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South Africa’s Caster Semenya loses testosterone levels appeal

The IAAF believes female runners with high testosterone levels have an unfair advantage in events from 400m to the mile.

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Caster Semenya: africa news headlines
South Africa athlete, Caster Semenya. Photo credit: AFP

Two-time Olympic champion, Caster Semenya has lost her legal battle against the introduction of new rules regulating the testosterone levels for athletes with a difference in sex development (DSD).

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CSA) panel of three judges gave a complex verdict and “dismissed both requests for arbitration” from Semenya and the governing body of track and field.

The judges ruled 2-1 that “on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events.”

The IAAF believes female runners with high testosterone levels have an unfair advantage in events from 400m to the mile.

Athletics’ governing body’s new regulations will now require any athlete with a naturally high level of testosterone who wishes to compete in international track and field events from 400 meters to the mile to reduce their testosterone levels, should they want to continue competing as women.

“Sometimes it’s better to react with no reaction,” tweeted Semenya after the verdict was announced.

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South Africa’s openly HIV-positive judge retires

Edwin Cameron, 66, won widespread praise for spearheading the fight for people with HIV two decades ago

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South Africa's openly HIV-positive judge retires
Edwin Cameron. (AFP)

A South African Constitutional Court judge and gay rights activist who openly disclosed his HIV status retired on Tuesday.

Edwin Cameron, 66, who hung up his gown after 25 years of serving as a judge, won widespread praise for spearheading the fight for people with HIV two decades ago when the infection rapidly spread under what he called the “AIDS denialism” of the then South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

He revealed his status in 1999 more than a decade after he contracted the virus.

He stirred up the 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban with a speech detailing his own infection and how he was fortunate to be able to afford to buy antiretrovirals when treatment was so expensive and only accessible to the well-heeled.

“I have survived a pandemic many have perished living under,” he said at a special Constitutional Court sitting held in his honour in Johannesburg.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world — 19 per cent according to the UN AIDS agency — with more than seven million people living with the virus.

The country now has the largest state-sponsored anti-retroviral programme in the world, serving 2.5 million people.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng paid tribute to Cameron as “a brave and bold man” and for his catalytic role in mobilising authorities to roll out a mass ARV programme.

“When HIV and AIDS attracted stigma, he stood up and declared openly: ‘I am HIV positive’.”

“He could have chosen to mind his own business and care less about (others but) for the sake of the suffering masses, he not only spoke, but he acted.”

Openly gay, Cameron “helped secure the express inclusion of sexual orientation in the South African Constitution,” according to his official profile.

In 2006, South Africa became the sole African nation to allow gay marriage and it has become a haven for African homosexuals who flee persecution at home.

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Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo city

Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district

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Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe's Bulawayo city
Zimbabwean anti-riot police patrol the streets of Harare. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Troops and police were out in force in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Monday to prevent a planned opposition march, days after brutally dispersing a similar banned protest in Harare.

Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district and most of the high-density suburbs. 

Using a loudhailer, police warned people against joining the demonstration, called to protest deteriorating economic conditions.

One of the city’s usually busy areas, the precincts of Tredgold Magistrate Courts, where illegal forex changers ply their trade, was cordoned off by police.

Police have also set up checkpoints on most roads leading to the city centre.

Zimbabwean police banned the protests organised by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after they violently dispersed protesters who had defied a similar order in Harare on Friday. 

The MDC is challenging the ban in court.

READ: Zimbabwean police fire tear gas to dispel opposition protesters

The protesters are angry over the country’s floundering economy and the jailing of a well-known government critic, tribal chief Felix Ndiweni. 

The chief who is highly revered in the western Matabeleland region of the country, was last week jailed for 18 months for allegedly destroying a villager’s property.

Police fired teargas and beat up several demonstrators in Harare on Friday after they gathered in a square where the protest had originally been scheduled to start.

Friday’s protests were the first since President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices by more than 100 per cent sparked nationwide demonstrations in January which left at least 17 people dead and several injured when soldiers opened fire.

Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, and then won disputed elections in July last year vowing to revive the economy.

But Zimbabweans say things have gone from bad to worse with shortages of bread, fuel, medicines and other goods and the skyrocketing cost of living. 

According to the UN, about five million Zimbabweans, or a third of the population, are in need of food aid.

“We are deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continues to unfold in Zimbabwe, the UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva on Friday. 

“We urge the Government to find ways to engage with protesters, and to refrain from the use of violence”, it further stated.

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South Africa’s new TB regimen cures drug-resistant cases

The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period

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South Africa's new TB regimen cures drug-resistant cases
A caretaker inspects bandages in the activity room of Ward 16, where the drug-resistant tuberculosis patients are housed and treated at the Sizwe Tropical Diseases Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. - A new treatment was approved on August 14, 2019 by the US Food and Drug Administration which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis and drastically shorten the treatment period. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

Four years ago, South African fashion designer Innocent Molefe, 38, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. A year ago, it developed into multi-drug resistant strain requiring painful injections and heaps of pills.

Three months after the first round of treatment, he relapsed and started a second round. At the end of it, he still wasn’t cured.

Thanks to a new treatment – approved Wednesday by the US Food and Drug Administration – he is now cleared of the disease, has bounced back to work and has even resumed night-clubbing, something he has stopped four years ago.

“I was willing to beat TB and I’m living proof. I can move around… I can still go clubbing till the early hours,” said the dreadlocked designer at his home in Soweto township.

READ: South Africa buries 46 unidentified and unclaimed corpses

The announcement was especially welcomed in South Africa, one of the countries with the highest number of TB cases. Of the more than 1.6 million TB deaths recorded every year, more than 75,000 are in South Africa alone. In 2017, South Africa recorded more than 322,000 active TB cases.

South Africa's new TB regimen cures drug-resistant cases
TB patients rest in the garden of Ward 16, where the drug-resistant tuberculosis patients are housed and treated at the Sizwe Tropical Diseases Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.(Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period.

The three-drug regimen consists of bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid – collectively known as the BPaL regimen.

Pretomanid is the novel compound developed by the New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance and which received the FDA greenlight Wednesday.

The treatment regimen was trialled at three sites in South Africa involving 109 patients and achieved a 90 per cent success rate after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-ups.

‘Groundbreaking treatment’-

With the treatment involving five pills of the three drugs daily taken over just six months – it makes easier to administer.

READ: South Africa’s adoption crisis blown open by baby box

This compares to between 30 and 40 drugs that multiple-drug resistant TB patients take each day for up to two years.

“Usually and in many places in the world, the treatment for (multiple) … drug-resistant TB would take anything between 18 to 24 months,” said Pauline Howell, principal investigator of the clinical trial at Sizwe Tropical Disease Hospital in Johannesburg.

“This still includes daily injections for six months, which are extremely painful,” Howell said, adding that taking only five pills would make a huge difference.

The FDA approval represents a victory for those suffering from highly drug-resistant forms of the world’s deadliest infectious disease, said Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of TB Alliance. 

South Africa's new TB regimen cures drug-resistant cases
TB patients do painting activities with a caretaker in the garden of Ward 16, where the drug-resistant tuberculosis patients are housed and treated at the Sizwe Tropical Diseases Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

Last year, there were more than half a million drug-resistant TB cases in the world.

A chronic lung disease which is preventable and largely treatable if diagnosed in time, tuberculosis is the top infectious killer, causing over 1.6 million deaths each year.

More than 10 million cases are recorded every year. The disease has worsened as it has become increasingly resistant to available medicines.

TB Alliance started designing the trial in 2014.

“This is really groundbreaking result we have here,” said Folu Olugbosi, clinical director and head of the South African office of TB Alliance.

Patients are moving from a “truckload of pills” to cure the resistant strain with just three drugs and in just six months, Olugbosi said.

READ: Poo Power: How dung biodigester is supercharging farming in Kenya

At the Sizwe hospital northeast of Johannesburg, a patient named Nxumalo arrived from Katlehong township for his regular post-treatment check-up to make sure he is still in the clear.

“With the old regimen, I would vomit,” said the 23-year-old unemployed man. “But with the one for research, it’s easier to take than 24 tablets.”

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