Media Watch 25/2/15

By Rowan Williams

A daily pill can effectively prevent men who have sex with men from developing HIV, a new study has shown. UK trials showed that the Truvada drug, which is already used to treat patients with HIV, cut the spread of the disease to non-infected males by 86 percent. Researchers found that despite being free to take the pills or not as they chose, participants willingly took the pills regularly. NHS England will now study the results to determine whether the drugs are cost-effective, though the study has prompted calls from campaigners for the drug to be made available on the NHS as soon as possible. Despite advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the infection rate between males through sexual intercourse remains high. Truvada has been widely available in the US since 2012. The drug costs £423 per month in the UK per patient. Some have argued that money could be saved if those at risk used condoms more frequently, while others have argued that the drug would save the NHS money as the costs of treating HIV would be avoided.

Control of Greater Manchester’s £6 billion healthcare budget is to be handed over to the region’s councils and health groups. Decisions on local healthcare spending will be handed from NHS England to local politicians, clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts. The handover of the budget should allow the merging of health and social care services, easing pressure on hospitals and improving home care services. The plans are due to come into effect in April 2016, with a shadow Greater Manchester Health and Wellbeing board to be established this April, meaning that the new board will have just one year to plan and allocate the £6 billion budget. While some local councillors have welcomed the opportunity for greater powers from Westminster, others have warned that further reform to the NHS could be dangerous.

A China to Spain cargo train has arrived back in China after its first 16,156-mile round trip, marking the first completion of the world’s longest railway route. The 82-car train on the Yixin’ou cargo line passed through China and Central Asia through to Germany and France before arriving in Spain on 14 December. The train brought a cargo of Christmas goods and stationery, and returned with olive oil. The railway, the longest in the world, is 450 miles longer than the previous record holder, the Trans-Siberian Railway. Aside from the symbolic achievements of the railway in linking China and Western Europe, it is hoped the new railway will allow more efficient exchange of goods between China and the countries along the railway line.

The Papers

Mostly a mix in the headlines today, with a few focusing on finance. The Daily Telegraph reports that the FTSE 100 hit “an all-time high” yesterday, reporting praise for Chancellor George Osborne from the head of the OECD international think tank for bringing Britain out of recession. The Financial Times reports that the United States Federal Reserve has paved the way for an interest rate rise “this year amid jobs optimism”. US interest rates currently stand at 0 percent. Fed Chief Janet Yellen has warned against “waiting too long” for a rates rise, the paper writes. The Guardian leads with news that the Prime Minister has deployed “troops” to Ukraine, in what the paper writes is an intensifying of the UK’s “standoff with Moscow” over the country. “UK military trainers” are to be dispatched, the paper reports. The Independent leads with news of a new “daily pill that protects against HIV infection”, calling the drug a “Breakthrough” in the battle against the disease. However, the paper also asks “will the NHS pay for it?” The Times reports that the Conservative Party has called for Mayor of London Boris Johnson “to rescue their campaign” for the upcoming election. The paper writes that the so-called ‘Boris Effect’ “could be crucial to victory”, with Johnson able to “reach out beyond traditional Tory voters”.

British Media on China

On the China-Spain railway: News of the Yixin’ou railway makes the top story slot on The Independent’s website today, which asks if the route is “The new Silk Road?” describing the train’s journey as a “successful 16,000-mile shopping trip”. Before the railway, “Europe and China depended on inefficient sea or air transport, meaning higher prices in Europe”, the paper writes. The paper writes of growth in the railway’s Chinese terminus, the city of Yiwu.

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