World AIDS Day 2020 Amidst Covid-19 & Global News

by Debra Brown

HIV/AIDS
Each Wednesday, we recap the most important headlines from our global community to keep you up to speed on world news.

 

World AIDS Day 2020 Amidst Covid-19

Executive Director of UNAIDS Winnie Byanyima says, on World AIDS Day 2020, COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV. Like all epidemics, it is widening the inequalities that already existed.

Only global solidarity and shared responsibility will help us beat the coronavirus, end the AIDS epidemic and guarantee the right to health for all.

Author and journalism professor Steven Thrasher says the coronavirus has amplified racial, class and other disparities, just as AIDS has done for decades, and that treatments must have an antiracist and anti-capitalist foundation in order to be successful.

According to the World Health Organization, there are actually about 20 pandemics going on, that include, of course, COVID-19, Zika and HIV/AIDS. And HIV/AIDS has continued to kill way too many people. Almost 700,000 people died last year.

There have been various effective medications for HIV for the past quarter of century, and yet tens of millions of people have died since that time. The problem is not just the drugs; it’s the conditions around people’s lives that lead them to become affected by viruses, says Thrasher.

Learn more about HIV and AIDS here. 

 

U.K. Approves Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine For Emergency Use

The U.K. on Wednesday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, marking another step in the global battle against the pandemic.

The U.K. government is reportedly the first in the world to formally approve the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for widespread use, and it means Britain will be one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population, with elderly people in care homes and medical workers first in line.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced in July an agreement with the U.K. to supply 30 million doses of its mRNA-based vaccine, formally known as “BNT162b2,” once authorized for emergency use. That agreement was increased to 40 million doses in early October. As a two-dose vaccine, the U.K. will have enough doses to vaccinate around a third of its 66 million population.

Russia and China have already approved vaccines without waiting for the results of large-scale efficacy tests.

 

Hong Kong Activists Sentenced For Their Role In Anti-Government Protest

A trio of young Hong Kong opposition activists have been sentenced after pleading guilty to organizing a demonstration last year as part of a larger protest against Hong Kong’s receding autonomy. Their sentencing is the latest blow to the region’s opposition movement which seeks to preserve Hong Kong’s limited autonomy from Beijing.

Hong Kong has arrested more than 10,000 protesters who took part in months-long demonstrations beginning last year. The mass rallies were sparked by a proposed extradition bill with mainland China, and the bill was shelved after peaceful marches.

In June, China imposed a new national security law that has effectively outlawed future dissent.

Several protesters have already been charged under the law, which carries life sentences for broad crimes including secession and foreign collusion and allows for defendants to be extradited to mainland China.

 

U.S. Justice Department Rushes to Expand Execution Methods For Federal Death Row Inmates

The Justice Department has rushed to change the rules around federal death penalties as they expedite a slew of scheduled executions in the final days of the Trump administration, including expanding possible execution methods to include electrocution and death by firing squad.

The approved amendment to the “Manner of Federal Executions” rule gives federal prosecutors a wider variety of options for execution in order to avoid delays if the state in which the inmate was sentenced doesn’t provide other alternatives.

The rule was included among three dozen policy changes President Donald Trump is attempting to push through before the end of his term. The proposed changes were first reported by ProPublica.

 

Ivory Coast, Ghana Cancel Cocoa Sustainability Schemes Run by Hershey

Ivory Coast and Ghana are cancelling all cocoa sustainability schemes that U.S.-based Hershey runs in their countries, accusing the chocolatemaker of trying to avoid paying a cocoa premium aimed at combating farmer poverty.

In a letter addressed to Hershey and seen by Reuters, the Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa regulators accuse Hershey of sourcing unusually large volumes of physical cocoa on the ICE futures exchange in order to avoid the premium, known as a living income differential (LID).

Ivory Coast and Ghana, which produce two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, said they are also barring third party companies from running sustainability schemes in the West African nations on behalf of Hershey.

The schemes certify cocoa as sustainably sourced – meaning its production is free of environmental and human rights abuses,

such as using child labour or being grown in a protected forest.

This allows companies to market their chocolate as ethical and charge a premium for it.

 

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