Top of the Morning: FDA Approves Truvada for HIV Prevention; Syria Deadlock Deepens; Election Violence in East Timor

Top stories from DAWNS Digest 

USA Approves First Drug to Prevent HIV Transmission

The American Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis. This means that American doctors can prescribe the drug to the non-infected sexual partners of people living with HIV as a way to prevent transmission. “The drug is Truvada, an antiretroviral medication made by Gilead Sciences, Inc., which was already approved by the FDA in 2004 to help control HIV infection.  Truvada is a combination of two HIV medications – emtricitabine (Emtriva) and tenofovir (Viread) – into one pill that is taken once a day.  As a treatment for HIV, it is always used in combination with other HIV drugs. Recent studies showed pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP can reduce transmission of the virus significantly–up to 96% – when uninfected partners of people infected with HIV took Truvada. Dr. Debra Birnkrant, M.D., director of the Division of Antiviral Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA stressed Truvada alone should not be used to prevent HIV infection. It should be used in combination with other safe sex practices.” (CNN

Syria Refuses Aid Worker Visas

If you are an aid worker from a Western country, chances are you’ll be denied entry to Syria. “Syria is refusing visas to Western aid workers, hampering United Nations efforts to expand further its humanitarian operation to meet growing needs in the conflict-torn country, a senior U.N. aid official said on Monday. Some 1.5 million people require assistance in Syria amid escalating violence and “political failure” to resolve the crisis, John Ging told reporters in Geneva. Insecurity remains a tremendous challenge as fighting prevents aid agencies from reaching increasingly hungry and desperate civilians in flashpoint areas including Homs, he said. ‘We have a number of visas pending for international staff from a number of Western countries – the United States, Canada, the UK, France and one or two more – that are refused their visas because of their nationalities,’ said Ging, of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.” (AlterNet

…Meanwhile, the UN also said the funding for humanitarian assistance faced a critical shortfall. “To date, the $189 million appeal for assistance for the response inside Syria is 20 per cent funded, while the $193 million appeal for the response to assist refugees in Turkey, Lebanon Jordan and Iraq is also 20 per cent funded.” (UN News Center

Amid Election-Related Violence Security Forces Deployed in East Timor

After a relatively smooth presidential election two weeks ago, East Timor’s fractious politics is once again leading to violence. At issue is the exclusion of the runner-up in the election from joining the ruling coalition.
“One person was killed and four policemen were injured in clashes Sunday in the capital, Dili, and the district town of Viqueque, said police chief Longuinhos Monteiro. On Monday, witnesses said they heard gunshots in a Dili neighborhood and that protesters there were burning tires. The violence started shortly after Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said his party would set up a coalition with the Democratic Party and Frenti-Mudanca, excluding the Fretilin party from the government…16 protesters were arrested in violence that started early Saturday when protesters pelted and damaged Annur mosque, the biggest Muslim place of worship in the predominantly Catholic nation.” (WaPo

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