SOUTH AFRICA: New ARV tender drops prices, changes treatment

JOHANNESBURG, 30 November 2012 (PLUSNEWS) – The South African government has negotiated savings of about US$250 million in its latest antiretroviral (ARV) tender, which is the first to include a three-in-one tablet. This triple fixed-dose combination ARV will now allow the country to move to new, simpler HIV treatment and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) guidelines in April 2013.

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UGANDA: Profiles of infidelity, HIV vulnerability

KAMPALA, 30 November 2012 (PLUSNEWS) – Married or cohabiting couples are at a higher risk of HIV infection in Uganda than their single counterparts, with some studies finding that as many as 65 percent of new infections occur in long-term relationships. The prevailing culture, a hybrid of traditional mores and more modern, western values, accepts – even expects – men, and increasingly women, to have a “side dish” – a euphemism for a sexual affair.

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HIV/AIDS: New blueprint charts PEPFAR’s future

JOHANNESBURG, 30 November 2012 (PLUSNEWS) – In its newly released “blueprint,” the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) charts the next phase of the country’s response to the HIV epidemic. In it, the largest funder of HIV efforts globally will focus on HIV prevention, new technologies, women and girls, and the most at-risk populations (MARPs).

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Palestinians warn: back UN statehood bid or risk boosting Hamas

Failure to support limited recognition would undermine Abbas and validate armed resistance to Israel for many, officials warn

The Palestinian leadership is warning Europe and the US that failure to support its bid for statehood at the United Nations on Thursday will further strengthen Hamas after the Gaza fighting by suggesting that violence, rather than diplomacy, is the way to win concessions from Israel.

Senior Palestinian officials believe the vote is a crucial test of whether there is a future for President Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic strategy after his credibility was badly damaged among Palestinians by what they regard as the success of Hamas in the conflict with Israel this month.

Many ordinary Palestinians believe the conflict showed that standing up to Israel delivers results, in contrast to years of concessions under US peace plans, and drawn-out negotiations. European diplomats concede that the fighting has shifted the ground before the Palestinian request for recognition as a “non-member state”. Failure to support Abbas could risk further undermining his increasingly weak position, to Hamas’s advantage, they warn.

France has said it will vote in favour, and Spain is shifting in that direction. But the US and Britain are attempting to weaken the impact of a UN vote in support of statehood by putting considerable pressure on the Palestinian leadership to offer guarantees that it will not take advantage of the new status to accuse Israel of war crimes at the international criminal court (ICC) or seek territorial rulings at the international court of justice.

Palestinian officials said Britain and the US had pressed Abbas to sign a confidential side letter, which would not be presented to the UN general assembly, committing the Palestinian Authoritity not to accede to the ICC.

France has been pressuring the Palestinians to amend the resolution to
make it clear that Israel could not be taken to the ICC retroactively
for any alleged war crimes committed before the UN votes to recognise
Palestinian statehood.

Israeli officials are particularly concerned over an investigation of its assault on Gaza four years ago, Operation Cast Lead, which was widely condemned as a war crime because of the scale of Palestinian deaths and the level of destruction.

The Palestinians have already drawn up the necessary application to go to the ICC. It caused consternation when the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, presented ths document at a meeting with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, earlier this month.

A Palestinian close to the talks quoted Clinton as responding: “Don’t you even go there.”

Britain and the US also want Abbas to agree to begin negotiations immediately with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian leadership is demanding evidence that Israel is serious about talks after years of futile discussions during which the Jewish state continued its rapid expansion of settlements in the West Bank and other measures to seize land the Palestinians regard as part of a future state.

Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian official who has played a leading role in shaping the statehood request, told the Guardian before leaving for the meeting in New York that the Israeli assault on Gaza strengthened the case for seeking UN recognition. He said the Palestinian leadership would not be deterred by threats, such as the warnings from Washington and Israel that they could cut funds to the Palestinian Authority.

“Not to go to the UN would be suicidal for the Palestinian Authority. All these people [in Gaza] took the brunt of the attack and now we should chicken out because they [the US and Israel] will cut off some money? What we’re doing is not violent; it’s not military; it’s not illegal,” he said. “The world should see that if they keep maintaining the status quo, it will get you nothing but more bloodshed. That’s the lesson from Gaza.”

Shaath said the vote was an important test of whether there was a future for diplomacy, when talks had produced almost no progress toward a Palestinian state in years.

“Clinton just a few days before Gaza said it would be a very long time before the Palestinian issue is going to get attention. Which means what: we only get attention when we use force? If we get this vote, people will feel nonviolence produces results; if we do not, they will reach the opposite conclusion,” he said.

Later, Shaath told a meeting with foreign diplomats it would be “immoral” for their countries to oppose the statehood resolution. The Palestinian Authority has warned countries with embassies in Ramallah, including Bosnia and Cameroon, that if they do not support the UN move they will be expelled.

The US, Israel and European countries have accepted that attempts to get the Palestinians to back down from seeking UN recognition have failed and that the move is all but guaranteed to pass, with the support of a majority of the general assembly. But Washington and London are putting considerable pressure on the Palestinian leadership over the ICC because, as one European official put it, “taking Israel to the court is a real red line”.

For now, it appears the Palestinian leadership would prefer to retain the option to go to the ICC as a bargaining chip for future negotiations. But the pressure will only grow in meetings in New York immediately before the vote.

Britain says it is concerned at the Israeli response to Palestinian statehood after Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has threatened to cancel all or parts of the Oslo peace accords and topple Abbas from power. And the UK says the statehood bid could end up harming Palestinian interests if the Israeli reaction is so severe that it sets back the prospects for peace.

But Palestinian officials are dismissive of the argument, saying there is no peace process to speak of and that Israel has done little to enhance Abbas’s credibility by continuing to expand Jewish settlements and treating him with contempt.

Britain also pressed the Palestinians to delay the vote until after the Israeli general election, in January, fearing that Netanyahu’s response may be made stronger by electoral considerations.

Israel recognises that the general assembly is all but certain to back the Palestinian move so it has focused its efforts on pressing European governments in particular to oppose or abstain in an effort to deny the vote legitimacy. Israel reasons that if most European governments and the US fail to support implicit recognition of a Palestinian state then it will be able to argue that Abbas has only the backing of dictatorships and less free countries.

European attempts to forge a common position have foundered, with Germany opposing the Palestinian request and France’s president, François Hollande, wavering but then favouring it again.

Britain has also come under pressure from Arab countries that have made clear they regard the vote as a test of whether the UK is serious about pressing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli push against the statehood bid includes cartoons on YouTube that show Netanyahu and world leaders gathered around a dinner table waiting for Abbas to arrive for peace talks.

“I am on my way to the UN. I am not coming to the table,” he says.

A second video shows Abbas driving a bus toward a cliff by pursuing the UN bid.

The Palestinians chose 29 November as the date to submit the statehood request because it is the anniversary of the 1947 UN decision to partition British-mandate Palestine between Israel and an Arab state.

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Roger Hammond obituary

My friend and colleague Roger Hammond, who has died aged 56 after suffering from cancer, was a tireless and inspirational environmentalist. He brought disparate people together – government officials, oil industry executives, community groups, members of the public – to provide them with the tools to help them solve environmental and social problems.

Roger was born in London and attended Dulwich college. He went to teacher training college in Birmingham, and taught science at secondary level until the mid 1980s, when he left to become director of education at the Earthlife Foundation, working on the Korup National Park conservation programme in Cameroon. When Earthlife collapsed in 1987, Roger founded Living Earth Foundation.

Over the years, the impact of his efforts was felt across the globe. In 1992 he inspired a group of young professionals in Venezuela to carry out an environmental education project; in 1996 that team created Fundación Tierra Viva, today one of the leading Venezuelan environmental NGOs. In Cameroon, Nigeria, Russia, Alaska, Iran, Uganda, Mali and many other countries, as well as in Wales, where he lived for the past six years, Roger’s legacy continues in the work of Living Earth and the many people who were moved to action by his passionate belief that shared learning and action could lead to a better world.

Almost alone among environmentalists in the mid-1990s, Roger sought to put pressure on the private sector to act on its professed environmental and social principles for the general good, rather than for PR impact. This led, in 2008, to a pioneering partnership with the oil company Shell, achieving significant changes in company actions and attitudes.

Roger was a lover of music, an interest that led him to Sonia, a professional cellist, whom he married in 2005. Indeed, he was an enthusiastic lover of life: excellent chef, wonderful host to the numerous friends, family members and visitors who stayed with him and Sonia at their home in Powys. He was also a curious seeker of truth not bound by convention, who found joy in discovering wisdom in different cultures.

Roger is survived by Sonia, his mother, Lillian, and his sister, Lesley.

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