Detained Iranian AIDS doctors’ verdict postponed

alaei-doctorsReports have come in that the fate of two Iranian Aids Doctors on trial for treason still hangs in balance after the verdict was postponed due to an Iranian holiday.  According to the Boston based organization, Physicians for Human Rights, the charges on the doctors were completely fabricated, politically motivated, based on their attendance at international AIDS conferences. Doctors Kamiar and Arash Alaei are brothers and are said to have been instrumental in orchestrating some of Iran’s first AIDS treatment programs.  

An international campaign spearheaded by Physicians for Human Rights, calling for the immediate release of the doctors who were arrested in June 2008. More than 4,000 people from 85 countries have signed a petition calling for the doctors’ release. One of the campaign’s slogans is “Treating AIDS is not a crime”.


“Third-hand smoke”

A new term “third-hand smoke” has been coined by researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, in a study published in the January 2009 issue of Pediatrics Journal. The journal article entitled, ‘Beliefs About the Health Effects of “Thirdhand” Smoke and Home Smoking Bans’ defines thirdhand smoke as residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished.

The researchers emphasize that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and warn that children are uniquely susceptible to third-hand smoke exposure.

According to the study conclusion:

“This study demonstrated that beliefs about the health effects of thirdhand smoke are independently associated with home smoking bans. Emphasizing that thirdhand smoke harms the health of children may be an important element in encouraging home smoking bans. Health messages about thirdhand smoke contamination could be easily incorporated into current tobacco control campaigns, programs, and routine clinical practice.”

Lancet editorial:America’s commitment to global health

The latest issue of the Lancet (Volume 373, Issue 9657, Page 2, 3 January 2009 ) gives a close look at America’s commitment to global health.

“Over the past decade, the US Government has spent record amounts on global health: in 2008 spending peaked at US$7·5 billion. Still, the share of the country’s gross national income allocated to development aid is only about one-third of the target set by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. More than 70% of this money is aimed at AIDS programmes, even though chronic and non-communicable diseases account for more than half of all deaths in low-income and middle-income countries …”

Trials Begin in China for Those Accused in Melamine Scandal

Trials began in China on Friday, December 26, 2008, for six men allegedly involved in China’s tainted milk scandal.   Melamine, a compound used in making plastics, had been added to artificially increase the amount of protein found in watered-down milk.  Though not toxic, melamine can cause kidney stones and renal failure.

The tainted milk lead to the death of six children and illness in 300,000 others in China.  Parents of children that had been sickened from melanine intended to hold a press conference in China, but were detained by Chinese police. 

One of the men on trial, Zhang Yujun, 40, was the owner of a company that was allegedly the country’s largest source of melamine.  Prosecutors in the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court accused Zhang of producing 776 tons of the additive powder from October 2007 through August.  According to the Associated Press:

[Zhang] allegedly sold more than 600 tons with a total value of 6.83 million yuan (about $1 million).

Zhang Yanzhang, 24, a second man on trial, was accused of buying and reselling 230 tons of melamine powder.

Both Zhang Yujun and Zhang Yanzhang were shown on state television in handcuffs while being questioned by the judges.   An intermediate court in China rejected requests by some foreign journalists to attend.

Four other men were being tried in three separate courts across China for their alleged involvement in the melamine scandal. 

In a separate trial, Ms. Tian Wenhua, a high ranking corporate executive at Sanlu–a company at the center of the melamine scandal–plead guilty to selling tainted powdered baby formula and acknowledged that the company knew of the problem months before alerting local officials.  Ms. Tian Wenhua could face life imprisonment or even the death sentence if convicted. 

In 2007, the former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed for corruption after a scandal-plagued time at his position.  Zheng Xiaoyu was convicted of taking 6.5m yuan ($850,000) in bribes.

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

Traditional Medicine: Oversight of Practitioners and Practices in Uganda

Hope Kyomugisha

April 2, 2008


Traditional medicine, also known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), has been defined as “health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.” It refers to practices based on beliefs, knowledge and skills recognized by traditional communities to provide healthcare through the use of herbs and other naturally occurring substances.

This paper discusses traditional medicine in Uganda. It looks at different categories of Uganda’s traditional healers and examines laws and policies regulating their practices. The paper points out that there is no legal framework in place to regulate traditional medicine in Uganda and, therefore, argues for a regulatory policy framework to regulate these practices. It examines the advantages and disadvantages of regulation and proposes regulatory policy prescriptions. The paper draws on examples of the regulation of traditional medicinal practice in Canada, South Africa, and China to inform the recommendations that are made regarding how Uganda could create national oversight for the activities of its traditional medicinal practitioners, and how a system of supervision of those activities could be effectively enforced.

Available at SSRN.