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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

World Health Assembly opens 64th session in Geneva

From Lisa Schnirring at CIDRAP, excerpt :

" Delegates from 193 countries met today in Geneva at the start of the World Health Assembly (WHA), which will address several infectious disease topics, including a report from an independent pandemic review committee, a virus-sharing agreement, and the fate of the world's remaining smallpox virus stocks.

The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the meeting runs through May 24. Today's agenda mainly consisted of housekeeping tasks such as electing a president for this year's assembly and adopting a provisional agenda. Cyprus' health minister, Dr Christos Patsalides, was elected president,

The WHA's first day was capped by a keynote address by Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general. Early in her speech she said a trend is emerging that puts the world's latest and best health technology into the hands of countries that need it the most.

In the past, she said, people with drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) had to wait 3 months for a solid diagnosis, but the launch of a rapid diagnostic test for the disease last year gives medical teams a faster, more sensitive tool that can deliver a result in 100 minutes. "WHO endorsement of the test brought an immediate price reduction of 75% for developing countries. Roll-out has begun in more than 30 countries, assisted by WHO and other partners," she said.

She said a major success over the past years has been a reduction in the malaria burden, especially in Africa, thanks to the support of global health partners, African leaders, and groups such as the Roll Back Malaria Partnership."

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