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Below is a round up of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 7–20 May 2009.

Fishing for HIV vaccine answers in Malawi and Uganda
Pontiano Kaleebu of the Uganda Virus Research Institute is coordinating a project with the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Programme, among other partners, to study how HIV spreads in the often-overlooked and highly-mobile fishermen of Malawi and Uganda to inform prevention efforts. The researchers will also determine the particular strain of HIV circulating and analyse the fishermen's immune responses as part of HIV vaccine development. More>>

Encouraging forest biodiversity in Ethiopia's coffee gardens
Different human-made landscapes — such as shade-grown coffee farms and forestry plantations relying on exotic trees — can be used to preserve the biodiversity of threatened tropical forests, according to biologist Sileshi Nemomissa from Addis Ababa University, the co-author of a study published in Conservation Biology. The authors say the knowledge of biodiversity within African agro-ecosystems is particularly poor.

Mozambique upgrades its HIV researchers
The Catholic University of Mozambique medical school is upgrading its researchers' skills in epidemiological methods with a new training programme, beginning next month (June), so that basic questions about the extent of HIV prevalence in the Beira region — where about a third of all pregnant women are infected — can be answered. Researchers such as pathologist Josefo Ferro, who is also a member of the African–European HIV Vaccine Development Network, want to better understand the reasons why some antiretroviral drug treatment fails. More>>

Preserving the world's second largest tropical forest in the Congo basin
Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo are negotiating a voluntary partnership agreement with the European Union in a bid to export verified wood only, reducing illegal logging and helping to preserve forest carbon sinks and biodiversity. Preliminary negotiations are also underway in Liberia, while Gabon and the Central African Republic have also expressed interest in taking part. Ghana signed the first partnership agreement last year while Congo-Brazzaville signed this month. More>>

Study finds nomads good for animal biodiversity in Kenya

Some communities are harder on wildlife biodiversity than others, according to a study led by Joseph Ogutu, a statistical ecologist at Nairobi's International Livestock Research Institute. A 15-year study with the Wildlife Conservation Lease Programme found that semi-nomadic Maasai herdsmen were beneficial for biodiversity. But when people settled in permanent settlements in surrounding ranchlands — as encouraged by the Kenyan government — they competed with giraffes, hartebeest, impala and warthogs by taking grazing territory for crops and livestock pasture. More>>

Liver cancer on the rise in Ugandan women

Liver cancer has increased among women in central Uganda by more than 50 per cent — while remaining stable among men — a study has found. Researchers led by Ponsiano Ocama from the University of Makerere published their results in the British Journal of Cancer. Researchers said hepatitis infection, food contaminated with aflatoxin fungus, weight gain and HIV may leave women particularly vulnerable to liver cancer.

Drugs need just 24 hours to fight malaria
Patients with uncomplicated malaria could halve the number of drugs they take, according to researchers including Ishag Adam from the University of Khartoum in Sudan. Patients in Cameroon, Mali, Rwanda and Sudan did as well on shorter courses and fewer tablets of artemisinin-based combinations of drugs as they did on the standard dosage of twice as many drugs. The researchers say that quicker treatment — such as three tablets over 24 hours, or one a day for three days — will be cheaper and easier for both medical staff and patients.

Algorithms help Uganda speed up TB diagnosis
Molecular pathologist Misaki Wayengera from Makerere University's College of Health Sciences has published research in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling that uses a mathematical equation to predict whether cultures grown in the laboratory contain Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This could speed up the diagnosis of tuberculosis so treatment can begin more rapidly. The same assessment could be used to reveal the extent of drug resistance and therefore aid treatment decisions about drugs for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. More>>

Using cellphones to make health statistics more accurate
Health workers in Botswana, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Mali, Swaziland and Togo are being trained to collect their own national health statistics using cellphones. The same free open-source programme software, called the EpiSurveyor, has streamlined the once cumbersome paper-based data management of diseases in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia.

A third of Swazi girls sexually assaulted before 18
One of the few studies of sexual violence among girls younger than 18, carried out by researchers including Jama Gulaid and Zodwa Mthethwa of UNICEF in Mbabane, has concluded that so many young girls are being sexually assaulted that abuse needs to become a routine focus of health interventions such as HIV testing, reproductive health programmes, sexually transmitted disease prevention and mental health programmes.

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Compiled by Christina Scott.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the Africa News Editor Christina Scott ([email protected]).

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