Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of health issues across the world including the mobilization of massive circumcision drives in Kenya; how Botswana, with one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, has managed to provide free, life-saving drugs to almost all who need them; and why Brazil's once model HIV/AIDS program is seen in decline.

Prior to moving into this assignment in 2012, Beaubien spent four years a NPR foreign correspondent covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. From his base in Mexico City, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, hurricanes in Haiti, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as the inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

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Shots - Health News
5:13 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

In South Africa, A Clinic Focuses On Prostitutes To Fight HIV

A prostitute in Johannesburg waits for a client on a street corner. An estimated two-thirds of sex workers in South Africa are HIV positive.
Yoav Lemmer AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 9:25 pm

South Africa has come a long way in dealing with AIDS. The country has been successful in getting drug treatment to millions of people infected with HIV.

But the country still has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world — and the virus continues to spread. Nearly 400,000 South Africans are infected with HIV each year.

One health clinic in the heart of Johannesburg is attempting to break the HIV cycle by focusing on people at extremely high risk for infection — prostitutes.

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Shots - Health News
3:55 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

After Missteps In HIV Care, South Africa Finds Its Way

A nurse takes a blood sample from Nkosi Minenhle, 15, in a mobile clinic set up to test students for HIV at Madwaleni High School in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.
Stephane de Sakutin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 4:39 pm

South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world.

Roughly 5.5 million of its 53 million citizens are infected with the virus. In some of the hardest hit parts of the country, one-third of women of childbearing age are HIV positive.

Now, after years of delay and mistakes, South Africa is transforming how it approaches the disease.

The South African government is simplifying AIDS care, cutting treatment costs and providing antiviral drugs to almost 2 million people every day.

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Shots - Health News
7:04 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Test

A red blood cell infected with malaria parasites (blue) sits next to normal cells (red).
NIAID Flickr.com

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 11:02 am

A viable, effective vaccine against malaria has long eluded scientists. Results from a preliminary study have ignited hope that a new type of vaccine could change that.

The experimental vaccine offered strong protection against malaria when given at high doses, scientists report Thursday in the journal Science.

The study was extremely small and short-term. And the candidate vaccine still has a long way to go before it could be used in the developing world.

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Parallels
3:40 am
Thu July 25, 2013

South Africans Ponder A Nation Without Mandela

A well-wisher uses his phone to take a picture of a banner of photos of Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, where the former South African president is being treated.
Ben Curtis AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:10 pm

From the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg, shack dwellers can look across a ravine to the spires of Sandton City, which houses the most lavish shopping mall in sub-Saharan Africa.

Alex, as this slum of roughly a half a million people is known, was home to Nelson Mandela when he first moved to Johannesburg in 1941.

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Shots - Health News
6:44 am
Sat July 20, 2013

Polio Eradication Suffers A Setback As Somali Outbreak Worsens

A Yemeni child receives a polio vaccine in the capital city of Sanaa. The Yemen government launched an immunization campaign last month in response to the polio outbreak in neighboring Somalia.
Mohammed Huwais AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 9:02 pm

Somalia hadn't had a case of polio for nearly six years. But in the past few months, the virus has come back. Now the East African country has the worst polio outbreak anywhere in the world.

Twenty new cases of polio were reported this week in Somalia by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. That brings the total number of cases in the Horn of Africa to 73. The rest of the world combined has tallied only 59 cases so far this year.

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Parallels
3:25 am
Thu July 18, 2013

As Nelson Mandela Turns 95, South Africa Celebrates

Supporters of Nelson Mandela rally outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, where he has been treated for more than a month. The anti-apartheid icon turned 95 on Thursday.
Jonathan Blakley NPR

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 10:39 am

While South Africa celebrates the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela on Thursday, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate remains at a Pretoria hospital, where he's been hospitalized since June 8 with a recurring lung infection.

President Jacob Zuma's office has said that Mandela is in "critical but stable" condition, though Mandela's daughter Zindzi said Wednesday that her father was making "remarkable progress" and could be released soon.

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Shots - Health News
3:15 am
Tue July 16, 2013

South Africa Weighs Starting HIV Drug Treatment Sooner

A woman waits to get AIDS drugs on April 8 at a clinic in Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa, about 55 miles north of Johannesburg. New WHO guidelines say patients should start HIV treatment much earlier, before they become extremely sick.
Stephane de Sakutin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 6:22 am

The World Health Organization has issued revised guidelines saying that people with HIV should be put on antiviral drugs far earlier than was previously recommended. The hope is that most patients would get started on treatment before they begin to get extremely sick.

It's a move that could have huge implications for African nations where millions of people are infected with HIV. In South Africa roughly 5.5 million people are living with HIV — more than any other country in the world. South Africa also has more people in treatment than anywhere else.

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Shots - Health News
5:29 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Rich With Water But Little To Drink In Tajikistan

A boy collects water at a new spigot in Shululu, Tajikistan. Before the government built a new water system, villagers were allocated half-hour time slots to collect water from a trickling tap.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 12:18 pm

The Central Asian nation of Tajikistan has huge rivers. They begin atop some of the world's highest mountains and then flow west through the country's lush, green valleys. Yet for many Tajik families, getting enough water each day is still a struggle.

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Shots - Health News
3:20 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Myths And Stigma Stoke TB Epidemic In Tajikistan

Nurse Tina Martin checks on Orion Qurbonaliev, 4, who has tuberculosis. Orion's grandmother, Kholbibi Abdulloeva, also has TB.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Tue July 2, 2013 10:51 am

Four-year-old Orion Qurbonaliev is lucky to be alive. Just last February, the little boy was lying comatose in the tuberculosis ward of a hospital in southern Tajikistan. The bacteria had spread to his spine and paralyzed the right side of his body. He was severely dehydrated and malnourished.

The staff on the government-run ward had run out of options for treating Orion. "They just left this kid to die," says Tina Martin, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders.

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Shots - Health News
2:15 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Polio Outbreak In Somalia Jeopardizes Global Eradication

Health workers vaccinate a boy against polio at a May immunization drive in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Farah Abdi Warsameh AP

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 9:22 pm

A big worry among people trying to wipe out polio is that the virus will regain a foothold, somewhere to launch a comeback — someplace, perhaps, like Somalia.

Polio has paralyzed 25 kids in Somalia and another six in a Kenyan refugee camp since early May, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported Wednesday. Before this outbreak, Somalia hadn't had a polio case in more than five years.

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Shots - Health News
3:16 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Haiti Moves A Step Closer Toward Eradicating Elephantiasis

Boys at the L'Ecole Les Freres Clement elementary school in Jacmel, Haiti, line up to take deworming pills that protect against elephantiasis.
Maggie Steber for The Washington Post Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 7:13 pm

Haiti has finally carried out a nationwide campaign to get rid of the parasitic worms that cause elephantiasis.

Haiti has waged other campaigns against the condition, characterized by severe disfiguration of the legs and arms. But until now, it has never managed to adequately reach residents of the chaotic capital Port-au-Prince.

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Shots - Health News
4:17 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Faces Of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 11:25 am

Forms of tuberculosis are emerging that are costly, difficult and at times, nearly impossible to treat. This new, worldwide threat is called multidrug-resistant TB, and it occurs when the bacteria no longer respond to the most common TB medications. Doctors have to turn, instead, to older, less effective drugs that can have devastating side effects such as hearing loss, blindness, aches and severe depression.

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Shots - Health News
6:53 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Love In The Time Of TB: A Young Family Fights An Ancient Foe

Oxana and Pavel Rucsineanu walk to the tuberculosis hospital in Balti, Moldova. Oxana and their new baby live in an apartment, but Pavel still has to stay at the TB ward, fighting for his life.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 10:33 am

Oxana and Pavel Rucsineanu fell in love under the drug-induced haze of powerful tuberculosis medications. It was the summer of 2008. They were both in their late 20s, and they should have been in the prime of their lives.

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Shots - Health News
9:08 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Saving Newborns: 'Kangaroo Care' Could Go A Long Way

A health worker weighs a Somali baby on scales at a medical clinic in Mogadishu. Babies in Somalia have the highest risk of dying within the first 24 hours after birth.
Carl de Souza AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 9:46 am

In the developing world, a baby's first day of life is often the most perilous.

Roughly 3 million newborns die each year, the nonprofit Save the Children reported Tuesday. Most of these deaths occur in the first week of life, and more than 1 million babies pass away within 24 hours of being born.

Although the report calls for some big changes in health care systems to prevent newborn deaths, it also says that some simple, inexpensive things could save many lives.

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Shots - Health News
3:00 am
Fri April 26, 2013

A $5.5 Billion Road Map To Banish Polio Forever

A health worker marks a baby's finger after giving her a polio vaccine in Moradabad, India.
Michaeleen Doucleff NPR

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 6:59 pm

Polio isn't going easily into the dustbin of history.

The world needs to push it in, throw down the lid and then keep an eye out to make sure it doesn't escape.

That's the gist of a new plan released Thursday by the World Health Organization and other foundations at a vaccine meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

It's a six-year, $5.5 billion program, and its goal is to wipe out polio for good.

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Shots - Health News
7:05 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

A New Way To Make The Most Powerful Malaria Drug

An extract of sweet wormwood has been used in China for thousands of years to treat malaria, but being able to make mass quantities of the extract has been elusive, until now.
Sarah Cuttle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 7:39 pm

Researchers in California described Wednesday their new method for mass-producing the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, the most powerful antimalarial on the market. Already, the French drugmaker Sanofi is ramping up production at a plant in Italy to manufacture the ingredient and the drug.

Global health advocates say they expect this new method of producing artemisinin will at last provide a stable supply of the drug and cut the overall cost of malaria treatment.

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Shots - Health News
11:38 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Dengue Fever Cases Have Been Seriously Underestimated

Dengue fever patients are treated in a hospital in Asuncion, Paraguay, in January.
Norberto Duarte AFP/Getty Images

A new paper in the journal Nature says scientists have been seriously underestimating the amount of dengue around the globe.

The study says there could be as many as 400 million dengue infections worldwide each year making it more prevalent than malaria. This is four times higher than the current dengue prevalence estimate of the World Health Organization.

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Shots - Health News
6:20 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

How To Get Rid Of Polio For Good? There's A $5 Billion Plan

A child is immunized against polio at the health clinic in a farming village in northern Nigeria. The procedure involves pinching two drops of the vaccine into the child's mouth. For full protection, the child needs three doses, spaced out over time.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:56 pm

Polio is on the verge of being eliminated. Last year there were just over 200 cases of polio, and they occurred in just two remote parts of the world — northern Nigeria and the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border region.

A new $5.5 billion plan being pushed by the World Health Organization strives to eliminate polio entirely, phase out vaccination campaigns and secure polio vaccine stockpiles in case the virus somehow manages to re-emerge.

If the effort is successful, polio would be just the second disease in human history, after smallpox, to be eliminated by medical science.

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Shots - Health News
10:14 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Power Shift Under Way As Middle Class Expands In Developing World

Brookings Institution

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 9:00 am

"The meek shall inherit the earth" — that seems to be the latest message from the United Nations Development Program.

Their 2013 Human Development Report chronicles the recent, rapid expansion of the middle class in the developing world. It also predicts that over the next two decades growth in the so-called "Global South" will dramatically shift economic and political power away from Europe and North America.

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Shots - Health News
3:42 am
Thu February 28, 2013

What Happened To The Aid Meant To Rebuild Haiti?

Many homes that were rebuilt after the earthquake in 2010 are even more dangerous than the original ones. This three-story home was put up after the quake but is already slated for demolition to make way for an 18-unit housing project.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon March 4, 2013 4:39 pm

After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, governments and foundations from around the world pledged more than $9 billion to help get the country back on its feet.

Only a fraction of the money ever made it. And Haiti's President Michel Martelly says the funds aren't "showing results."

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Shots - Health News
3:25 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Treating HIV Patients Protects Whole Community

HIV drugs not only can keep patients healthy but also can stop the sexual transmission of the virus. Here an HIV-positive mother picks up medications at a hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa.
Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 9:51 am

Over the past few decades, one of the most perplexing questions in global health is how to stop HIV.

There have been campaigns involving condoms, abstinence and even the circumcision of all men younger than 46. But one relatively new strategy, called treatment as prevention, is causing quite a buzz.

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Latin America
3:01 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Will 'Made In Haiti' Factories Improve Life In Haiti?

Workers prepare the foundation for a new warehouse and manufacturing facility at the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti. The park, which opened last year, is still under construction.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 3:05 am

Three years after the devastating Port-au-Prince earthquake, one of the largest international relief projects in Haiti isn't anywhere near where the quake hit. It's an industrial park on the north coast halfway between Cap-Haitien and the border with the Dominican Republic.

Aid agencies are pouring millions of dollars into the project to encourage people to move out of the overcrowded capital and create jobs. Critics, however, say the jobs don't pay enough to lift people out of poverty.

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Shots - Health News
10:47 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Attacks On Health Workers Put Fight To End Polio Under Fire

A Nigerian health commissioner Dr. Sani Malam vaccinates a child for polio during a national immunization drive in Bauchi, Nigeria, last week.
Deji Yake EPA /Landov

The global effort to eradicate polio has reached a bizarre stage: More people have been gunned down recently over the disease than actually infected with it.

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Shots - Health News
8:34 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Nigeria Moves To Clean Up Lead Pollution From Gold Mines

A boy works at an illegal gold mine in northern Nigeria. Lead from these mines has sickened thousands of children in region.
David Gilkey NPR

Finally, the Nigerian government is fulfilling its promise to help thousands of kids, who have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

After months of delay and red tape, the government has released $4 million to clean up lead in soil near illegal gold mines in northern Nigeria.

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Shots - Health News
6:01 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Quick TB Test Builds Up Arsenal Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria

A medical worker in Carletonville, South Africa, examines a sample at a mobile testing facility for tuberculosis.
Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 2, 2013 5:56 pm

The people on the front lines of tuberculosis control have their hands full, but their biggest challenge for the moment may be containing strains of the disease that are resistant to drugs.

Worldwide the number of TB cases is going down. The bad news is that the number of drug-resistant cases is going up. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of reported TB cases that were multi, extremely- or totally-drug resistant doubled between 2009 and 2011.

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