Healthcare in South Africa
With a population of 57.78 million people and with approximately 49.2% of the adult population living below the poverty line, AIDS and healthcare in South Africa are two of the country’s main issues. In particular, the unequal distribution of healthcare resources has worsened the country’s fight against HIV and AIDS. During recent years, South Africa has begun to take steps toward change. Here are five facts about the AIDS and healthcare crisis in South Africa.

5 Facts About AIDS and Healthcare in South Africa

  1. Systems of Healthcare in South Africa: South Africa’s healthcare system is severely divided between the public and private sectors. The public sector (the healthcare provided by government funding) covers about 84% of the population. In South Africa, 70% of doctors work in the private sector, as people who can afford private healthcare tend to pay better, and private doctors have access to better resources. Furthermore, per capita expenditure in the private sector, or the cost per person, was about $1,400 in 2014, while per capita expenditure in the public sector was about $140. For comparison, the United States’ per capita healthcare expenditure is about $11,200.
  2. Rural vs. Urban Communities: As in many countries, there is significant inequality in access to healthcare between rural and urban communities. In South Africa, people living in rural areas tend to rely on public healthcare. Unfortunately, there is an inadequate number of trained healthcare professionals in the public sector. A study conducted in 2002 revealed that urban areas of South Africa were more likely to have higher percentages of HIV infections. However, as a result of the inequality of healthcare, people in rural South Africa were two times less likely to receive testing for HIV or AIDs.
  3. AIDS Epidemic: In South Africa, 7.7 million people live with AIDS, the highest case rate in the world. About 20% of the world’s HIV cases are in South Africa, and within the country, about 60% of women have HIV. Even in areas in which testing is available, many choose not to partake, as they are afraid of receiving a positive result. A lack of resources, including education for young people and proper training for healthcare workers, has created issues surrounding awareness of the disease, proper diagnosis and access to PrEP. This drug reduces the possibility of infection by 99%.
  4. ART Program AID: In 2003, South Africa rolled out the largest Antiretroviral Treatment plan (ART) in the world. Offered through the public sector, ART serves as the primary HIV intervention for both children and adults. An important aspect of its implementation was affordability, as only 13.7% of South Africans have medical insurance. With the help of CDC South Africa, government facilities and mission hospitals, more people were able to access and benefit from the program.
  5. The Good News: ART has proved to be successful, as adult HIV deaths peaked in 2006, with 231,000 deaths, and then decreased dramatically. In 2014 there were 95,000 deaths, which was a reduction of 74.7%. In total, from the very beginning of the program in 2003 to 2014, the ART program reduced HIV adult deaths by an estimated 1.72 million, a clear positive trend. Most recently, in 2018, 71,000 people died from AIDs-related illness, which was a 50% decrease from 2010. Furthermore, 62% of people with HIV had access to treatment. 87% of pregnant women with AIDs also received antiretroviral medication, preventing 53,000 HIV infections in newborn babies. These statistics are all improvements from previous years.

While there is still work to be done to improve AIDS and healthcare in South Africa, much progress has been made. Increased funding and support for new programs and access to antiretroviral medication have had a significant impact. Moving forward, it is essential that these programs expand their efforts to further reduce deaths caused by HIV and AIDS.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

benjamin mkapaThe world was deeply saddened on July 23, 2020, when former President of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa passed away at the age of 81. Mkapa, the third president of the United Republic of Tanzania, served as the country’s leader from 1995 to 2005. He was deeply involved with social issues in Tanzania before, during and after his term. Mkapa leaves behind positive impacts in economic reforms, unifying African countries and fighting HIV/AIDS.

 Economic Reforms in Tanzania

When Benjamin Mkapa first entered office in 1995, Tanzania was struggling economically. Sky-high inflation rates augmented by low growth rates put Tanzanians in a difficult situation. However, Mkapa’s strict monetary and financial policies completely turned around the economic outlook of Tanzania. In 1994, Tanzania’s GDP growth rate was an abysmal 1.57%. By the end of Mkapa’s term, though, the GDP growth rate soared to 7.48%. A similar story exists for Tanzania’s inflation rate: in 1994, it was 37.9%, but by 2005, the inflation rate had dropped to 4.36%.

Importantly, Mkapa worked to open the country up to foreign investment. This put Tanzania on the world stage and allowed for an increase in capital for the country to develop and grow. Another of Mkapa’s signature goals was to reduce corruption within the political system. He gained the nickname “Mr. Clean” for his policies aimed at curbing corruption, such as stricter tax collection. These policies resulted in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank canceling Tanzania’s debt.

Unifying Southern African Countries

Former President Benjamin Mkapa always had a vision beyond his own country. He understood that Tanzania’s neighbors faced very similar problems to those he had helped solve during his tenure as president. As such, he had a commitment to the African people and their problems, regardless of their country.

Under Mkapa’s watch, Tanzania played a key role in the liberation of other southern African countries. It was difficult to unite the various self-rule movements from each of the countries, but Mkapa worked religiously to help his neighbors. Mkapa assisted in peace mediation processes for many nearby countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. One of his final endeavors was attempting to mediate peace in Burundi, which is still an ongoing issue. Finally, Mkapa was the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for one year, from 2003-2004. The SADC is an organization whose goal is to facilitate socioeconomic cooperation among southern African countries.

The Fight Against HIV/AIDS

 Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa quickly responded to the HIV epidemic while he was in office. He declared HIV to be a national disaster in 1999 and established the Tanzania Commission for AIDS. Mkapa’s quick and decisive response was important in limiting the number of lives affected by the disease.

Mkapa also created TAPAC, the Tanzania Parliamentarians AIDS Coalition. This organization was instrumental in drafting and enforcing legislation about HIV that increased funding for AIDS research and projects. In addition, it helped vulnerable people affected by the disease.

Even after Benjamin Mkapa left office, he stayed on the forefront of AIDS research and response. He helped found the organization Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation, which brings together important African leaders in the fight against AIDS. His work undoubtedly helped countless people deal with and avoid AIDS.

Mkapa’s work with economic reform, African unity and HIV/AIDS all helped to improve the lives of countless citizens in Tanzania as well as southern Africa as a whole. He wholeheartedly believed in the power of the younger generation to make change for a better future. His legacy will surely not be forgotten, as his work lives on today.

– Evan Kuo
Photo: Wikimedia

Women Are Disproportionately Affected by HIV

Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 make up approximately 9.8% of sub-Saharan Africa’s total population, but they account for 20% of the region’s confirmed cases of HIV. While part of the reason why HIV affects women the most is due to basic biology and the fact that women are more likely to contract HIV, it also has to do with economic, cultural and legal factors present in sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty and the Spread of HIV

The good news is that poverty is declining globally. The bad news is that extreme poverty is becoming ever more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where experts believe that 90% of impoverished people will live by 2030. A struggling economy warrants little room for government expenditures on healthcare and education, so not only are many poor people in sub-Saharan Africa not able to access affordable methods of HIV prevention and treatment, but they also do not receive substantial education on how to prevent its spread. Specifically, in this region, 70% of young women have not learned about the risks, treatments and preventions of HIV.

Without promising futures, it is not uncommon for young women to resort to transactional sex or early marriage for support. Both customs are associated with less condom use, sexual violence and multiple partners. Both transactional sex and child marriage often result in a significant age gap between partners. Evidence shows that HIV in men becomes more prevalent with age, so higher age gaps cause HIV to affect young women.

Cultural and Political Barriers

Gender norms that accompany older man/younger woman relationships also add how HIV disproportionately affects women. In order to feel masculine, men tend to assert their dominance by having many partners, refusing to get tested for sexually transmitted infections and not wearing a condom during sex. These practices reinforce ideals that perpetuate sexual health as a woman’s responsibility and are some of the reasons for why HIV affects women so significantly.

Culturally, there is much stigma surrounding premarital sex, having multiple partners and being a woman with HIV. There are many reports of unsupportive healthcare professionals, denial of service and miscommunication about results concerning HIV status. Coupled with the fear of horror stories of forced sterilization, forced abortions and forced virginity examinations, there are high barriers discouraging women from accessing the care they need.

Restrictive policies also make it difficult for young women to access information about their sexual health. In a study that received results from 110 countries, over half of the responding African countries required parental or spousal consent for women under 18 to receive HIV testing. Although these laws may be to protect children, it actually prevents young women from accessing sexual and reproductive medical care. For places that do offer HIV services, many are exclusively for married women with children, so most young women do not fit the criteria to obtain testing. Additionally, nearly half of the responding African countries reported having age restrictions for buying condoms.

Action Plan

The statistics look grim, but the World Health Organization’s five-year plan to reduce the number of HIV infections and deaths is in full swing. Its goals include increasing testing, eliminating discriminatory laws and creating larger global access to testing for sexually transmitted infections.

The plan includes five specific tactics the WHO intends to use, which cover assessing the situation, deciding which services to provide, how to provide these services, financing the efforts and implementing structural change. In the end, the WHO aims to end the AIDS epidemic by prioritizing preventative measures like wearing condoms and education about injection safety, allocate more resources towards ending gender-based violence and discrimination, introducing a harm-reduction intervention package and much more.

If WHO carries out this plan correctly, it will reach hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are young women residing in sub-Saharan Africa. It should also equitably deliver HIV services to those who are most in need.

– Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Hunger in AfricaSub-Saharan Africa is the region in the world that hunger affects the most. In fact, 319 million people experienced undernourishment in 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in four suffers from hunger, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 28 countries in Africa are dependent on food aid. Sub-Saharan Africa is a hotbed of chronic hunger largely due to its extreme poverty. However, poverty not only causes widespread hunger in Africa, but it also creates poverty. Malnutrition depletes nations of strength and productivity, effectively keeping the entire nation trapped in poverty. Africa will not escape poverty until it escapes hunger.

Chronic Hunger

Chronic hunger in Africa occurs when the daily energy intake is below what is necessary for a healthy and active life. The word “chronic” implies that it occurs for an extended period of time. While the current state of hunger in Africa may seem bleak, Africa has made progress. Malnutrition has declined by 4% between 2000 and 2014 due to economic growth and smart policies. However, malnutrition still remains a large issue in certain populations.

Hunger in Children

Children are most at risk for hunger in Africa and the hunger crisis particularly impacts them due to the fact that the first 1,000 days of a person’s life are critical in regards to nutrition. When a child does not receive proper food in the first 1,000 days, they can suffer physical and mental developmental delays, disorders, inability to fight disease and high infant mortality rates. Bill Gates noted his experience in African nations where people asked him to guess a child’s age based on their height. Children who Gates thought were 7 or 8 years old were in reality 12 or 13. This is due to the stunting that 28 million children in Africa experience. Malnutrition leads to stunting that not only impacts children’s height but also brain development. Stunted children are more likely to fall behind in school, miss critical reading and math milestones and go on to live a life in poverty.

Multiple Factors

Hunger in Africa is a complex crisis with many root causes. SOS Children’s Villages outlines some key causes of widespread hunger in Africa.

  1. The population continues to increase in sub-Saharan Africa and food production cannot keep up.
  2. Unfair trading structures lead to the European Union (E.U.) and the U.S. subsidizing domestic agriculture, resulting in farmers being unable to compete with cheap food imports.
  3. The high level of debt that characterizes many African nations, combined with poor governance and corruption, impede economic development. This consequently perpetuates mass poverty and hunger.
  4. The disease profile of Africa including AIDS and malaria creates an obstacle to individuals digesting their food properly. It also inhibits the productivity of the labor force leading to food scarcity.
  5. Conflict in Africa breeds economic instability, unproductivity and a growing refugee crisis.

However, the hunger crisis in Africa is not only complex due to its causes, but also because other issues largely interconnect with it and amplify it. For example, climate change creates weather patterns such as droughts that cause food insecurity. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are all examples of nations facing successive crop failures and poor harvest due to drought, with Southern Africa experiencing its lowest rainfall since 1981.

A lack of access to clean water and sanitation leads to increased rates of disease that create another obstacle to nutrition. Poor health care infrastructure in Africa amplifies the obstacle of disease to malnutrition. A lack of health care stops children from getting vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine that would lead to children having fewer bouts of diarrhea. Furthermore, health care can provide individuals with supplements and vitamins to make up for key gaps in their diets, as the nutrition strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows.

Organizations Working to Aid Africa

The complexity of the hunger crisis makes it incredibly difficult to combat. Fundamentally, Africa needs more research and funding. Bill and Melinda Gates are two people who have done tremendous work in Africa, donating over $600,000 to their Alliance to End Hunger Program. Through his work, Gates recognizes the complexity of hunger and notes that if he had one wish, it would be for the world to better understand malnutrition and how to solve it.

However, the continent is making progress to reduce widespread hunger in Africa. For example, organizations such as the SOS Children’s Villages provide family strengthening programs that give short and long term aid including food, access to medical care, school supplies and support with financial and household management. SOS Children’s Villages also provides emergency relief for the hunger crisis and famine to countries including Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Malawi. SOS Children’s Villages is currently active in 46 African countries, providing aid to 147 villages that would otherwise be in acute danger of malnutrition or starvation. Programs such as these need to not only continue but also to experience amplification via increased funding and research.

– Lily Jones
Photo: Pixabay

HIV in South AfricaFollowing apartheid, South Africa became the focal point of the AIDS epidemic. Despite the rapid rise of HIV in South Africa, the governmental response was slow. During the 1980s, people often assumed that the virus spread because of the behaviors of injection drug users and gay men. However, the spread of the disease in Africa looked incredibly different since more than half of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa were women.

HIV and AIDS in South Africa

When HIV and AIDS started having a widespread impact on South African society and communities, President Thabo Mbeki followed the arguments of Peter Duesberg. Duesberg believed that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS. This was opposed to Western medical approaches to solve the epidemic. Moreover, Tshabalala-Msimang, the Health Minister, advocated for nutritional solutions in 2003.

Other countries tried to help President Mbeki but were unsuccessful in persuading him. Civil society groups raised grave concerns over the need for urgent action. One of the most prominent groups to raise concerns and to have the greatest impact in the region was the Treatment Action Campaign.

The Treatment Action Campaign

Zackie Achmat, along with fellow 10 activists, founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 1998. Achmat was a gay rights activist living with HIV. TAC was a tripartite alliance between the AIDS Law Project and COSATU. It was formed as a response to HIV in South Africa. The organization was needed because of the lack of urgency that the government and the medical industry had in responding to the virus. 

TAC is a rights-based organization focused on getting those in need access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. TAC is technical and political in its arguments as it utilizes justifications for actions through moral, scientific and economic reasoning. Also, TAC develops partnerships with activist groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP. It aids in training on ‘treatment literacy’ and initiated a more extensive peer education network. In addition, TAC formed partnerships between elites, academics, professionals and press. However, it ultimately served to strengthen the effort for the poor to advocate for themselves. TAC uses its sources for social mobilization, advocacy, legal action and education.

TAC Fight Against HIV in South Africa

TAC’s first action was to argue for the right to access medical resources, namely antiretrovirals (ARVs). The organization found an inherent fault with the World Trade Organization’s 1995 TRIPS agreement, which legally protected intellectual property and patents.

In 1998, TAC demanded that the South African government introduced a program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). The social movement around advocacy for PMTCT was primarily made up of predominantly poor black women living with HIV. The issue was framed as a moral issue. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was profiteering off the sale of the drug. As a result, TAC demanded a price reduction and framed it as a moral issue regarding the South African constitution. The organization succeeded in its demand for legal action.

TAC’s Success

The essential tools for TAC’s success were its use of legal resources and advocacy. TAC made legal demands of the South African government. It also collaborated with progressive lawyers, scientists and researchers to develop plans and alternative policy proposals. TAC went beyond merely advocating for the poor and based policy on the entitlement of rights. The organization has taken successful litigation measures on many occasions. The past successful cases were supported by the efforts of lawyers and TAC’s actions, which involved marches, media campaigns, legal education and social mobilization.

This was possible due to advocacy and partnerships that TAC formed and developed. The structures in which it functioned also made it possible. Article 27 of the South African Constitution took effect in 1997. It includes the right to access medical services, reproductive healthcare and emergency medical treatment.

A key component that made TAC successful was the context in which it was based. The actions of TAC would not be possible without the tools it employed that were already in place within South African infrastructure and ideology. Additionally, TAC focused on the issues of the affected people. This included economic inequity, women’s rights, post-apartheid race relations and the necessity of medication access. The Treatment Action Campaign met immediate and long-term demands for people affected with HIV by addressing inherent human rights issues. TAC was mostly successful in its response to HIV in South Africa because it mobilized the personal into the political.

Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

Uganda has been noted as an African country that is on the rise out of poverty. This is partly due to foreign assistance coming from countries like the United States. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has carried out work in Uganda excelling improvements in economy, health care, education, and the state of democracy.

Economic Growth

USAID has been engaged in Uganda’s efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. Among many other goals, Uganda and USAID are working with public and private sectors to promote investment, agriculture production, food security and efficient energy usage. US based programs like Development Credit Authority, Feed the Future Youth Leadership for Agriculture and Global Development Alliances, have assisted in Uganda’s success of lowering the poverty rate. By connecting Ugandans with businesses to market their products, USAID is helping to improve household incomes as well as stabilize the country’s gross domestic product. Investments in the future are also being made by training youths for the job market and connecting farmers, refugees, and workers with agricultural resources and trade opportunities.

State of Democracy

USAID works with the Ugandan government to bring up issues regarding transparency, human rights, and justice for citizens. USAID’s democracy program in Uganda particularly focuses on women and youths as a voice to be heard. The USAID’s overall objective of promoting civil society encompasses the opportunity for citizens to part-take in the governing process while leaders are working for the people. Improving the democracy of Uganda will help build a strong and independent country, which in turn will partake in flourishing the entire region.

Education and Training

With a high number of vulnerable children, USAID is working with the Ugandan government to implement plans providing education for young children, while focusing on teaching languages and educating on health, HIV/AIDS and violence. USAID is also striving to develop the future workforce with the Better Outcomes for Children and Youth activities, which helps youths cultivate the skills needed for success, both in work and in life. There is also new training available for teachers, with improved computer technology.

Health and HIV

USAID’s effort in addressing health care issues in Uganda includes eliminating HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), reducing tuberculosis infection rates, and eradicating malaria under the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Other health care programs include child and maternal health, family health, and disease prevention, as well as educating young women on sexual violence and HIV/AID protection. Since many diseases are spread through poor sanitation, USAID’s work in Uganda also focuses on improving water sanitation and hygiene practices.

Humanitarian Transitions

Through USAID, the U.S. is helping Uganda with emergency food supplies, health care assistance, and conflict resolution in democracy to improve the country’s status and enhance people’s quality of life. The continuing basis of humanitarian aid effort has made the U.S. the “largest single honor of humanitarian assistance in Uganda,” according to Anne Ackermann, a photojournalist with USAID.

USAID’s continuing work in Uganda, along with the positive outcomes seen by the country so far, underscores the effectiveness of overseas involvement and the power of foreign aid in general. Foreign aid will always have an important role in country development and growth.

– Hung Le

Photo: Flickr

Why HIV and AIDS in Russia is Steadily IncreasingHIV and AIDS have increased in Russia throughout the years. In fact, Russia’s failure to implement government policy, education and resources has allowed HIV/AIDs rates to increase at an unknown rate. These rates allow poverty and infection to course throughout the country. According to estimates from the World Bank, more than 10 percent of the total population will have HIV/AIDs by 2020. Also, as many as 21,000 people per month could die from infection of HIV and AIDS  in Russia. Experts anticipate that these values will continue to increase by 10 to 15 percent each year.

Efforts

The Russian government has made minimal efforts toward eradicating this epidemic. Numbers show that HIV and AIDS in Russia primarily occur among certain groups of people. In 2016, individuals who inject drugs accounted for the largest number of confirmed cases at 48.8 percent.

Further, in 2015, government reports determined that more than 38 percent of newly diagnosed cases occurred in women. These numbers pushed experts to believe that heterosexual transmission would significantly impact the heterosexual population. In fact, in 2017, researchers found that heterosexual transmission occurred in 48.7 percent of the Russian population.

Additionally, sex work is one of the leading causes of HIV and AIDS in Russia. People’s stigmas with this specific group of people inevitably cause an increased risk for those who utilize this service. Sex workers are often unable to access health care resources to decrease the likelihood of spread, thus making it challenging to eradicate HIV and AIDS in Russia.

Barriers

The marginalization of certain groups of people has led to a reduction in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS in Russia. One study showed those who are living with HIV/AIDS and are injecting drugs are unlikely to seek treatment. Only 10 percent of that specific group has sought treatment. Some experts assume that the inaccessibility of information and denial of treatment or prevention services are the primary reasons for this low percentage.

Also, women who are sex workers are particularly vulnerable. Studies have shown the unwillingness to seek treatment due to negative opinions regarding the occupation of these women.

Another obstacle is funding for HIV and AIDS education, which is very minimal if it exists at all. Financial support for HIV/AIDS programs in Russia remains a significant barrier to treatment and prevention. Dedicated support for HIV and AIDS in Russia has decreased and no programs to educate and prevent the disease have replaced it.

Solutions

In 2013, the Aids Healthcare Foundation in Russia registered with the Russian Federation to ensure the implementation of programs to contribute support financially, provide education about HIV and treat those living with HIV. Russia made further efforts in 2017; the Russian Federation committed to a 90-90-90 target by 2020. This goal aimed to diagnose, update treatment status and suppress the viral loads of 90 percent of people living with HIV.

In 2018, the Russian Federation released a progress update, showing substantial improvements from 2017. Overall, 81 percent of people living with HIV received confirmed diagnoses, 45 percent of people who knew of the diagnosis received treatment and 75 percent of people who obtained treatment experienced viral suppression.

At the 28th meeting of the Health Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ms. Veronika Skvortsova, the Russian Minister of Health stated that “We have to provide every person living with HIV with quick access to the correct treatment. The Ministry of Health plans to increase the coverage of people living with HIV who know their status on antiretroviral therapy to 75 percent by 2019, and by 2020 the figure should reach 90 percent.”

Rates of HIV and AIDS in Russia continues to raise concerns across the country. Without Russian government implementation of policy toward a movement of eradication, estimates suggest that the numbers will continue to rise.

Tiffany Hill
Photo: Wikimedia

Recognized as one of the top-selling artists in history, Sir Elton John has continued to have an enormous impact on the music industry and pop culture. However, his influence goes beyond music. Over the years, John has used his platform to raise awareness for several charitable organizations. Here is a glimpse of Elton John’s impact through his efforts with five organizations.

Elton John’s Involvement

  1. Elton John AIDS Foundation – Elton John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in the U.S. in 1992 and a separate entity in the U.K. in 1993. This organization aims to fund programs that alleviate the financial, emotional and physical pain caused by HIV/AIDS. EJAF fights to raise awareness, educate, treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. In 2018, it enabled 235,000 adolescents to receive HIV testing and connected more than 68,000 patients to treatment programs. Since 2010, the organization has reached and over 11.5 million people and has raised $125 million to support similar programs around the globe.
  2. Riders for Health – In 2008, Elton John donated 120 motorcycles to healthcare workers in Lesotho. The bikes enable doctors and nurses to reach patients in remote areas of Lesotho, where many suffer from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Lesotho has the second highest number of individuals infected by HIV, and the second highest number of cases in tuberculosis.  Additionally, almost 73 percent of patients infected with tuberculosis are simultaneously infected with HIV. John made the donation in partnership with the Lesotho Ministry of Health and Riders for Health. Founded in 1996, Riders for Health is an international nonprofit dedicated to increasing accessibility and efficiency of healthcare in Africa. The organization manages motorcycles, ambulances and other vehicles that provide healthcare to seven countries in Africa.
  3. Breast Cancer Research Foundation – Through his performances and donations, Elton John has supported the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) for over 15 years. BCRF provides essential funding to cancer research worldwide and is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the U.S. At the NYC Hot Pink Party in 2016, BCRF honored John with a research grant in his name due to his dedication to the organization. He capped off the night with a performance. This event alone raised over $6.8 million for breast cancer research.
  4. Starkey Hearing Foundation – In 2012, Elton John and spouse David Furnish joined the Starkey Hearing Foundation on a trip to Manila to help fit more than 400 children and adults with hearing aids. The Starkey Hearing Foundation is committed to raising awareness, education and protection of hearing care. The organization provides more than 100,000 hearing aids annually and has reached over 100 countries. Additionally, John has previously preformed at the So the World May Hear Awards Gala to raise funds and awareness for hearing accessibility.
  5. The Elton John Sports Fund – Elton John’s impact is also present through the Elton John Sports Fund. Rocket Sports started the Elton John Sports Fund in 2014 in partnership with SportsAid. This partnership supports young athletes by providing money to travel, to get necessary equipment and to decrease the overall financial strains of a given sport. The recipients of the Elton John Sports Fund are promising athletes who come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and sports interests.

Throughout his career, Elton John has championed numerous causes, earning him awards such as the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2017 and the BAMBI Award in 2004. John has performed at countless benefit concerts, raising awareness for organizations that range from rainforest conservation to supporting first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elton John has made a lasting impact on the world, using his star-studded platform for good.

Megan McKeough

Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS Stigma in Mexico
As of 2018, approximately 230,000 people in Mexico were living with HIV. About 75 percent of people with HIV in Mexico were aware of their status and about 70 percent were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART). While ART does not cure HIV, it is a combination of drugs that is able to suppress the virus and significantly reduce transmission rates. HIV is highly prevalent in certain populations in Mexico including sex workers (specifically in the Tijuana red light zone), prisoners, gay men and the transgender community. As a result, there is a significant HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico.

Since 2003, The Universal Access to ART Program has guaranteed access to ART in Mexico through the national health system. Additionally, this policy ensures the availability of HIV tests for individuals without social security. These governmental actions are significant steps towards reducing HIV prevalence, but 30 percent of individuals living with HIV in Mexico are still not accessing treatment. This is in part due to stigma and fear surrounding the social implications of receiving testing or treatment.

Implications of the Stigma Surrounding HIV

The social stigma around HIV and discrimination based on sexual orientation in Mexico is one of the issues that discourage many people from getting tested. Tradition and religion, especially in rural and poorer areas, are major obstacles to destigmatizing HIV. At the root of this issue are the “machismo” culture and anti-gay beliefs.

As a result of this stigma, people have associated getting tested for HIV with being gay or promiscuous. Consequently, many people are unaware of their HIV status and are not receiving treatment out of fear of discrimination. About 20 percent of patients who are undergoing treatment for HIV do not keep up with their treatment plans or their follow-ups which is also in part due to stigma and discrimination.

Mexico should prioritize the addressing of HIV/AIDS stigma. There is no point in putting resources into treatments and facilities without first ensuring that people obtaining testing or complying with their treatment plans. The quality of the treatment and health care is crucial but will not matter without patient cooperation.

Recent Progress

UNAIDS set forth the 90-90-90 goal for HIV treatment in 2015. This target mobilized efforts globally to test 90 percent of people living with HIV, to provide 90 percent of those people with HIV treatment, and to achieve viral suppression for 90 percent of those by 2020. Mexico has made significant progress towards this goal but has yet to achieve it.

Recent policies have addressed the HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico, such as the code of conduct from the ministry of health, which includes training to prevent discriminatory behavior and promote respect and patient confidentiality for HIV cases. This code of conduct aims to reduce stigma and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in health centers throughout Mexico.

A study in 2016 that examined the prevalence of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Tijuana, Mexico concluded that there is an urgent need for new testing methods. These interventions include non-stigmatizing, confidential testing for younger and less educated MSM, as well as timely referral to HIV treatment. Confidential HIV testing will not necessarily reduce stigma, but it has the potential to increase the number of people who are willing to obtain testing and have access to ARTs. In addition to these testing methods, Mexico could implement community-based HIV awareness programs that educate and destigmatize HIV to target HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico and encourage testing.

Overall, Mexico has made significant progress to decrease the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mexico. The country has been making great strides to overcome various obstacles, including socioeconomic inequality and HIV/AIDS stigma in order to increase the number of people receiving testing and treatment.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: Pixabay

Auction Raised Money to Fight AIDS
Even as the world enters a new decade, AIDS remains a serious epidemic. It is a widespread and deadly disease that mostly affects poor countries. There are many organizations that work to fight this harsh truth, including one called (RED). In December 2019, the “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction raised money to fight AIDS.

About (RED)

Bono and Bobby Shiver founded (RED) in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shiver. (RED) works to raise money to help the fight against AIDS, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. It does this by partnering with leading brands to make and sell (RED) products, identifiable by their actual red coloring, and sending all of the money to HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Every company that (RED) partners with offers a different type of red-colored product. Johnson & Johnson sells special (BAND-AID) RED bandages. Twenty cents from each sale goes to the fight against AIDS. Stella Luna sells red sneakers and chain sandals to contribute to the cause, while Vilebrequin sells T-shirts, swim trunks and beach bags. Bank of America has a web page where people can donate to (RED). Bank of America matches donations.

The Auction

The “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction took place in December 2019. It was an art auction that featured red paintings from 30 different artists. Twenty-five murals in 25 cities around the world served as advertisements for the event.

Bidding for the auction closed on December 17, 2019. Fifty percent of the proceeds from every sale went to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The sales contributed to the Global Fund reaching its goal of earning $14 billion by the end of that year. It is hoped that these proceeds will contribute to saving 16 million lives in AIDS-prone countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Impact

The “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction raised money to fight AIDS. The proceeds that it earned were the latest in a long line of accomplishments by (RED). The organization has raised more than $600 million since its founding and sent money to numerous AIDS organizations in sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to these organizations and donations, 24 million people with HIV have access to medicine.

(RED) is aware that medicine is not the sole solution to the AIDS epidemic. Its funding has also helped with other initiatives. The organization is helping condoms become available to prevent the spread of HIV. It is also aiding in the development of new medications and medical procedures to reduce the risk further. Thanks to new testing procedures, 79 percent of people with HIV now know that they have it, allowing them to receive treatment sooner and live longer. Furthermore, 82 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving antiretroviral treatment to prevent passing AIDS to their children. The organization is providing funding to make sure that adolescents receive education about AIDS and its risks.

The AIDS epidemic remains a big problem, especially for poor areas like sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 400 babies are born with HIV each day and one teenager suffers infection every three minutes. AIDS continues to kill more people than any other disease. The “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction raised money to fight AIDS, and the funds are helping to eradicate AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr