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Time to scrap mandatory wearing of masks – NewsDay

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa

BY Johannes Marisa
COVID-19 came and caused untold suffering to many people in this world.

Many people succumbed to the heinous respiratory virus.

Although it is estimated that about 6,4 million people lost their lives since the beginning of the pandemic on December 31, 2019, more unrecorded people died from the virus or its effects.

Almost every family was affected in one way or another.

The calamitous nature of the virus was appreciated in January 2021 when the delta variant wreaked havoc.

It was to be followed by the Omicron variant in June 2021, which was diabolical in nature, with many cases of respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary embolism, renal failure and protracted pneumonia.

Diabetes Mellitus became one of the most obnoxious diseases with high mortality if comorbidities were considered.

The fourth wave had the fastest variant in the form of the Omicron virus which, however, had the lowest case fatality rate.

The world was better prepared as vaccinations were rolled out globally and fear was no longer as prevalent as during the other phases.

People should know that COVID-19 is still causing misery in the world and the world is recording close to 800 000 daily cases, with Germany and the United States reporting nearly 80 000 cases on a daily basis.

About 2 000 lives are being lost on a daily basis, a figure which is still worrisome.

COVID-19 is still a menace, hence the need to remain vigilant about it.

Africa is a blessed continent since the start of the pandemic.

The entire continent is recording about 10 deaths on a daily basis with less than
3 400 cases on the daily radar.

About 256 900 people lost their lives in Africa despite the poor health infrastructure, under-staffing, brain drain and shortage of essential drugs.

The continent stood firm and Zimbabwe managed to contain the loathsome virus mainly through strict public health measures which included lockdowns, masking up, social distancing, hand-washing and sanitisation.

The country had lost 5 579 people by yesterday morning, although the number can be higher because of poor reporting of data.

Special mention should go to our diligent healthcare workers, who were brave enough to face the COVID-19.

With COVID-19 cases now on their lowest in Africa as a whole, I am of the opinion that mandatory wearing of masks should now be shelved.

Botswana, like many other countries, has removed mandatory masking up since cases nose-dived and Zimbabwe seems to be out of the woods at the moment.

It will be in the interests of everyone to free themselves from masks which have been dangling on chins for too long now.

It will be prudent to consider masks for people who are in close settings such as public transport or indoor public meetings because of close contacts and possibly limited ventilation.

I do not see it important to continue with the wearing of masks at this juncture when COVID-19 cases are very low.

We should just remain vigilant, practising maximum disease surveillance, doing robust contact tracing and executing speedy case management.

If there is a surge in cases, then it will be prudent to revert to masking up.

Government can, therefore, free us from mandatory masking up until we feel the virus is on the roll again and the rate of infection is soaring.

Monkey pox has caused headlines in the past weeks, but we have no reason to worry about a virus that has been in existence for over 51 years in Africa.

The virus is an orthopoxvirus that has been endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1971.

Although masking up remains key in containing the virus, it is not yet time to take such measures in our country, where no single case of the virus has been reported.

When time for strict public health measures comes, we are more than ready as a nation.

Government can thus spare us from mandatory masking-up. We can do better together!

  •  Johannes Marisa is president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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KL Rahul cleared to play Zimbabwe series, will captain the side | Cricbuzz.com – Cricbuzz – Cricbuzz

KL Rahul has received the green signal from BCCI’s medical team, clearing his participation in the forthcoming three-ODI tour of Zimbabwe. Shikhar Dhawan, originally named captain for the short tour, will serve as the deputy to the returning Rahul.

Rahul, who has not played international cricket since February this year, has been laid low by a series of injury and health concerns. Right after the IPL, he was scheduled to captain India in the home T20Is against South Africa but missed out owing to a groin injury. The spell on the sidelines was extended after it was revealed that the 30-year-old would require surgery. Consequently, Rahul missed the tour of England and Ireland.

He was scheduled to return at the just-concluded tour of West Indies and USA but following a positive Covid-19 result, the BCCI medical team advised him rest. He has already been named in India’s squad for the Asia Cup at the end of this month.

India squad: KL Rahul (c) Shikhar Dhawan (vc), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Mohd Siraj, Deepak Chahar.

All the three ODIs of India’s tour will be held at the Harare Sports Club, with the series kicking off on August 18.

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KL Rahul cleared to play Zimbabwe series, will captain the side | Cricbuzz.com – Cricbuzz – Cricbuzz

KL Rahul has received the green signal from BCCI’s medical team, clearing his participation in the forthcoming three-ODI tour of Zimbabwe. Shikhar Dhawan, originally named captain for the short tour, will serve as the deputy to the returning Rahul.

Rahul, who has not played international cricket since February this year, has been laid low by a series of injury and health concerns. Right after the IPL, he was scheduled to captain India in the home T20Is against South Africa but missed out owing to a groin injury. The spell on the sidelines was extended after it was revealed that the 30-year-old would require surgery. Consequently, Rahul missed the tour of England and Ireland.

He was scheduled to return at the just-concluded tour of West Indies and USA but following a positive Covid-19 result, the BCCI medical team advised him rest. He has already been named in India’s squad for the Asia Cup at the end of this month.

India squad: KL Rahul (c) Shikhar Dhawan (vc), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Mohd Siraj, Deepak Chahar.

All the three ODIs of India’s tour will be held at the Harare Sports Club, with the series kicking off on August 18.

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Decriminalizing HIV: Scientifically proven and morally correct – STAT

One hundred thirty-four. That’s the number of countries that currently criminalize or prosecute people based on general criminal laws of HIV transmission, non-disclosure, or exposure.

Not only is this contrary to science on the health and human rights benefits of decriminalization, but it stands in stark contrast to the commitments enshrined in the 2021 Political Declaration to ends AIDS by 2030, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly with 165 countries voting in favor. Worse still is that criminalizing HIV is actively harmful: it costs lives and wastes money.

Countries that criminalize people with HIV have lower rates of HIV treatment and viral suppression compared to those with non-discriminatory legal frameworks. For example, evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work would avert at least one-third of new HIV infections among female sex workers.

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Sex workers, along with men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs and their sexual partners, and others represent key populations at higher risk of acquiring HIV. Together, they bear the brunt of the HIV pandemic: 70% of new HIV cases in 2021 occurred among these populations, accounting for more than half of all new cases in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time.

People-centered, equity-first policies that enable access to HIV services must be scaled up. To end AIDS as a public health threat, the world needs to achieve the UNAIDS 10-10-10 targets: less than 10% of people living with HIV and key populations experiencing stigma and discrimination; less than 10% of people living with HIV, women and girls, and key populations experiencing gender-based inequalities and gender-based violence; and less than 10% of countries with legal and policy environments that deny or limit access to HIV services.

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The United Nations Development Programme, which I work for, has convened the Global Commission on HIV and the Law to help countries and communities dismantle discriminatory laws that unjustly punish people, trap them in a cycle of illness and poverty, and prevent progress toward ending AIDS.

To date, the commission’s recommendations have helped at least 90 countries advance legal reforms. While no country is on track to meeting the 10-10-10 targets, the actions of these 90 countries show that change is possible. I offer three concrete strategies to drive further progress based on lessons learned from decriminalization efforts.

First, a whole-of-society approach led by people living with HIV and key populations has proven the most effective path to change. Laws are shaped and enforced by complex networks of parliamentarians, law enforcement, lawyers, and judges. Changing laws and removing barriers requires engaging these authorities and sensitizing them to the lived realities of HIV-positive people and key populations. Conducting government-led participatory legal environment assessments, which meaningfully engage communities, has been successful in advancing legal reform, including decriminalization of HIV.

In 2019, the UNDP worked with Zimbabwe to conduct a legal environment assessment, which identified criminalization as a barrier to health care and a driver of stigma. Based on these results, stakeholders including Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, parliamentarians, civil society activists and key populations worked to advocate for decriminalization. In early 2022, Zimbabwe repealed its legal code criminalizing HIV.

Second, a well-informed judiciary is often key to protecting the rights of vulnerable people and laying the groundwork for more inclusive legal systems. Ensuring that judges have up-to-date information on the science of HIV results in more informed rulings and drives positive change. This includes preventing overly broad interpretation of the law, such as Covid-19 lockdown policies that were used to justify the arrest of 23 people at a shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ youths in Uganda. Many of them were later released by the order of a Ugandan court.

Safe spaces for peer-led conversations can be a critical venue for disseminating this kind of information. The UNDP supports regional networks of judges in Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and the Caribbean. These forums provide an opportunity to share the latest knowledge on HIV science, public health, law, human rights, and the lived experiences of key populations. The results speak for themselves: In July, the high court of Antigua and Barbuda struck down its laws criminalizing sex between consenting same-sex adults.

Third, decriminalization must be complemented by the creation of legal environments that actively safeguard human rights and protect vulnerable communities from stigma and discrimination. Access to legal services is a cornerstone of an enabling legal environment, but only 41% of countries report having mechanisms to connect people living with HIV and key populations to services. This disconnect with legal services has a real effect. In a survey of people in 18 countries, over the last 12 months less than 50% of people living with HIV whose rights were abused sought legal redress.

Civil society organizations, like the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition and Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, play essential roles in delivering services to and advocating for people living with HIV and key populations. But countries are increasingly passing laws that restrict the ability of these kinds of non-governmental organizations to operate. In 2019, 50 countries had drafted legislation or implemented laws that prevent NGOs from performing their work. Since then, restrictive legislation has continued to appear, in Mexico, Tunisia, and elsewhere. The UNDP is working with multiple stakeholders on strategies to create an open civic space and legal environments which allow full engagement of civil society.

Efforts to halt the spread of HIV and to care for people living with it are far less effective in countries that criminalize people living with HIV and key populations, and decriminalization efforts are moving far too slowly. There is, however, cause for hope. At the recently-concluded 24th International AIDS Conference in Montreal, there was a sense of renewed purpose, solidarity and a recognition of the need to urgently advance decriminalization efforts.

If the world does not act on the science now; move toward decriminalizing and stop prosecuting people for HIV transmission, non-disclosure, or exposure; and deliver on its obligations, it won’t be possible to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Mandeep Dhaliwal is the director of the HIV and Health Group for the United Nations Development Programme.

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