Posts Tagged ‘ AIDS ’

The Life And Times Of Nelson Mandela


Former South African President and anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela passed away late last night at the age of 95.

He leaves behind an unforgettable legacy and one that firmly cements him among the most influential men in history.

Here, we take a look at the life of Madiba from his early days right up until yesterday evening. 

July 18, 1918 Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela near Qunu, in Transkei (now Eastern Cape), the youngest son of a counsellor to the chief of his Thembu clan.

1944 – Founds African National Congress (ANC) Youth League with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.

Marries his first wife Evelyn. They had a daughter and two sons and were divorced in 1957.

1952 – Mandela and others arrested and charged under the Suppression of Communism Act. Given suspended prison sentence.

Elected deputy national president of ANC.

1958 – Marries Winnie Madikizela. They separated in April 1992 and were divorced about four years later.

1960 – Sharpeville Massacre of black protesters by police. Continue reading

Alzheimer’s Back on the Agenda

Cancer and the race to find a cure has been the big thing in health over the past number of years, as was HIV/Aids back in the day. Huge amounts of money has been pumped into cancer research, with some success, and perhaps to the detriment of other less notable yet no less devastating diseases. Now, Alzheimer’s, which had been somewhat forgotten about of late, is back on world leaders’ agenda.

Alzheimer’s is one of the more crueller diseases one can be struck down by. The effects of the disease are heart breaking, as you watch a loved one fade away, reduced to erratic wandering and often confined to bed for their own safety, unable to recognise the faces of the loved ones gathered around their bedside, trapped in memories of people dead and events past. It is an irreversible and progressively degenerative disease affecting the brain, slowly destroying a person’s memories and cognitive skills, eventually taking away the ability to complete the simplest of everyday tasks. Named after Doctor Alois Alzheimer, it is the most common cause of dementia amongst older people, usually striking after the age of 60. The disease begins its work ten years before symptoms will declare its presence, slowly causing healthy neurons to fade and die. Some markers such as memory difficulties can alert health professionals to the disease’s possible presence but as of yet, tools for detecting Alzheimer’s early are just out of reach. As far a cure is concerned, some medicines seem promising but as yet they are aimed at treating the symptoms rather than preventing or curing the fatal disease.

Earlier this summer, the US government launched a plan of action aimed at addressing the Alzheimer’s problem in America, which affects about 5.1 million people in the country, costing millions of dollars in healthcare costs, as part of an effort to find preventative treatment in the US by 2025 and signed into law by Barack Obama last year. Funding has been provided for a first prevention study amongst high risk patients, as well as an insulin spray which has shown promise in early trials. Funding comes from the $50 million set aside for the fight against Alzheimer’s by the Obama administration in 2012, with another $100 million marked for the 2013 fiscal year. In addition the plan allows for the development of new training for doctors, a public campaign including television advertisements and a website; “These steps offer a ray of hope for those affected by Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. R. Scott Turner, of Georgetown University Medical Centre. “We need a robust awareness campaign specifically targeting participation in research studies.” Meanwhile, in the UK, David Cameron has joined his American counterpart in pledging support for such a move, committing to increased budget support, public understanding and care for those already affected by the disease.

Such moves are coming just in time. Experts in the field have proclaimed that the disease will be epidemic in as little as forty years should we fail to find successful treatments and preventative measures. Professor Brian Lawlor, a consultant psychiatrist for the elderly at St. Patrick’s and St. James’s told a recent conference that “Unless disease modifying treatments that delay the onset of the disease or its rate of progression can be developed, by 2050 one in 85 people will have Alzheimer’s disease. More than 40% of cases will require a high-level of care, and the burden of caregivers will also have a huge impact on the healthcare system.”

The cost of healthcare provisions is surely playing some part in government funding, as they seek to save money wherever they can.In the UK, £19 billion is being spent on those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, more than cancer, heart disease and stroke. In America, the bill hits the $100 billion mark, and is only set to soar even higher to a projected $1.1 trillion by 2050, if the new action plan is unsuccessful. In Ireland, predictably, the Alzheimer’s groups are only facing budget cuts rather than hiked allowances. Despite the fact that in 2006 the lowest cost to the taxpayer was around €200 million, despite around half of all carer’s being family members and working for free, and a number that will only creep higher as the years go by. Ireland only spends half the OECD average on combatting and treating the disease, while over 40,000 people suffer from dementia, expected to jump to 104,000 by 2036 if things do not go according to plan. The situation here is shameful. “Research shows that more than 25% of carers are themselves elderly. 70% of carers experience financial strain and two-thirds find the job of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s completely overwhelming at times,” said Prof. Eamon O’Shea, director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG). Should carers experience burn out, the cost to the state could be around €12 million, a figure they could save on if they only supported these carers through relief and other community services. And the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland has warned the government that if it doesn’t take immediate action, Ireland will face a health crisis in the years to come, with our aging population.

The need to keep public and political awareness at such heights is imperative for both the future of research and the possibility of a treatment or even a cure. These things, like fashion and music, follow trends of high public and governmental support. Where are the public campaigns for HIV now? But the most important thing, for Ireland and our Alzheimer’s community is government support. In the very short-term, it might be good for our economy to cut health spending, but in the long-term, we’ll live to regret it.