccine candidates developed by the University of Oxford, US-based Codagenix and Austrian biotech firm, Themis.

Also read: ICMR Covid vaccine trial protocol unclear, not enough time, say scientists tasked with job

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What are the difficulties?

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the SII, told ThePrint: “Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the hospital authorities have restricted clinical trial activities affecting new enrollment of subjects in clinical trials.”

“Also, some of the hospitals have started Covid wards or have become Covid hospitals, thus affecting the enrollment of subjects in the ongoing clinical trials,” he added. 

Poonawalla, who is also the president of Indian Vaccine Manufacturers’ Association, said: “Due to Covid-19 pandemic, parents or subjects are scared to come for further follow-up visits.”

He added, “The subsequent dosing of the enrolled subjects has been delayed, thus having an impact on the vaccination schedule given in the protocol. Moreover, follow-up visits for vaccination, safety assessment as well as blood withdrawal are delayed.” 

What can be done to avoid delay?

Poonawalla said that “fear psychosis about visiting hospitals should be removed” to avoid delay in trials of non-Covid vaccines.

“People should be encouraged to take part in trials. Hospital authorities should be encouraged to continue routine clinical trials and give adequate support for them. Regulators should adopt a flexible approach,” he said.

Poonawalla also said it’s not only the SII, but “all companies (vaccine makers) must be facing the same issues, not just in India but everywhere in the world”.

What has the government suggested? 

Poonawalla told ThePrint the government is “fully cognisant about the ground reality and have been very supportive”.

The DCGI committee has reviewed the company’s challenges and granted the “extension of window period for follow-up visits”, among other changes requested in the designed protocol, he said.

According to the minutes of the meeting, “after detailed deliberation, the committee recommended for grant of approval for proposed amendments with respect to the subjects already enrolled in the study”. 

It has also advised the company that “further subject recruitment should be carried out after assessing the feasibility of conducting and continuing the study due to the prevailing Covid situation”.

It also said: “The statistical evaluation of the subjects who are continuing in the study after the delayed vaccination should be presented separately.”

Also read: All you need to know about CanSino’s Covid vaccine approved for military use in China

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Five N.S. groups receive federal funding to clean up 'ghost' fishing gear –



Fisheries and Oceans Canada is funding 26 projects – including five based out of Nova Scotia – to help rid the oceans of destructive litter.

The $8.3 million Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution program, known as the Ghost Gear Fund, will help support 22 projects in Canada and four internationally over the next two years.  

Marina Petrovic is a senior staff officer at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and says more than eight million metric tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans every year. She says lost and abandoned fishing gear is one of the largest and most deadly contributors.

“Ghost gear makes up about 46 to 70 per cent of the total weight of plastic in the ocean,” she says  “We are talking about things like fishing nets, crab pots, and lobster traps, which are considered some of the most harmful marine plastic pollution out there because of their ongoing impact of being able to catch fish.”

The projects receiving funding from the federal government are diverse, but all relate to at least one of the following: gear retrieval, responsible disposal, acquisition and piloting of available gear technology, or international leadership.

Petrovic says there was an overwhelming interest in the Ghost Gear Fund.

“This project received more than $39 million in requests for the $8 million, so it was quite challenging to make decisions,” she says. “There were some wonderful projects that we were able to support immediately, and hopefully in the future we might be able to circle back.”

The Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada is one of the Nova Scotian recipients, receiving $352,500 for its project.

The new non-profit was formed in November 2018 and works to develop solutions for abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing and aquaculture gear. Over the next 21 months, it will be working with agriculture waste management charity Cleanfarms to implement a product stewardship program for end-of-life fishing gear across Eastern Canada.

“The idea behind the project stewardship program was to create a self-sustaining, convenient and effective solution to collecting and properly managing end-of-life fishing gear,” says Marquita Davis who is part of the project team for the Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada.

Davis says the project will begin by focusing on fishing rope and lobster traps in Nova Scotia, but will hopefully expand to include other gear, and involve more provinces.

“The hope is that if we can do it here in Nova Scotia, which is where we are looking to pilot it first, then we can do it in other parts of eastern Canada as well, and help work with those provinces and fishing industries,” she says.

While the project is in its preliminary phase of planning, Davis says the group is considering ideas like placing bins at various fishing harbours to collect rope and lobster traps. It will then organize transportation for the collected product to recycling or waste management facilities.

“Nothing is confirmed, but we would like to work with organizations who can repurpose or recycle this product before it goes to landfill,” she says.

Other Nova Scotian recipients of the Ghost Gear Fund include Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association, Coastal Action, and CSR GeoSurveys Ltd, which will all be leading projects relating to ghost gear retrieval.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will also be funding a project organized by The Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society. Its work will include pilot studies of GPS-enabled smart buoy technology and its capability across different fisheries and industries.

Learn more about the projects being supported by the Ghost Gear Fund on this interactive map

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Active COVID-19 cases drop to 1; N.S. goes 6 days without a new case – CTV News



There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and the number of active cases has dropped to one.

Nova Scotia has now gone six days without a new case of COVID-19. The last positive case was reported last Wednesday, in a Nova Scotia truck driver who travelled outside Canada as an essential worker.

The QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab completed 310 Nova Scotia tests on Monday. No new cases were identified.

To date, Nova Scotia has 57,949 negative test results.


The total number of COVID-19 cases remains at 1,066, but 1,002 cases are now considered resolved and 63 people have died, leaving only three active cases in Nova Scotia.

Among the 63 Nova Scotians who died from COVID-19 are 53 residents of the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.

There are no active cases of COVID-19 in any long-term care facilities and the Northwood outbreak is considered resolved.

According to a news release from the provincial government, there is still one person in hospital, and there has only been one person in hospital for several days. The province says that person’s infection is considered resolved, but they still require treatment.

However, CTV News has learned one man who had COVID-19 was released from hospital on Tuesday after 101 days.

CTV News reached out to the province for clarification on hospital numbers and received the following response:

“Our releases reflect the information we have available at the time of reporting. Any releases or updates that occur after the cut-off period will be included in the following day’s update.”

The province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Sixty-one per cent of cases are female and 39 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s central zone.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers changed slightly on Tuesday, with the central zone reporting one additional case and the eastern zone reporting one less case.

The numbers reflect where a person lives, and not where their sample was collected.

  • western zone: 54 cases
  • central zone: 901 cases
  • northern zone: 57 cases
  • eastern zone: 54 cases

The provincial state of emergency has been extended to July 26.


Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region is also required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form online before coming to the province.

Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are no longer required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.

Anyone who experiences one of the following symptoms is encouraged to take an online test to determine if they should call 811 for further assessment:

  • fever (i.e. chills, sweats)
  • cough or worsening of a previous cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • sneezing
  • nasal congestion/runny nose
  • hoarse voice
  • diarrhea
  • unusual fatigue
  • loss of sense of smell or taste
  • red, purple or blueish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause

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