The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, IDAHOTB is observed on May 17 every year. The day is marked to increase awareness about LGBT rights violations. Also, it aims to stimulate interest in LGBT rights work world-wide.
What is Transphobia, Homophobia and Biphobia?
Homophobia: It is dislike against gay people
Transphobia: It is the dislike against the transgender people
Biphobia: It is the dislike against the bisexual people
It was originally called the International Day against Homophobia.
It was first observed in 2005.
Louis-Georges Tin is the founder of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The Declaration of Montreal was adopted in 2006. It demanded the United Nations to recognise IDAHOTB.
Why was May 17 chosen?
It was on May 17, 1990, homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of World Health Organisation. International Classification of Diseases is a classification of health care system. It provides diagnostic codes to classify a disease. This includes symptoms, signs, abnormal findings, external causes.
The day aims to increase awareness against discrimination, violence and repression of LGBT communities worldwide.
Around the world
Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legally recognise same-sex marriage.
IDAHOTB has been recognised in very few countries such as Spain, European Union Parliament, Portugal, Belgium, Mexico, UK, Netherlands, Venezuela, Luxembourg, Croatia, Costa Rica.
Around sixty-nine countries criminalise bisexual individuals, gay, lesbians.
In more than twenty-six countries, the transgender individuals are subjected to punishments. Also, they are at the risk of violence.
The Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture and NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) recently launched the first Agricultural Export Facilitation Centre.
About the Centre
The Centre will aid in boosting the agricultural and food exports of the state of Maharashtra.
The centre will act as a one-stop shop to export agricultural food productions.
The centre is open to anyone who is involved in agricultural exports.
It will provide guidance in areas such as Minimum residue level, orchard management, branding and marketing, country-wise protocols, special export treatments and government export schemes.
Also, the centre will organise awareness programmes, workshops and training programmes.
Why is the Agricultural Export Facilitation Centre important?
In 2018, India launched Agri Export Policy. The policy aims to double the agricultural exports, that is, to increase the agricultural exports to 60 billion USD by 2022. The Agricultura Export Facilitation Centre will help India achieve this target.
Why is the centre established in Maharashtra?
Maharashtra is one of the leading states in Agriculture. It is one of the largest producer of onions. Today, it is emerging as it is an important horticultural state in the country.
The soil and agro climatic conditions are diverse in the state. This allows the state to produce variety of crops such as rice, wheat, tur, gram, bajra, jowar; fruits such as banana, mango, grapes, orange, cashew nut.
The state is the leading producer in pulses.
It is the second largest coarse cereals producer.
It is also the second largest producer of soya bean, sugarcane and cotton.
It is the third largest produce of sunflower.
The Indian Council of Medical Research recently dropped the plasma therapy from COVID-19 treatment. The decision was taken as the procedure was found to be ineffective.
In the therapy, the blood component called plasma from a COVID-19 recovered patient is injected into the COVID-19 infected patient. Plasma is a rich source of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that fight against the invading virus.
It involves normal blood collection practices. Later plasma is extracted from the blood using blood fractionation process. Also, a machine called Aphaeresis is used to extract plasma from the donor.
Earlier it was used during H1N1 Influenza outbreak and Ebola outbreaks.
In September 2020, the ICMR conducted PLACID trials. According to the trials, the therapy neither reduced the number of deaths nor prevent its progression.
China and Netherlands have also reported that Plasma Therapy is not effective for COVID-19 treatment.
Why is Plasma Therapy ineffective?
The artificial supply of antibodies makes the infection worse. This is because of a phenomenon called Antibody-Dependent Enhancement. In plasma therapy, the antibodies that are supplied artificially binds to the virus. These antibodies might then be taken up by the cell. In this way, the virus enters the human cells in spite of the fact that the patient is treated for COVID-19.
On the other hand, during vaccination the immune system produces its own antibodies. Thus, vaccination provides lifelong immunity.
Also, another major drawback is that these artificially injected antibodies stay only for three to four days in the patient’s body.
In 2021, the United Nations is celebrating its sixth United Nations Global Road Safety Week between 17th May, 2021 and 23rd May, 2021. This year, in 2021, the Global Road Safety Week is celebrated under the following theme:
About the Week
It is a biennial global road safety campaign hosted by the World Health Organisation.
The first Global Road Safety Week was celebrated in 2007.
The week is celebrated to create awareness of road safety and reduce road deaths.
Global Plan on Road Safety launched
As a part of 2021 Global Road Safety Week, the Decade Plan of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 was launched by the United Nations. It is a global plan on road safety. The plan is in line with the Stockholm Declaration. The plan calls for improving laws, designing rods and vehicles and law enforcement on behavioural risks such as alcohol, speeding and driving.
The 2021 Global Road safety celebrations say that in order to make cities safe and healthy, a speed limit of 30 kilometre per hour should be facilitated. This will help attain a number of Sustainable Development Goals.
How? For instance, the minority communities and the disadvantaged people are more exposed to the high-speed traffic and accidents.
Road Safety in India
India ranks first in terms of number of road accidents. It accounts to only 1% of vehicles in the world. However, 11% of road accidents happens in India. The major reasons for high number of accidents in the country are road environment, human error, post accidental care-related issues and vehicular conditions.
The public health experts recently announced that the increase in “breakthrough infections” in the country may be due to the mutant varieties.
What are Breakthrough infections?
The Breakthrough infections are those where the COVID-19 virus (or any other virus) is detected in a person who has received two (or prescribed number) doses of vaccines. The person gets infected with the COVID-19 virus after the second dose.
According to Indian Council of Medical Research, around two to three breakthrough infections occur per 10,000 infections.
In the US, 5,814 COVID-19 breakthrough infections were found out of 75 million vaccinated people.
Causes of Breakthrough infection
Age: As the age of the person increases, the immune system of the body undergoes a series of changes. The count of naïve B cells and naïve T cells decreases. These naïve cells are the ones that respond to the new pathogens that the immune system has not yet encountered.
Antibody interference: The maternal antibodies in the infants limits the efficacy of the infant immune system. In an infant, the immune system is not completely activated and it produces less antibodies.
Virus Evolution: The virus mutations blocks the immune responses generated by the vaccines.
Poor Quality vaccine: Maintaining vaccine temperatures are highly important. If the vaccine is kept after expiration date or is stored in incorrect temperature, the vaccine loses its potency.
Appropriate vaccine dosages are essential. The vaccine dosages are fixed based on age and weight. If patients receive lower dose than the recommended then there will be no adequate immune response.
Vaccines with weaker strains that is of poor quality will fail to ensure future immunity.
A study conducted by the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation recently found that the long working hours kills hundreds of people every year.
Key findings of the study
Around 745,00 people died of stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016. This is 29% higher than that of 2000.
Around 347,000 people died of heart disease and 398,000 people died of stroke in 2016. The diseases killed these people mainly because they worked at least 55 hours a week.
Between 2000 and 2016, the number of heart diseases due to long working hours increased by 42%. Also, the number of strokes increased by 19%.
Working 55 hours a week increased risks of strokes by 35% and increased the risk of ischemic heart disease by 35%.
In 2016, around 488 million people were exposed to long working hours, that is, working 55 hours a week.
The work-related disease burden was high in men as compared to that of women. Around 72% of the work-related disease and eventual death occurred in men.
Also, such disease burden was high in people living in the Western Pacific, that is, those in South Korea, China, Japan and Australia and also other South East Asian countries.
The study has included 22 studies on stokes and 37 studies on ischemic heart diseases. Also, it collected data from more than 2,300 surveys in 154 countries.
What is worrying?
The study did not include COVID-19 period. It comes at a time when the number of working hours is increasing. Currently, the number of people working long hours stands at 9% of the total population. This will increase if COVID-19 impacts are added.
Iran recently launched its supercomputer called Simorgh. This supercomputer is hundred times more powerful than the previous Iranian supercomputers.
About the Simorgh Supercomputer
The Supercomputer has been named after the phoenix like bird called the Simurgh.
The Simorgh Supercomputer was developed by the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, the capital of Iran.
It is located at the Iranian High Performance Computing Research Centre.
The performance capacity of the simorgh Supercomputer is 0.56 petaflops. It is to reach 1 petaflops in two months. In its subsequent levels it is to reach to speed of 10 petaflops.
It comprises of 42 racks in an area of 250 square metres. In future this is to be upgraded to 400 square metres.
The total budget of the supercomputer is expected to be 9 million USD.
The Supercomputer is to be used for image processing, artificial intelligence work load, traffic and weather data.
It will also be used for cloud hosting local private firms.
What is the spotlight?
The US had imposed sanctions on Iran and the doors of business is completely closed to the country. The US had imposed anti terrorism trade sanctions and has been trying to slow down its nuclear programme for decades. Thus, Iran should have got the US chips used in supercomputers illegally.
Iran never discloses its hardware specifications.
In 2001, the Amirkabir university developed a 32-node PC based on Intel Pentium processors. Again in 2007, the country had its hands on 216 AMD cores which in turn led to the most powerful supercomputer of all time.
Iran is using bitcoin mining facilities to buy required raw materials from US and other countries. Most of these are illegal under the sanctions imposed against the country.
The scientists in the United States are breeding the Sunflower sea stars off coast of Washington State.
Between 2013 and 2017, warming of oceans killed 5.75 billion sunflower sea stars.
Around 91% of the world sunflower sea stars are found between the sea waters of Mexico and Alaska.
The scientists believe that reviving the Sunflower sea star will help in reviving kelp forests.
What happened to the Kelp Forests?
The Sunflower sea stars were once found in the ocean floor in the north east Pacific. They mainly fed on purple urchins. The Sunflower sea stars are extinct in California and are near extinction in other parts of the ocean. Thus, the purple urchins increased in number. The purple urchins mainly fed on sea weeds. As their population increased, they started consuming more and more sea weeds. This was disastrous to the other marine species such as Abalone that depend on sea weeds.
Bottomline, the kelp forest cover fell by more than 95% since 2014.
The near extinction of just one species has such huge impact on the ecosystem. It is simply wiping out the eco system.
Thus, the plan of repopulating the sunflower sea star has been adopted. This plan is being referred to as the “Jurassic Plan Approach”.
About sunflower Sea Star
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has listed the Sunflower sea star as Critically Endangered
It is one of the largest sea stars in the world.
They have twenty-four limbs.
The Kelp forest are under water areas with high density of kelp. It covers large part of the world coastline. Also, they are considered as the most productive and dynamic ecosystem on the earth.
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade recently released Wholesale Price in India for the month of April 2021. The WPI for the month of April 2021 stood at 128.1. The base year in calculating WPI is fixed as 2011-12.
WPI of April 2021
The annual rate of inflation for the month of April 2021 was 10.49%
The inflation rate is high in the month mainly because of price rise in crude petroleum which in turn increased the prices of petrol and diesel in the country. Also, the price rise is due to increase in cost of manufactured foods.
Groups of commodities
There are three major groups of commodities that are used in calculating the rate of inflation. They are primary articles, manufactured products and fuel and power.
The weight of primary articles in WPI is 22.62%.
The index of this group increased by 3.83%.
The prices of minerals increased by 6.6%
The prices of Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas increased by 4.8%
The prices of food articles increased by 3.84%
The price of non-food articles increased by 2.65%
The above increases are in comparison with the month of March.
Fuel and Power
The weight of fuel and power is 13.15%
The index of this group decreased by 1%
The prices of coals decreased by 0.32%
The prices of Mineral oil decreased by 0.29%
The prices of electricity decreased by 4.96%
The weight of manufactured goods is 64.23%
The index of this group increased by 1.65%.
The increase in this category was mainly contributed by food products, basic metals, chemicals, textiles, plastic and rubber products.
WPI Food Index
The WPI Food index consists of food products from manufactured products group and food articles from primary articles group. The WPI Food Index increased from 153.4 in March 2021 to 158.9 in April 2021. The increase rate in April is 7.58% and that of March is 5.28%
SAMVEDNA is Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance. It a toll-free helpline through which children affected during COVID-19 pandemic are provided counselling.
The main objective of SAMVEDNA is to provide psychological first aid and emotional support to the COVID-19 affected children
The tele-counselling is provided by the National Commission of Child Rights working under Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Psychologists, counselors and experts from NIMHANS, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.
The Toll-Free Number is 1800-121-2830
It is available from Monday to Saturday, from 10 AM to 1 PM and 3 PM to 8 PM.
The service is only to children.
The service under this initiative is provided under various regional languages such as Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, etc.
What is the plan?
The tele-counselling is to be provided to children in three categories. They are as follows:
Children who have lost their parents due to COVID-19
Children who are in quarantine in COVID care centres
Children who have COVID-19 positive parents or family members.
Other similar initiatives
The SAMVAD at NIMHANS is releasing a four-part special series to address the anxiety faced by abandoned and orphaned children following the loss of family members due to COVID-19. This will equip the mental health professionals, child protection functionaries and all other concerned citizens. It will provide concrete methods to the service providers and caregivers to break the bad news to children and help them process experience of loss and grief.
What will these initiatives focus on?
Both the above initiatives will provide ways to respond to the illness of children and anxiety.
On May 17, 2021, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Microsoft signed a Memorandum of Understanding on joint initiative for Digital Transformation of Tribal Schools. This includes introduction of Ashram Schools and Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) in tribal areas.
What is the plan?
Microsoft will make an Artificial Intelligence curriculum available for the tribal students in Hindi and English.
In the first phase of the programme, 250 EMRS are to be established. Out of these 250 schools, 50 schools will be given intensive training. And five hundred master trainers will be trained in the first phase.
The teachers are to be trained in a phased manner to use Artificial Intelligence application and productive technologies such as Office 365. This will introduce the teachers to the world of collaboration and help them understand how teaching shall be increased with virtual field trips.
The teachers will also be provided with E-Certificates and E-badges from the Microsoft Education centres at the end of the programme.
How will the programme benefit students?
The programme will make sure the students get an opportunity to change their village, environment and overall community.
It will help to create talent pool. This will act as an asset to the country.
It aims to create a continuous process creating repository of knowledge. The programme will work in such a way that the knowledge earned is passed on from one generation to the other.
The students will be mentored on Artificial Intelligence applications and UN Sustainable Development Goals.
They will be exposed to gamified environments such as Minecraft. This is done to increase their thinking skills.
On May 17, 2021, the Union Government released Rs 5,968 crores of rupees to implement the Jal Jeevan Mission. The funds were released to fifteen states. This is the first instalment of the four to be released in 2021-22.
Out of the total funds allocated under the Jal Jeevan Mission, 93% are to be utilized for developing water supply infrastructure, 2% in water quality monitoring and surveillance activities and 5% on support activities.
The central funds were released based on the output of the scheme in the states. For this, the states were assessed in terms of tap water connections.
In 2021, the GoI allocated Rs 50,011 crores to Jal Jeevan Mission in its budget.
The Fifteenth Finance Commission had recommended Rs 26,940 crores for water and sanitation services.
Thus, in all Rs 1 lakh crore will be invested in providing tap water supply to rural homes in 2021-22.
How will the funds help current condition?
The funds allocated will help increase employment generation.
It will also increase grey water treatment.
It will improve drinking water infrastructure
It will increase the demand for pipes, taps, faucets and motors. Thereby it will give a push to the manufacturing sector.
It will help to maintain the in-village water supply.
So far 4.17 crores of households have been provided with tap water supply in the country under the scheme.
Around 7.41 crores of rural households are getting potable water.
The states and union teritores such as Telangana, Goa, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have become “Har Ghar Jal” state.
On May 17, 20121, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare chaired the 26th meeting of Group of Ministers on COVID-19.
Key Outcomes of the meet
CoWIN portal is to be made available in Hindi. Also, it will be made available in fourteen regional languages.
Around seventeen more laboratories will be added to the INSACOG (Indian SARS CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) network. These laboratories are being added to monitor COVID-19 variants. Currently there are ten laboratories in the network.
The manufacturing of Amphotericin-B is to be increased to treat COVID-19 black fungal infections called Mucormycosis.
The following were highlighted during the meet:
The Variants of Concern such as B.1.617 and B.1.1.7 were predominant in the samples collected from Punjab and Chandigarh.
More RT-PCR mobile testing was deployed and the RAT (Rapid Antigen Tests) were amplified.
Production and allocation of drugs
It was informed at the meet that the manufacturers have been advised to increase the production of drugs. Three pronged strategies were undertaken to solve the issues in the production and allocation of drugs. They were as follows:
To identify new suppliers and address operative issues faced by suppliers
Rational distribution of drugs to states and Union Territories. And to monitor the supply chain constantly.
Enforcement against black marketing was initiated.
The GoI stressed on the procurement and allocation of Tocilizumab, Remdesivir and Amphotericin-B.
It was notified at the meet that the demand for Favipiravir increased though it was not recommended in COVID-19 medical guidelines.
The Government of India recently issued guidelines to contain COVID-19 in rural areas.
What are the guidelines?
COVID-19 Care Centre for asymptomatic cases should be established in peri urban and rural areas. These centres should have a minimum of thirty beds. This should be set up mainly in areas where home isolation is not possible.
The Rapid Antigen Test kits should be made available in all public health facilities. This includes primary health centres and health and wellness centres as well.
The COVID Care Centres shall admit suspect or confirmed case. However, it should have separate areas for confirmed and suspected cases.
Besides urban areas, a large number of cases have increased in tribal areas, rural areas and peri urban areas. Thus, the ministry has released “SOP on COVID-19 Containment and Management in Peri-Urban, Rural and Tribal Areas”.
Standard Operating Procedure
An active surveillance should be done for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections and Influenza like illness. This should be done periodically by ASHA with the help of Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee.
Symptomatic cases shall be treated at village level by tele-consultation with the Community Health Officer (CHO). However, cases with low oxygen saturation should be sent to higher centres.
The CHO and the ANMs should be trained to perform Rapid Antigen Tests.
Contact tracing should be done according to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme Guidelines.
Each village should have adequate number of thermometers and pulse oximeters.
The COVID Care Centre shall be set up in marriage halls, schools, panchayat buildings.
The COVID Care Centres should be mapped with one or more dedicated COVID Health Care Centres.
Every year, the World AIDS Vaccine Day is celebrated on May 18. The day is also called the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Vaccine Awareness Day. This year, in 2021, the World AIDS Vaccine Day is celebrated under the following theme:
About World AIDS Vaccine Day
The day is commemorated to honour thousands of volunteers, health professional, community leaders and scientists who workers together to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) vaccine.
Why is AIDS Vaccine Day celebrated on May 18?
The concept of AIDS Vaccine was rooted by the then US President Bill Clinton in his speech at the Morgan State University on May 18, 1997.
Currently there are no licensed HIV vaccine in the market. However, medical treatments exist. Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is recommended to control HIV infection. However, HAART must be taken life long. HIV virus mainly attacks the immune system of human body.
World AIDS Day
The World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 every year.
Organisations involved in AIDS Vaccine
HIV Vaccine Trials Network: A Non-Profit Organisation that connects physicians and scientists to conduct clinical trials of HIV Vaccine
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative: Non-Profit Organisation. Works to accelerate development of HIV vaccine.
South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative: Established by the South African Government
HIV in India
The total number of HIV patients in India as of 2017 is 21.4 lakhs. However, the number of HIV cases have been declining in India. Between 1995 and 2017, the number of HIV cases in India declined by 85%.