5 Nonprofit Organizations Founded By Celebrities
Movie stars, singers, athletes and comedians spend a large portion of their time entertaining people, giving interviews and writing autographs. On top of that, many celebrities participate in charity events like fundraisers or benefit concerts, some even going as far as to create their own organizations to give back to those in need. Here are some nonprofit organizations that celebrities founded to benefit the world’s most vulnerable.

Charlize Theron – The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Charlize Theron is a famous Hollywood actress and U.N. messenger of peace who cares about charity. She has especially been working hard to fight AIDS in Africa. While the disease continues to be an immense issue throughout the entire continent, it remains the most prevalent in South Africa, which is Theron’s home country. She established The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in 2007. The organization aims to raise awareness of the disease and contribute to its prevention. CTAOP especially focuses on younger people and collaborates with local programs to inform and support the youth in Africa. Furthermore, CTAOP partners with several companies and nonprofit organizations to successfully provide preventative means and guidance to South Africans.

Shakira – The Barefoot Foundation

The Barefoot Foundation is one of many nonprofit organizations that celebrities founded. Famous pop star Shakira has shown the impact nonprofit organizations can have. As such, she created the Barefoot Foundation in 1997. The organization acknowledges the importance of education and provides organizational and financial support to assure that children can go to school. In addition, the Barefoot Foundation also partners with the Pies Descalzos Foundation, an organization from Colombia that shares the same mission.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation opened its fifth Colombian school in 2009 to provide education, advice and general support in life to 1,800 students in the country. In 2010, Shakira promised that the Barefoot Foundation would build a school in Haiti and assured that the children attending the school would be able to obtain their academic and basic life needs.

Rihanna – The Clara Lionel Foundation

Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in 2012. Its name is a homage to her grandparents Clara and Lionel. The organization’s goal is to provide education and guidance to children and teenagers all over the world. The approach of Rihanna’s nonprofit organization is to tackle problems on both a local and global level. She wishes to raise awareness of several kinds of issues that the world’s youth is facing. Moreover, CLF is working closely with government organizations and companies to be more efficient and help as many people as possible. The organization has successfully established programs to provide basic education in places like Malawi, Senegal and Barbados. Furthermore, it provides a scholarship program to support students in their pursuit of higher education.

Bono – ONE and RED

ONE and RED are two nonprofit organizations that Bono created. The lead singer of the Irish band U2 has put a lot of effort into his charity work over the years. He has specifically focused on tackling important issues in Africa. ONE’s mission is to completely eradicate extreme global poverty and improve the lives of the poor. Bono’s lobbying efforts and the organization’s financial support have established programs. These programs aim to prevent the deaths of millions of people.

RED is a sister organization to ONE. It aims to spread awareness about AIDS and has successfully raised around $650 million to treat the disease in Africa. On top of that, Bono also co-founded The Rise Fund, a financial program that focuses on supporting progress for social and environmental matters.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore – Thorn

Actress Demi Moore and actor Ashton Kutcher founded Thorn together in 2012. The couple’s goal was to fight against child sex trafficking. A documentary about the issue in Cambodia motivated them to create Thorn. Thorn’s approach is to develop technologies for free and share them with law enforcement and federal agencies in order to save children. The use of technology against child sex traffickers has proven to be very successful since the organization’s establishment. Moreover, Thorn’s technologies helped identify 5,894 kids who were victims of the crime in 2017. Moreover, Thorn rescued more than 10,000 children rescued one year later.

These organizations that celebrities founded have shown vigor in countering numerous challenges from AIDS to providing child sex trafficking. The endeavors of the prominent celebrities above have led to improvements in the lives of many across the globe.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in The Dominican Republic
HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic is on the agenda of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and HIV/AIDS has been the focus of the Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections 2016-2021. The goal of the plan is to end HIV/AIDS in many regions of the Americas, including the Dominican Republic, by 2030.

From 2010 to 2019, HIV cases have reduced to 13 a year and the number of deaths has gone down by 4,000 over the years. Female sex workers are a portion of the population the epidemic affects; they accounted for 37% of new infections in 2019. Less than 30% of individuals do not know they have an infection and about one-third receive a late diagnosis. Over 200,000 were getting antiretroviral treatment in 2019.

HIV Diagnosis Decline

HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic has seen an advancement in health through more testing and the option of antiretroviral treatments. The options of PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis, have contributed to the decline of infections. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a dent in the success of the decline of HIV/AIDS.

The pandemic is changing the social landscape and interaction of people through social distancing measures. Access to medical personnel has also experienced strain because of rising and new COVID-19 infections. When comparing 2019 to the current pandemic, the diagnosis of HIV has reduced by the thousands in the Dominican Republic. According to PAHO, “Self-testing is a key strategy for reaching the U.N. goal of having 90% of people with HIV know their status.”

PrEP and PEP

PrEP and PEP are two types of antiretroviral treatments that people can use to prevent HIV transmission. Individuals can take the antiretroviral treatment PrEP before HIV infection and it is available through two brands. Meanwhile, one can take PEP after an HIV infection and must take more than one medication. The CDC suggests that individuals consult with a doctor for more information. While both treatments are important, PEP offers more because sexual assault victims can use PEP or those who had a workplace accident. Advisories state that one should take PEP within three days of a dire situation and complete treatment within a month. Both treatments are highly effective with PrEP reducing HIV transmission from sex by 90% and PEP reducing risk by 80%.

HIV Self-Testing Market

The HIV self-testing market looks promising on a global scale especially with  HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic. Globally, there is a necessity and high demand for rapid diagnosis of HIV in many regions including Latin America. Self-testing is a better alternative because one can do it privately and it is less risky because it will prevent exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic. The self-testing market will grow more between 2020 and 2025. Self-testing will experience a great impact through government investments in healthcare worldwide. The HIV self-testing kit collects samples through blood, saliva and urine. In HIV testing, blood samples provide the most accurate read. According to MarketWatch, “The self-testing market in Latin America is anticipated to reach a value of 51.24 million USD in the year 2025.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic. However, despite HIV/AIDS’ prevalence, antiretroviral treatments and opportunities to self-test should result in improvements.

– Amanda Ortiz
Photo: Flickr

3 Faith Organizations Helping HIV Orphans in Kenya
The World Bank reported that HIV/AIDS orphaned over 660,000 Kenyan children in 2019. Often having to fend for themselves, 22% of these children frequently experience hunger. Also, many orphans in Kenya exhibit signs of declining health, enroll in school at low rates and live in poverty. In response, several Christian organizations are helping Kenyan orphans receive an education, medical treatment, vocational training and wellness classes. These services allow orphans to thrive on their own once they reach adulthood. Here are three faith organizations helping HIV orphans in Kenya.

Children of God Relief Institute

The Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI) came to fruition in 1992 and works to provide services to impoverished orphans in Kenya who HIV/AIDS affects. COGRI spearheads four main projects to help orphaned Kenyans, providing services ranging from a children’s home to an internationally accredited laboratory focused on HIV/AIDS diagnosis and testing.

In the Lea Toto Project, 377 orphans received antiviral therapy (ART) and 73% of them obtained viral suppression. Only 63% of children in Kenya achieve viral suppression, which means COGRI provides quality care for its patients. Part of COGRI’S high success rate has to do with the surveillance and support patients receive. For example, COGRI monitors each child to make sure they administer their medication correctly and mentorships that orphans established helped develop self-assurance in their road to recovery.

Christian Ministries in Africa

The second faith organization helping HIV orphans in Kenya is Christian Ministries in Africa (CMIA). This ministry emerged in Nairobi in 1985 and strives to protect vulnerable African children. One of its projects, the Grace Children’s Centre, consists of four children’s homes, two of which are for healthy orphans and HIV/AIDS positive orphans.

A second project, the Nakuru GCC Boys Farm Project, offers farming classes to orphan boys. The farming courses serve several purposes, which include growing nutritious food for the boys and teaching them farming techniques. The income from surplus crops helps to fund necessities for CMIA’s Grace Children’s Centre.

Inua Partners in Hope

The Inua Partners in Hope (Inua) program came into existence in 2009 and aims to lift low-income Kenyan children out of poverty. More specifically, the program provides courses that aim to improve all aspects of a child’s life who lost one or more parents to HIV/AIDS.

Inua’s three-step program focuses on hope, life skills training and entrepreneurship. Throughout, Inua accentuates its “8 Dimensions of Wellness” for its young students:

  • Emotional: Feel comfortable discussing their sentiments with others and confront adversity in their lives.
  • Physical: Learn to become healthier with nutritious food and adequate exercise.
  • Social: Help form and sustain connections with others around them.
  • Occupational: Teach how to make a difference in the workplace and society.
  • Spiritual: Discover how to achieve tranquility and comfort.
  • Intellectual: Demonstrate how to continue learning in their everyday lives and to use their problem-solving skills.
  • Environmental: Learn to look after the environment and others around them.
  • Financial: Educate how to budget money and to become financially independent.

Inua’s program offers a variety of vocational training to older children, including hairdressing, mechanics, agribusiness, hospitality, welding and masonry. Orphans take their new skills and build businesses in their village to make a living. Additionally, these adolescents hire other struggling orphans to work in their business and teach them their newfound skills.

Looking Ahead

These three ministries are great examples of faith organizations helping HIV orphans in Kenya. Although the Kenyan government proactively attempts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, faith-based organizations stepped up to address the affected youth who struggle to make ends meet and require medical interventions. With adequate medical treatment and education, orphans in Kenya are learning how to take control of their lives and not let HIV/AIDS weigh them down.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in South Africa
South Africa has the world’s largest HIV/AIDS epidemic with 7.5 million people currently living with the virus. One of the main reasons why it has not been contained is a lack of testing. Less than 25% of the population has been tested in South Africa, where it is estimated that around 13% of people have AIDS. The lack of testing is caused by the negative stigma which still surrounds the virus, as well as the lack of access to reasonable testing and treatment methods. Now, cell phones are providing a new way for people with AIDS in South Africa to get tested and seek treatment. This is a massive step that may save millions of lives in the future.

Project Masiluleke

Project Masiluleke is an NGO providing these essential services in South Africa. It has developed multiple different steps to reduce the number of those affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. One of the main services is a program called SocialTxt which encourages people to get tested as well as refers them to medical guidance via text message. Texting is a valuable mode of communication because it is able to reach approximately 90% of the South African population. Since the implementation of this project, the number of daily calls to the National AIDS Helpline has tripled. Being able to easily access HIV/AIDS support services via cell phone has encouraged more and more people to seek help.

However, many South Africans still refuse to get tested because there is such a negative stigma around HIV/AIDS. This is a large part of why cases have continued to spread in South Africa. To help overcome this barrier, Project Masiluleke also provides users with self-testing kits. This way, people sign up for a kit via text message and then are able to take the test in total privacy. This method lets people feel more secure during the entire process and has encouraged many more people to get tested and seek treatment.

Cell-Life

Cell-Life is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa that seeks to help those affected by HIV by developing new technologies. They have developed several different texting services that send daily medication reminders. This organization also focuses on treatment literacy, which seeks to make people more aware of the resources they have to combat the virus. One of the most important things in the fight against AIDS is making sure people know they have support structures and can communicate with providers as well as other members of their community.

Moving Forward

Project Masiluleke and Cell-Life are great examples of new technologies bringing solutions to ongoing issues. NGOs taking advantage of widespread cell phone use to tackle the AIDS epidemic in South Africa are setting an example for other organizations and countries. Moving forward, these organizations and others must continue to use new technologies to increase access to resources and testing. Hopefully, with the help of cell phones, the spread of AIDS in South Africa will slow.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

India's AIDS EpidemicIndia is the most populous country on the planet and one of the most densely populated countries. With over 1.38 billion densely packed people, diseases spread quickly and HIV/AIDS is no exception. Although only 0.2% of adults have HIV/AIDS, this equates to roughly 2.4 million people, a total far higher than any other country in Asia. For this reason, many new programs have started. Although their tactics differ, each program works to fight India’s AIDS epidemic.

Causes of the Epidemic

The causes of India’s HIV Epidemic stem from multiple, diverse issues. Two primary causes include the practice of unprotected sex between sex workers and the injection of drugs using infected needles. These two practices are most common among vulnerable populations such as low-income communities. Thus, India’s AIDS epidemic is centered in select regions; although only a small percentage of the total population has HIV, this number is high in certain regions, and extra precautions are necessary for prevention in these areas.

Despite these overwhelming statistical figures, recent research has provided optimistic results. The number of HIV infections per year decreased by 57% between 2000 and 2011, and the annual deaths from AIDS decreased by 29% from 2007 to 2011. Bold government programs inspired by independent research instilled this change within the Indian population. The programs’ success stems from a variety of HIV treatments and from education, challenging the stigma and misconceptions about the disease.

Methods of Success

One of India’s renowned HIV treatment methods is the Antiretroviral Therapy program, known as ART. ART is the provision of supplements and antiviral drugs for citizens infected with HIV. In 2004, the Indian government sponsored the program, striving to place 100,000 infected Indians on the program by 2007. This program likely played a major role in the steep decline in HIV-related deaths from 2007-2011.

Noticing the success of the ART initiative, the Indian government took a further step in 2017 by initiating the World Health Organization’s Treat All policy; this policy focuses on making the ART program accessible to all disadvantaged Indians. The Treat All policy increased the number of new monthly joiners by several hundred.

Along with these programs, the Indian government has sponsored adolescent education programs centered on preventing the spread of HIV; they aim to end the negative stigma towards the disease and those infected. These programs also provide basic sex education. Studies on these programs have shown extraordinary results; samples of students understand essential facts about the disease such as how it spreads and the current lack of a cure. Although direct government intervention is vital, ending India’s AIDS epidemic starts with educating the youth.

Plans for the Future

With such a large number of people carrying the disease, managing HIV in India is no small task. Although the aforementioned methods have shown optimistic results, the involvement of local communities, governments, and NGOs is essential to maintaining the trend. When discussing diseases such as HIV, the intervention of international bodies cannot maintain the health of individual citizens; ending India’s AIDS epidemic is ultimately the responsibility of Indians, and these new programs enable them to do so.

Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr

PEPFAROne of the most effective programs in the fight against AIDS is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The program was first authorized by Congress in May 2003. It initially started as a way to help the people of Africa, where the AIDS epidemic was most concentrated. Now, PEPFAR has international and domestic programs that fight AIDS in over 50 countries.

Poverty and HIV

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is widely recognized to correlate with impoverished rural and urban areas. Poverty is not a necessary condition for contracting HIV. However, it can be related to risky sexual behaviors, such as participation in sex at a young age and prostitution. Poverty can also lead to inadequate sexual education or resources that would assist in preventing AIDS.

The underlying factors in poor areas that increase the risk of AIDS —  violence, social mobility, economic strain and access to education — need to be addressed. Tackling risk factors as a method of prevention has already proven to be largely successful in fighting AIDS internationally. Further, that approach has helped families simultaneously fight sources of intergenerational poverty.

PEPFAR

When President George W. Bush announced PEPFAR at the State of the Union, he said of the program: “seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many… And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent seven million new AIDS infections, treat at least two million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS.”

Today, PEPFAR has far exceeded its once lofty goals. The program has provided over 18 million people with HIV treatments and helpful services, like cervical screenings and education programs. To celebrate its incredible success, PEPFAR launched a new website in July 2020. It provides a timeline of scientific discoveries, legislation and social outreaches pivotal in the worldwide fight against AIDS.

Starting in 1981, the timeline explores the first known cases of AIDS in the U.S. and Africa. It moves on to facts about school education about AIDS and global programs like the World Health Organization’s Global Program on Aids (1987). A few tabs later, it relates the explosion of Congressional funding and legislation for PEPFAR and allied programs circa 2006 all the way to present day, 2020.

Additionally noted are milestones, such as PEPFAR’s 10th anniversary marking one million HIV-free babies born due to PEPFAR programs. This corresponds to the increased financial investment by the U.S., which proves the initiative’s substantial success.

Continued Efforts

PEPFAR is not satisfied with resting on its existing laurels, however. The same month PEPFAR released its celebratory website, PEPFAR also announced its latest report and upcoming budget. The new budget doubles funding for its HIV program that helps adolescent girls and young women to $400 million.

The program has so far helped over 1.5 million women and girls in only six months in 2019 and decreased HIV cases in that demographic by 25% since 2014. The new budget additionally increases PEPFAR’s cervical screening program, Go Further, by 70%. Together these effective programs are only a small piece of PEPFAR’s astonishing $85 billion total investment over the past 17 years of its existence.

Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

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
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