5 Global Health Headlines: Escaping Syria, Aids at 30, Viagra as a Weapon?

A Perilous Journey for Syrian Refugees

Carrying a few possessions, climbing through barbed wires, running from gunshots—these are some of the experiences Syrian refugees shared with a Los Angeles Times reporter in Guvecci, Turkey this week.

Thousands of people desperate to escape the continuing Syrian government crackdown on a political uprising have made their way to the border, and the volume continues to grow.

Memories from Three Decades of AIDS

As the world marked 30 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported, those who fought on the front lines of the battle against the disease, and the reporters who witnessed the devastating toll of the epidemic took the opportunity to reflect.

The global health unit’s own Ray Suarez wrote about the many AIDS stories he has covered during his career, including early cases where there was no treatment to offer, and his recent trip to Vatican City to examine the Church’s teachings on condoms and AIDS.

Dr. Paul Volberding, one of the first doctors to research AIDS and to treat HIV positive patients in San Francisco, wrote a guest essay for the NewsHour on the herculian efforts of health workers to respond to the epidemic in the early days.

Viagra Used as a Weapon of War?

Rape has long been used in conflicts to cause both physical and mental destruction, but reports that the Libyan government may have provided Viagra, or a similar drug, to troops to encourage sexual assault could open a new door of horrors.

The International Criminal Court reported Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi may have ordered the rape of hundreds of women during the clashes, and eye witnesses gave accounts of Viagra being passed out to soldiers for that purpose.

The Atlantic’s Wire blog looks at the response from Pfizer, maker of the drug Viagra, and what the Libyan government is saying in response to the allegations.

Hunting Deadly E. coli

After nearly two weeks of the produce blame game — with suspicion falling first on tomatoes then cucumbers then lettuce — German authorities are now saying contaminated bean-sprouts caused the deadly outbreak of E. coli that has sickened thousands.

The New York Times has a rundown of the remaining questions, including if produce contaminated with the bacteria might still be making its way to grocery stores.

Mapping the Future of Vaccines

Vaccines have had a rough few years in the eyes of the public. Mistrust of the prevention tool and confusion over possible side-effects have grown, say authors of a special series in the Lancet journal on the next decade of vaccine research.

At this crossroads, the journal calls vaccines “undoubtedly one of the best investments in health” and puts out a new call for the development of 20 new vaccines over the course of the next decade, with AIDS and malaria vaccines highest on the list.

Researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs also point to the 6.4 million children’s lives that could be saved by improving existing vaccination programs in 72 poor and middle income countries.