10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guyana
Guyana is a country in northeastern South America that Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname border. In 1966, the country gained independence from its English colonizers. Since the liberation of Guyana, the country has found itself in political unrest that has resulted in an inability to thrive economically. As the country has grown and developed as an independent entity since 1966, it has seen a drastic improvement in life expectancy through government initiatives and treatment development. The 10 facts about the current life expectancy in Guyana will display that.

Though Guyana boasts rich gold, sugar, bauxite, shrimp, timber and rice industries – with great potential for expansion – the country still finds itself struggling to come out of poverty and attract foreign industry. However, in May 2019, the Guyanese government paired up with the U.N. Environment to tackle establishing the Green State Development Plan. The plan would work to develop sustainable economic growth in the country while still protecting its vast natural resources. The project would also work to diversify the Guyanese economy and steer them away from their current resource-reliant industry. Guyana would slowly transition into being a low-carbon developer bolstering a diverse economy, draw foreign investment, lower emigration rates and produce an ever-bettering quality of life for its people. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Guyana.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guyana

  1. Between 1997 and 2017 there has been a 13.47 percent increase in Guyana’s population. Population distribution in 1990 showed a consistent pyramidic tapering with zero to four having the greatest representation in the population. Afterward, there was a fairly consistent tapering off as age grew with the only seemingly notable inconsistency being with children five to nine-years-old. However, the shape became irregular in 2015, possibly due to a massive Chikungunya outbreak in 2015. In the age categories of zero to nine and 25 to 39, there were massive drops in population density.
  2. Sanitation is key in preventing many of the diseases that plague Guyana. In 2014, the Ministry of Public Health developed a plan to take action to improve the coverage and quality of waste management predominantly in rural areas. The plan started in 2015 and will end in 2025. It should improve the health and lifespan of many citizens.
  3. In 2015, Guyana became one of only 28 countries worldwide to adopt a national suicide prevention plan. The Ministry of Health issued the program after the World Health Organization called on it in 2014 for having one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Guyana has an average of 44.2 suicides per 100,000 deaths, four times the global average.
  4. Between 2005 and 2008, the leading causes of infant mortality in Guyana were respiratory disorders (31 percent) and congenital malformations (9.7 percent). For the respective years of 2005 and 2008, the infant mortality rates were 34.20 per 1,000 births in 2005 and 31.80 per 1,000 births in 2008. As of 2017, the reported rate has dropped to 26 per 1,000 births. Though still higher than the average in developed countries – the U.S. has an average of 5.5 per 1,000 births (2015)– there is a noted improvement in the country.
  5. From 2002 to 2014, the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women in Guyana dropped to 1.9 percent from 3.5 percent – a 1.6 percent drop. This drop is because of an AIDS protocol that a collective effort from UNAIDS and the National AIDS Committee of Guyana put in place. HIV/AIDS positive mothers take antiretrovirals which is a prescription drug that suppresses the growth of the virus and lowers the likelihood of the infected passing along the disease. After birth, within 48 hours, infants receive a course of antiretrovirals. Afterward, children receive tests at six and 18 months to look for the infection. No one has documented the number of children this protocol has saved, but early detection of the virus is key not only to the individuals’ survival if they do become infected with HIV, but also to lower the spread of the virus.
  6. Fifty-five percent of Guyanese people emigrate from the country. This leaves the country with a deficit of skilled workers like health care professionals. This lack of health care professionals augments the effects of diseases on the Guyanese people, as they cannot receive care if there is no one to give it to them. This lack of a staffed health care industry leads to lowering life expectancy.
  7. Due to the terrain of Guyana, there is great disparity in the delivery of health services from those who live on the more accessible coast to the predominantly indigenous peoples who live in the interior of the country. To help fight this disparity in 1991, the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) set up to help support and lobby in favor of creating more protections for the indigenous peoples of Guyana.
  8. Guyana’s resource reliant industries, gold and timber, require many of the coastal inhabitants to travel to the interior of the country to work. However, because of this migration, there has become a link with the spread of malaria. Guyana is 60 percent rainforest, and those forests mostly concentrate inland where a majority of indigenous people dwell. As coastal workers come into the inland to work, they may bring malaria. However, those coming into work have the resources to return to where they came from and receive treatment more readily. The indigenous people cannot receive care because of an inability to travel to the coast, as well as the difficulty there is in bringing treatment inland to them.
  9. In 2015, more than 200 people died of AIDS in Guyana. The country ranks as number 30 globally in adult HIV/AIDS prevalence. HIV is an incurable disease that will progress to AIDS and death without the treatment of antiretrovirals.
  10. In September 2016, Guyana started receiving funding from the U.S. government for efforts into Zika infection prevention and reducing the spread of the virus. With the funding, Guyana established The Maternal and Child Survival Program and worked to expand the capabilities of the Ministry of Public Health to provide therapies to affected children and their parents.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Guyana show that although Guyana is still struggling with disease control and various disease’s effects on life expectancy, it is taking great initiatives to work towards improving and solving its current issues.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

DREAMS Fights Against AIDS
Today, approximately 36.9 million people are living with HIV globally and 25 percent of that number do not even know their status. Of those millions, HIV infects about 1,000 young girls and women each day and accounts for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS continues to be at the forefront of global public health issues in the world today and appears to be most prevalent in low and middle-income countries. However, the organization DREAMS fights against AIDS and initiatives like the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is helping it accomplish its goals.

What is PEPFAR?

PEPFAR emerged in 2003 and has received strong support ever since, resulting in the United States becoming a global leader in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and PEPFAR being a model for development programs around the world. PEPFAR has helped transform the response to HIV/AIDS by working with over 50 countries, as well as causing a significant decline in new HIV diagnoses among young girls and women through the DREAMS partnership.

The DREAMS Partnership

DREAMS is a public-private partnership between PEPFAR, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare to implement an ambitious HIV/AIDS reduction program. This initiative launched in 2014 on World AIDS Day and targets 10 African countries in which 65 percent have extremely high HIV rates, especially among young girls and women. This movement aims to support affected women, as well as prevent any further spreading of HIV/AIDS. It has resulted in the integration of DREAMS activities into the plans of the involved countries.

The DREAMS Impact

The DREAMS organization fights against AIDS in 10 countries including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These countries’ populations account for more than half of all new HIV infections that occurred in young girls and women globally in 2015.

DREAMS’ plan consists of multiple solutions surrounding the main problem of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. It delivers a package that combines evidence-based approaches addressing structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase the risk of HIV in girls, such as poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence and a lack of education. More specifically, this comprehensive package of interventions has four focus groups including educating girls and young women through a range of activities to prevent their risk of HIV and violence, targeting men and boys within the community for treatments, strengthening families through social protection programs and the implementation of parenting programs related to adolescent HIV risk and shifting norms to mobilize communities and change to prevent violence and the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Currently, 80 percent of young girls and women ranging from 15 to 24 years old and living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of 2016, new HIV incident recordings in young girls and women decreased by 25 percent in the hardest-hit countries and further reduced by 40 percent by the end of 2017.

The DREAMS Innovation Challenge

While DREAMS has made significant progress since its formation, HIV/AIDS is still infecting an alarming number of young girls and women every day. Fifty-five organizations won the DREAMS Innovation Challenge and are now implementing solutions in six main focus areas such as strengthening leadership and capacity of community-based organizations (such as nonprofit or grassroots organizations) to support the expansion of intervention, ensuring girls’ access and smooth transition into secondary school, creating new methods to engage men in HIV testing and counseling and treatments, supporting pre-exposure interventions, providing employment opportunities to young women to decrease their risk of exposure to HIV and increasing the availability and use of data to inform, increasing impact and further producing innovative solutions.

Selected solutions resulting from this challenge were those that introduced new innovations in the 10 countries where DREAMS fights against AIDS. It also offers sustainable, long-lasting solutions and countries can implement them rapidly within two years. More than 60 percent of the challenge winners are small, community-based organizations that not only received funding but also became new PEPFAR partners.

Continuing on its innovative path to preventing and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, PEPFAR recently announced its investment of nearly $2 billion to empower and support women and girls, with it channeling nearly $200 million through the DREAMS partnership. This will allow more girls to avoid contracting HIV at birth, keep more adolescents HIV free and support vulnerable women and children while treating HIV positive women. Additionally, the partnership has recently grown to provide more than $800 million to 15 African and Caribbean countries since its founding in 2015. PEPFAR has helped 2.4 million babies to be born HIV free from HIV-positive mothers and has saved about 17 million lives through its efforts as DREAMS fights against AIDS. Thankfully, this organization shows no sign of slowing down in the fight against HIV/AIDS for young girls and women around the world.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in IndiaIndia has the third largest epidemic of AIDS in the world, as 2.1 million of its residents are currently affected. Fortunately, efforts to reduce this number have largely been effective as new infections declined by 27 percent between 2010 and 2017. The groups with the highest reported rates of infection are truckers, female sex workers, homosexual men and injecting drug users. Most projects that have been launched aim to target these populations. India’s Condom Social Marketing Program focuses on making condoms accessible in high risk areas such as truck stops and remote areas.

Groups such as Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha and India’s National AIDS Control Organization have successfully worked with female sex workers. Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha reported that 100 percent of the sex workers in their areas of work attended their free, voluntary HIV testing services, and in 2015 the National AIDS Control Organization had reached 77.4 percent of sex workers with their HIV prevention activities. Historical data shows that organizations like this have had a huge impact reducing AIDS in India. In 2017, new infection cases and AIDS-related deaths increased, by 8,000 and 7,000 respectively. Listed below are three issues that need to be addressed in order to decrease the prevalence of AIDS in India.

Stigma and Discrimination

Many of the populations affected by AIDS already face prejudice and discrimination both legally and socially. Once these groups are known to be affected by AIDs, the surrounding stigma increases. Previous discrimination also means many of these people do not have access to healthcare. For example, although sex work is technically legal in India, brothels are not. This serves as justification for hostile and often abusive treatment of sex workers by police. A 2011 study indicated a correlation between this abuse and increased rate of HIV transmission. Similar challenges are faced by women who are not sex workers but are still often treated as second class citizens because of their gender.

Educating the Young

Looking to the health of future generations, young people must receive education about AIDS and know how to avoid infection. In 2017 only 22 percent of young women between the ages of 15-24 and only 32 percent of young men knew how to prevent AIDS. Fortunately, the Adolescent Education Program and Red Ribbon Clubs are working with schools to improve their sex education curriculum and incorporate lessons on AIDS prevention. Additionally, UNICEF launched a program to provide sex education to children who are not in school.

Reaching the “Dark Areas”

One way that people learn about AIDS prevention methods is through popular media. For example, the National AIDS Control Organization works to increase awareness and condom use by launching radio, social media and television programs. Some rural villages in India that have high infection rates are also considered “dark areas,” because they lack access to these types of mainstream media services. One suggested approach to this issue is to send folk troops door to door in those areas with a rehearsed, entertaining message about AIDS prevention.

The progress to combat AIDS in India throughout the past decade has been impressive. However, considering the recent increase in infection, there is no reason to sit back and relax. Previously established organizations should continue their work and prioritize ending discrimination, bettering education and infiltrating rural areas. Making these changes will not only decrease the prevalence of AIDS, but also improve overall quality of life for people in India.

– Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Tanzania

Despite tremendous scientific advances in the last thirty years to combat HIV, around 40 million people are still living with the virus. Over 70 percent of those with HIV worldwide live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Different countries have responded to the crisis with a variety of policies to prevent the virus from spreading and help those who already have it. Tanzania has been particularly successful in its efforts to mitigate HIV/AIDS, with an overall prevalence rate half that of Sub-Saharan Africa’s average. However, despite its many victories, there are still many barriers at work preventing these policies from eliminating the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania.

Government Efforts

The government of Tanzania has introduced numerous policies to fight HIV/AIDS. For example, they have dramatically increased the number of locations where people can receive testing and counseling. Additionally, they are promoting public education campaigns to ensure people know where they can go to get tested.

Policies have been introduced to expand access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission is now built into prenatal care across Tanzania. The Ministry of Health has distributed over 100 million condoms in an effort to prevent transmission of HIV. Furthermore, the government began a cash-transfer program in 2016. The program gives out small amounts of money to young people as long as they remained free of STIs to encourage safe sex habits among adolescents. Tanzania was also the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to implement a needle-exchange program to minimize the number of infections caused by sharing needles.

Positive Effects

The results of these policies regarding HIV/AIDS in Tanzania are clear. For instance, HIV incidence has been in steady decline since 1994. Also, AIDS-related deaths in Tanzania decreased by over 70 percent between 2005 and 2017. Nearly 93 percent of Tanzanians of all ages who know they have HIV are receiving ART. Additionally, 90 percent of people know where they can go to get tested and 84 percent of pregnant women who are HIV-positive are receiving treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality

Overall, Tanzania paints itself as a huge success story in combating HIV/AIDS. However, gender inequality still poses a challenge to overcoming the disease entirely. Young girls routinely have sex with much older men who have had multiple previous sexual partners. As a result, they become more vulnerable to contract HIV.

The rate of HIV among women and girls is nearly three times that of men and boys. Furthermore, women usually do not have the social standing to negotiate safe sex practices with their partners. Other vulnerable populations also experience higher rates of HIV prevalence. For example, those who inject drugs and migrant populations. Stigma against those living with HIV also prevents policies from being maximally effective. This is because people are afraid of being socially ostracized for being tested and receiving treatment.

Work Still to be Done

For the battle against HIV/AIDS in Tanzania to be won, the country must work to remove the social stigma barring people from receiving the necessary treatment. It must also protect its most vulnerable populations, especially women and girls. Nonetheless, Tanzania’s forward-thinking policies have been very effective in decreasing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS-related deaths, and Tanzania continues to lead the fight to defeat the virus once and for all.

– Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health care in CambodiaThe Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is currently experiencing its worst in maternal mortality rates. In Cambodia, maternal-related complications are the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 46. The Minister of Health has created several partnerships with organizations such as USAID to help strengthen its healthcare system. Here are five facts about women’s health care in Cambodia.

Top 5 Facts About Women’s Health Care in Cambodia

  1. Health Care Professionals and Midwives
    USAID has provided a helping hand when it comes to educating healthcare professionals and midwives. Since USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health, USAID has helped raise the percentage of deliveries assisted by skilled professionals from 32 percent to 71 percent. The Ministry of Health was also able to implement the Health Sector Strategic Plan to improve reproductive and women’s maternal health in Cambodia.
  2. Health Care Facilities
    Between 2009 and 2015, the number of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) facilities increased from 25 to 37. With more access and an increase in healthcare facilities, 80 percent of Cambodian women are giving birth in health care facilities.
  3. Postpartum Care
    The Royal Government of Cambodia renewed the Emergency Obstetric & Newborn Care (EmONC) Improvement Plan and extended the Fast Track Initiative Roadmap for Reducing Maternal and Newborn Mortality to 2020. This aims to improve women’s health care in Cambodia to improve the lives of women living with postpartum depression. It is also used to improve newborn care and deliveries.
  4. Obstetric Care
    Obstetric care has improved rapidly. According to a 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 90 percent of mothers receive obstetric care two days after giving birth, and three-quarters of women receive care three hours after. Intensive obstetric care has helped drop Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate significantly. In 2014, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rates decreased from 472 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  5. U.N. Women
    U.N. Women is working closely to help address the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. The organization’s efforts to reduce the epidemic focus on protection and prevention. In 2003, 3 percent of Cambodian women reported being tested for AIDS. It has also been observed women in urban areas are more likely to get tested than those in rural areas. Ultimately, Cambodia has set a goal to eradicate AIDS from the country by 2020 through prevention and protection.

Cambodia has seen much economic growth over the years, but the money provided for health care is minimal. Consequently, it is difficult for the government to provide all services. However, there have been great strides in improving women’s healthcare in Cambodia. By fighting to better the lives of women, the Cambodian government has set a goal to establish universal health care by 2030.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Flickr

Jamaica’s AIDS Crisis
Jamaica’s first reported case of AIDS was in 1982. Since then, there has been an epidemic that is finally coming to a slow halt. The main factors in Jamaica’s AIDS crisis are lack of health care and information, stigma towards people with HIV and areas in poverty.

5 Facts about Jamaica’s AIDS Crisis

  1. The Eve for Life NGO fights for women and children with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. Its main focuses include child intervention, counseling and mentorship. Founded in 2008, Eve of Life began due to a lack of support for women and children infected with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. The NGO assisted thousands of abuse survivors who are victims of sexual assault.
  2. In 2018, 40,000 people were living with HIV. HIV prevalence was 1.9 percent among adults between the ages of 15 and 49. Additionally, in Jamaica, 1,500 people died from AIDS-related illnesses. There has been a 15 percent decrease in deaths since 2010. Websites, such as unaids.org, help raise awareness to people in the efforts of fighting the disease. By 2020, 90 percent of infected people will know their HIV status, access treatment and suppress viral loads.
  3. The Jamaican government has addressed the AIDS crisis since 1988 when it established the National AIDs Committee (NAC). The organization provides education, counseling, legal and ethical advice and fundraising. The NAC operates under Jamaica’s Ministry of Health to coordinate the government’s response to the epidemic. It also works with donors and research teams to gain information on preventatives.
  4. As of 2018, 37.5 percent of the people infected in Jamaica were women. New AIDS cases are more common among males than females. Men are less likely to seek out treatment due to stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS. This is especially prevalent in Jamaica, where same-sex contact is illegal. Others often view people with HIV as dirty and those suffering from HIV may face judgment in all facets of life, including work and socially.
  5. Jamaica lowered the mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS from over 10 percent in 2006 to 2.4 percent in 2011. This is still higher than the target, 2 percent, but the decrease in cases is due to women having more access to antiretroviral therapy. In 2014, only 1.4 percent of infants born to mothers with HIV contracted the disease. If this progress continues the elimination of mother-to-child transmission is possible by 2030.

Jamaica is on the right course toward stopping the AIDS epidemic. With increased access to education, antiretroviral therapy and health care the spread of the disease has slowed. More people than ever are aware of their HIV status and receiving treatment. If this continues, Jamaica is well on its way to an AIDS-free generation.

Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

 

Life Expectancy Rate in South Africa
The life expectancy rate in South Africa was one of the lowest in the world due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country. The prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the country has been one of the most significant causes of low life expectancy in South Africa. However, with more and more cases being treated and new resources becoming available to help to prevent the disease, it may be possible to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

The Effect of HIV/AIDS in South Africa

South Africa has a population of 56.5 million people, which is an increase of about 900,000 since last year. In 2006, Women had a life expectancy of about 54.7 years of age and men at about 52.3 years, which made the countries average life expectancy 53.5 years of age. Currently, the life expectancy in South Africa is up 10.5 years to 64.

Today, South Africa has estimated that 13 out of 100 people or  7.06 million people in the country are HIV positive. Although, cases of HIV in people ages 18 to 24 has been decreasing. The rates have dropped by 3.3 percent from 2002 to 2017 from 7.3 percent to 4.6 percent.

Preventing the Spread of HIV/AIDS to Babies

By the year 2000, the rate of newborn babies born with the HIV virus was about 80,000 children a year. The antiretroviral drug nevirapine was offered to the government to treat at least half of those children for free. However, the government declined it and, instead, introduced a therapy that would prevent mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT). Unfortunately, the treatment was delayed for about a year and not offered everywhere. As a result, most mothers were denied access to the treatment.

The infant mortality rate for children under the age of five in 2002 was close to 71 per 1,000 children; however, the Treatment Action Campaign took legal action and won against The Minister of Health to make PMTCT available to all mothers in hospitals within South Africa.

The Importance of HIV/AIDS Testing

Testing for HIV/AIDS in South Africa is the primary way of fighting the infection. The world largest effort to test for HIV was conducted in 2010. About 44 million people in South Africa have been tested for the infection, with about 10 million are tested every year. A fixed-dose combination of antiretroviral medication was introduced in 2013, which made adhering to treatment easier. In 2016, The Department of Health began to distribute treatment to anyone diagnosed with HIV.

HIV thrives in places with poor living conditions and places that do not have the tools to practice safe sex. In late June of 2016, South Africa introduced a campaign that would aim to help girls and young women to avoid being exposed to HIV—such as safe sex education and fighting the use of drugs and alcohol. They also have come up with a program to discourage sexual violence in boys and men.

HIV has been one of the main contributors to low life expectancy in South Africa; however, the life expectancy rate is showing improvements as programs aimed at treating and reducing HIV/AIDS in South Africa become more readily available.

David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“We all deserve a quality life with HIV and without it,” declared Russian activist Maria Godlevskaya at the International AIDS Conference. Godlevskaya is a loving mother and dedicated peer counselor who has been living with HIV for 18 years. Advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV mean that the number of new HIV infections is decreasing globally. Only two regions lag behind; in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new cases of HIV are on the rise.

The State of the AIDS Crisis

To combat the global epidemic, UNAIDS has issued “90-90-90 targets” to be reached globally by 2020. The goal is that of all of the people living with HIV, 90 percent should be aware of their status. Of these people, 90 percent should receive treatment. And of those receiving treatment, 90 percent should achieve viral suppression.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia are currently the furthest from reaching this goal. In these regions, 73 percent of people infected with HIV are aware of their status, 36 percent of those people are receiving treatment and 26 percent have achieved viral suppression.

There is no indication that the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has even reached its peak. There is, however, hope. By understanding the key populations affected by the epidemic and funding prevention, testing and treatment methods, transmission can be slowed and even stopped altogether.

Advances Against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Currently, only about three percent of HIV/AIDS funding in the region is targeted toward key vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use intravenous drugs. The stigma against these populations often makes them invisible to the government and to the healthcare system.

About one-third of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are in people who use intravenous drugs. Fortunately, strategies to reduce the risk of spreading the disease have been helping. Needle-syringe programs are an example of effective harm reduction strategies. They distribute free, sterile needles to drug users.

Additionally, opioid substitution therapy allows drug users to stay away from needle use. The therapy provides methadone, which is taken orally and eases drug withdrawal symptoms. Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine have significantly ramped up such harm-reduction programs; as a result, they have seen a decrease in HIV infections among people using intravenous drugs.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV  has accounted for only one percent of all incidences in 2017. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that mother-to-child transmission was stopped altogether in Armenia and Belarus.

In the fight against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Saint Petersburg has become a model city. As a result of increased funding for prevention initiatives and harm-reduction programs for drug users, the number of new HIV infections has decreased. On a national level, however, the Russian Federation has neglected to fund effective prevention and treatment services.

Grassroots Nonprofits Helping Their Communities

When the government turns a blind eye, ordinary people step up. Maria Godlevskaya founded E.V.A, a nonprofit that advocates for women affected by HIV. From providing peer counseling to helping women communicate with medical officials, E.V.A gives marginalized women hope. The organization is about building bridges from woman to woman and from this network of women to their government.

The fight against HIV/AIDS knows no gender, no race and no age. Adolescents are coming together to fight HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Across the region, 80 adolescents are part of a nonprofit called Teenergizer. They visit local HIV clinics and record any roadblocks to testing they experience. The teenagers then use this information to create an interactive map of testing and treatment facilities for other youth in their region. Teenergizer reduces stigma and empowers youth to take their health into their own hands: as a result of the initiative, nearly two thousand adolescents from Eastern Europe and Central Asia have been tested for HIV.

The crisis of AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been bleak, and the future is uncertain. But, the leadership of several countries, nonprofit organizations and dedicated citizens has the potential to crush social stigmas and the associated legislative obstacles to funding prevention and treatment. Armen Agadjanov of Teenergizer affirms that a brighter future is on the horizon. “I’m convinced that the future is in the hands of adolescents—they are the people who will change and build a new world.”

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDS: Efforts to End HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa
UNAIDS is the international movement working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide by 2030, which aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Its fight against HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa has seen encouraging results.

In 2016, UNAIDS created the 90-90-90 targets for 2020, aiming to have 90 percent of all people with HIV know they are HIV positive, 90 percent of those who know their status receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently and 90 percent of those receiving treatment show viral suppression (having no symptoms of HIV/AIDS).

HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa a Main Target of UNAIDS

East and Southern Africa is the region of the world most impacted by HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS estimates that 19.4 million people in that region have HIV/AIDS. However, since the creation of the 90-90-90 targets and the subsequent implementation of more rigorous prevention and treatment programs, tremendous progress has been made towards curbing the transmission of and deaths from HIV/AIDS.

These statistics show how East and Southern Africa are faring in each of the 90-90-90 categories:

  1. Knowing Status
    According to a UNAIDS Special Analysis from 2017, in 2016, 14.7 million of an estimated 19.4 million people with HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa knew their status. That is 76 percent, up from 72 percent the previous year.
  2. Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy
    Seven million people with HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa are on ART. This means that 60 percent of all people with HIV (up from 53 percent in 2015)—or 79 percent of those who know their status—are receiving treatment.
  3. Showing Viral Suppression
    Seven million people on ART in this region show suppressed viral loads. Thus, 50 percent of people with HIV in East and Southern Africa (up from 45 percent in 2015)—which is equivalent to 83 percent of those receiving ART—show viral suppression.

Both the infection rate and death rate from HIV/AIDS are improving. Infection rates peaked between 1995 and 1998, when UNAIDS estimates that 1.7 million people in East and Southern Africa were newly infected each year. The decline began in 1990 and has continued. In 2016, UNAIDS estimated that 790,000 people contracted HIV/AIDS, down from 850,000 a year before.

Deaths from HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa peaked about a decade later than infection rates did, with approximately one million people dying annually between 2004 and 2006. In 2010, 720,000 people died from HIV/AIDS. By 2016, that number had dropped by nearly 50 percent to 420,000 deaths. As UNAIDS notes, it is extraordinary to see a death rate cut nearly in half in just six years.

Much of this recent success must be attributed to the work of UNAIDS, which is working to make testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS available to everyone. Its programs specifically target young women, pregnant mothers-to-be and males who, because of the stigma around HIV/AIDS, are often the least likely to receive proper treatment.

Multi-Pronged Efforts Reach Most Vulnerable Populations

Efforts aimed at young females including getting comprehensive sex education into all primary and secondary schools in East and Southern Africa, encouraging girls to stay in school (and away from dangerous sex work), and providing easily accessible female and reproductive healthcare.

UNAIDS is also helping to equip maternity clinics with what they need to ensure that all pregnant women will be aware of their HIV status and are able to get the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy.

Along with working to end the stigma around HIV/AIDS and providing accessible places to receive testing and treatment, UNAIDS aims to distribute 30 male condoms to every man living in the region each year. It also offers voluntary male circumcision programs, which can help prevent female to male HIV transmission.

East and Southern Africa may be the region most affected by HIV/AIDS, but UNAIDS is doing tremendous work towards achieving its 90-90-90 goals by 2020 and its goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. Continuing to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and making testing and treatment increasingly available will ensure that these successes continue.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr