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July 09 2012


Chasing deadly viruses for a living

Debora MacKenzie, consultant

evhr_3.14035244.jpg(Image: Fred Merz/The New York Times/Redux/Eyevine)

In his new autobiography, Peter Piot shares harrowing stories about a career spent pursuing the Ebola virus and HIV

Why write an autobiography?

There is a lot that is not in scientific publications or news reports about how we got where we are in the fight against AIDS, and I wanted to tell the story while my memory is still fresh. I have lived in a whirlwind of immediate events, and never had time to reflect on what happened.

You have some amazing stories, such as when the first Ebola samples arrived in Antwerp in a broken flask inside a thermos...

There are far more regulations for handling dangerous viruses now!

... or when the Zaire government sent you into the jungle to reclaim bodies from a helicopter crash.

That was hard for me to talk about for years, but I wanted to show how, in those conditions, you have to be unorthodox. No one can help you but yourself. The students now don't believe we went into remote places without even cellphones. I hardly believe it.

The book's index is simply a list of names. Is that to give credit, or is it because people are your focus?

Both. I was often the public face of the AIDS effort, but there were lots of people on the front lines. I get a lot of satisfaction from bringing people together: as the proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, don't. I always thought of the fight against AIDS as a movement.

You describe many times when you got away from high-level meetings to see local people...

I can't cope with a life of official meetings. I'm also concerned that what I hear officially may not reflect reality. When I was discouraged, that gave me the energy I needed to face the next bureaucratic nonsense.

Last year researchers showed anti-HIV drugs could prevent infection in people without the virus. Is it the beginning of the end for AIDS?

People are still being infected with HIV faster than they are being put on treatment, so preventing new infections should be a top priority. No single intervention can stop HIV; we will always need the most effective combination for a given population. That includes treating infected people. We can now use drugs to protect against infection, but we can't let those who are infected die because they can't get treatment.

Critics say that, in Africa, so much money has gone into AIDS that other healthcare suffers.

It's a valid concern. Often there is too little data to say, but a recent study found that investment in AIDS benefited some health systems in Africa overall, and cut child death rates. Also, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is there because of AIDS, and it is the first time serious money has been ploughed into TB and malaria. It's time to create more synergies with AIDS treatment and prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child.

Do we need a new structure for global health governance?

We need changes. It didn't make sense for the global fund to support relatively prosperous countries like Argentina. Russia can easily afford all its AIDS programmes, it just won't deal with its drug abuse problem. That requires political action. It is an issue for the international community when a country doesn't want to help its most vulnerable people. Meanwhile, by 2030, Zambia will need 3 per cent of its GDP just to deal with AIDS. International support will be essential.

Why have you started working on chronic diseases like obesity?

When I left UNAIDS I asked what the big issue is now, and the conclusion was obvious: we face a tsunami of non-communicable diseases. We can learn from AIDS, as some are due to lifestyle.

We also have an obesogenic environment, with beer and Coke and cigarettes everywhere. Purists say don't deal with those companies, but we need industry: you can't feed 7 billion people with organic farming. I feel we need to make the food on the market healthy and cheap, and as I'm Belgian, also tasty.

March 09 2012


Protection efforts may not save endangered animals

Bob Holmes, contributor


DURING the Vietnam war, an American officer told a reporter his troops had to destroy a village in order to save it. In Game Changer, journalist Glen Martin makes much the same claim about lions, elephants and other endangered African wildlife: we cannot hope to conserve them unless we are prepared to kill some of them.

Through a series of visits with game managers and conservation biologists in Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia, he builds a convincing case. Left unchecked, for example, elephants destroy forests and denude shrublands, especially when their normal migrations are curtailed by fences. They can also trample crops and pose a risk to local people. Without hunting - and the meat, jobs and trophy revenues it brings - those people have little incentive to share their land. So, any successful elephant conservation scheme must eventually involve culling.

That is anathema to some wildlife-protection groups, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which emerges as the villain in Martin's story. In the past few decades IFAW and its ilk have shifted the public's focus from conservation of ecosystems to protecting the rights of individual animals. This has been to the great detriment of wildlife, Martin argues. In Kenya, where hunting was banned decades ago, wildlife numbers are crashing.

It is a dismal indictment of that strategy. But the real value of Martin's book is in showing how hard it is to find any conservation strategy that works in the complex reality of today's Africa. In Tanzania, for example, sustainable hunting policies are undercut by corrupt officials who resell permits intended to be used only once. And where trophy hunting is sanctioned, it raises uncomfortable ghosts of colonialism, especially to urban Africans.

Walking the fine line between unregulated killing and managed hunting will not be easy but, Martin concludes, it may be the only hope for Africa's wild creatures.

Book Information
Game Changer: Animal rights and the fate of Africa's wildlife
by Glen Martin
Published by: University of California Press

Sponsored post

February 29 2012


Luncheon: Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Luncheon: Ambassador Johnnie Carson
Luncheon: Keynote Speaker Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Date: Fri, 04 Nov 2011 09:00:00 -0700
Location: Lexington,VA, Center for Leadership and Ethics, Gillis Theater, Virginia Military Institute
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/11/04/Luncheon_Ambassador_Johnnie_Carson

February 28 2012


The Eagle and the Dragon in Africa: Keynote Remarks

The Eagle and the Dragon in Africa: Keynote Remarks

Keynote Remarks: Major General Donald Christopher Leins, Deputy Director, Politico-Military Affairs (Africa), Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, J5

Date: Thu, 03 Nov 2011 16:30:00 -0700
Location: Lexington, VA, VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics, Gillis Theater, Virginia Military Institute
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/11/03/The_Eagle_and_the_Dragon_in_Africa_Keynote_Remarks

January 26 2012


Richard J. Evans: The Scramble for Africa

Richard J. Evans: The Scramble for Africa

In the early 1880s, informalimperial expansion gave way to formal imperial acquisitions. Between this pointand the outbreak of the First World War, more colonial territory was acquiredby European states than in the previous three-quarters of a century. New statesentered the business of imperialism, notably Belgium,Germany and Italy. Sofierce was the competition that in 1884 an international congress was held in Berlin to establishdemarcation lines between the new colonial possessions. The Scramble forAfrica extended in fact to other parts of the globe and brought in new possessionsin Asia, North Africa and the Pacific. Manyexplanations have been advanced for this sudden expansion of empire, rangingfrom changes in the European economy to the rise of European nationalism, fromthe need perceived by some European statesmen to provide an outlet for populardiscontent at home to the exploitation of colonial issues by Bismarck for diplomatic purposes. Thislecture analyses the process of partition and assesses the best way to explain it.

For download and transcript versions of this lecture, please visit the event's page on the Gresham College website: The Rise and Fall of European Empires from the 16th to the 20th Century: The Scramble for Africa

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2011 10:00:00 -0800
Location: London, England, Museum of London, Gresham College
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/11/22/Richard_J_Evans_The_Scramble_for_Africa

December 06 2011


Part Ape, Part Human: The Fossils of Malapa

Part Ape, Part Human: The Fossils of Malapa
Professor Lee Berger and his son stumble across an amazing find in South Africatwo-million-year-old fossils of an unkown species of ape-like creatures.

Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2011 16:30:00 -0700
Location: Washington, D.C., National Geographic, National Geographic Live
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/10/19/Part_Ape_Part_Human_The_Fossils_of_Malapa

September 24 2011


September 20 2011


Emeka Okafor: From Faires to Spaces for Making in Africa

Emeka Okafor: From Faires to Spaces for Making in Africa
Locations for inter disciplinary cross-pollination of expertise, experience and knowledge are emerging as logical evolution of the Maker movement in the continent.

About the Maker

Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor has a diverse, interdisciplinary background focused on developing and raising the awareness of all things African. Currently, he is a Partner in Caranda, a manufacturer of globally distributed gourmet beverages and condiments locally sourced and produced from across Sub-Saharan Africa. Okafor is also a principal at the Makeda Fund, a private equity fund focused on the development of women-owned and managed Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. In 2007 Emeka directed the TED-Global Conference held in Arusha Tanzania, he continues on today as the TED- Africa Director.
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2011 16:00:00 -0700
Location: Queens, NY, New York Hall of Science, Maker Faire
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/09/18/Emeka_Okafor_From_Faires_to_Spaces_for_Making_in_Africa

September 19 2011


September 01 2011


August 26 2011


August 11 2011


August 04 2011


July 29 2011


July 21 2011


Dr. Chamberlain Froese: Am I My Sister's Keeper?

Dr. Chamberlain Froese: Am I My Sister's Keeper?
During this week presented in collaboration with the Global Health Council and CARE, the 2 p.m. Interfaith Lectures will shine a spotlight on maternal and child well-being, a dimension of world health that impacts every other aspect, and, if addressed adequately, has the potential to raise the quality of life for all peoples and nations.
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2011 14:00:00 -0700
Location: Chautauqua, NY, Hall of Philosophy, Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua Institution
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/06/28/Dr_Chamberlain_Froese_Am_I_My_Sisters_Keeper

Are Universal Rights, Universal?

Are Universal Rights, Universal?
The theme of the 2011 Board of Directors Meeting, at the Salzburg Global Seminar, was "Are Universal Principles, Universal, After All? - Lessons from the Arab Revolt of 2011."

To kick off the weekend of presentations, and panels, the Honorable Esther D. Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, International Organization Affairs, United States Department of State, delivered this keynote presentation entitled "Achieving Universal Rights through Multilateral Diplomacy."

For over 60 years, The Salzburg Global Seminar has been convening imaginative thinkers from different cultures and institutions, organizing problem-focused initiatives, supporting leadership development, and engaging opinion-makers through active communication networks, all in partnership with leading institutions from around the world and across different sectors of society.

Date: Fri, 24 Jun 2011 00:00:00 -0700
Location: Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria, Salzburg Global Seminar, Salzburg Global
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/06/24/Are_Universal_Rights_Universal

July 08 2011


June 22 2011


Flash Mobs

Flash Mobs
Flash Mobs

Moderated by Jason Tanz, WIRED

Funded by Everyone
Yancey Strickler, Kickstarter

Design by Committee
Bre Pettis, MakerBot Industries

Making Remote Feel Local
Steve Perlman, OnLive

NExTWORK is a one-day, interdisciplinary conference that will feature world-renowned business leaders, technologists, and thinkers exploring the promise and peril of the network's future, as well as the most pressing digital issues and opportunities today.
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2011 14:10:00 -0700
Location: New York, NY, Tribecca Rooftop, WIRED
Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2011/06/22/Flash_Mobs
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