The global AIDS epidemic continues to threaten women’s health. There has been significant worldwide progress in combating this outbreak, as evidenced by a U.N. report showing a 33 percent global reduction in newly diagnosed HIV infections from 2001 to 2012. However, development has been disproportionate for women, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

As the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV and AIDS reports, adolescent girls accounted for 64 percent of new HIV infections among youth globally in 2013. In addition, sub-Saharan Africa houses 80 percent of young women with HIV worldwide. Those aged 15 to 24 are nearly twice as likely to contract AIDS compared to their male counterparts.

Such statistics have a number of causes. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV if they have experienced physical or sexual abuse, especially through relationships that involve extramarital sex or little-to-no contraceptive use. Social norms, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, also impose barriers, as men have more dominance over women in relationships.

Lack of education, specifically sex education, also plays a role in women’s disproportionate diagnosis of HIV. A report by the U.N. demonstrated that out of 32 countries, “Women who had some level of secondary education were five times more likely than non-literate women to have knowledge of HIV.”

The probable leading cause of the AIDS epidemic affecting women comes from a lack of health services. Those who have insufficient access to HIV and reproductive health care treatments and support, are less likely to monitor their health and thereby reduce infection. This is the case in many African regions. Laws also introduce obstacles; for example, in 2014, nine countries reported regulations that inhibit girls from obtaining HIV-related services.

Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, confirms: “This epidemic, unfortunately, remains an epidemic of women.” Fortunately, however, a number of organizations have made motions to counter the problem, beginning with UNAIDS itself. In 2015, it introduced a global initiative of reducing HIV infections to about half a million per year by 2020. This plan involves reducing new infections among women by a factor of 75 percent.

As the Human Rights Watch notes, such can be accomplished through legal reform, the implementation of health awareness programs, mandatory education measures and assistance from international NGOs. In order to combat the AIDS epidemic and its effect on women, serious action must continue worldwide.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Red iPhone 7
Recently, Apple released a special edition of its iPhone 7 in collaboration with Product Red, a licensed brand owned by (RED). The red iPhone 7 fights AIDS, as each purchase contributes to the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS programs and contributes to the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

The device’s bold finish was created in recognition of more than 10 years of partnership between Apple and (RED). “Since we began working with (RED) 10 years ago, our customers have made a significant impact in fighting the spread of AIDS through the purchase of our products, from the original iPod nano Product Red Special Edition all the way to today’s lineup of Beats products and accessories for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Made available to order online worldwide and in stores March 24, the red iPhone 7 fights AIDS through its ties with the Global Fund. Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership organization between governments, civil society and the private sector to the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics. Apple is the world’s largest corporate donor to the Global Fund and has contributed more than $130 million through its partnership with (RED). The distribution of the Product Red iPhone achieves a global reach of the world’s most loved smartphone, while providing access to life-saving medication in disadvantaged countries, allowing customers the unique opportunity to make a difference through a single purchase.

The various (RED) HIV/AIDS programs are centered mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than two-thirds of the world’s HIV-positive population. Since (RED)’s launch, it has generated $465 million to support the Global Fund and impacted 90 million people through HIV/AIDS grants in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia. One hundred percent of all money raised by (RED) goes directly to Global Fund HIV/AIDS grants that provide testing, counseling, treatment, and prevention programs with a specific focus on eliminating transmission of the virus from mothers to their babies.

While the latest release of the familiar Apple product might seem like yet another technological addition, the greater cause behind it is certainly worth significant attention. The red iPhone 7 fights AIDS by delivering tangible forms of aid and treatment for individuals affected, emphasizing how even a pocket-sized object can have an immense impact on those in need.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

 Diseases in the Bahamas
The top diseases in the Bahamas are hypertensive disease, ischemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. These diseases account for the high mortality rates in the country and affect the overall health of Bahamians.

  1. Hypertension was the leading cause of death for Bahamians in 2011 resulting in 215 deaths, which is a decrease in the number of deaths from 2008, which stood at 993. Hypertension preventative measures have been implemented in the Bahamas and a national campaign was launched in 2013 promoting good habits for controlling blood pressure.
  2. Ischemic heart diseases or coronary heart disease has been considered one of the top diseases in the Bahamas and resulted in 180 deaths in 2011. The country’s department of statistics has reported that more than 24 percent of all deaths in the Bahamas are directly related to heart disease.
  3. Cerebrovascular diseases accounted for 130 deaths and have been another of the top diseases in the Bahamas, especially among women. Cerebrovascular diseases are considered more life-threatening even though hypertensive diseases are the number one cause of death.
  4. HIV/AIDS has been prevalent in the Bahamas and ranks fifth on the list of top diseases in the Bahamas with a mortality of 121 deaths, according to a 2011 report by the Bahamas government. This is considered an epidemic, and there is currently no cure. The Bahamas, along with its AIDS Secretariat, is working vigorously to promote preventative measures and proper health measures for those living with this disease. Recently, the Linkages Project in conjunction with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun the groundwork of linking across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV project. This project is aimed at accelerating the ability of partner governments, key population-led civil society organizations and private-sector providers to plan, deliver and optimize comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services to reduce HIV transmission among key populations and help those living with the disease to live longer.
  5. Diabetes, another top disease in the Bahamas, affects 34,900 Bahamians and can lead to death, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The mortality of this disease in 2011 was 86 deaths per year. Diabetes can lead to other complications and result in similar symptoms to the other top diseases in the Bahamas.

These diseases all have a major impact on the health of the Bahamian people, and health providers continue to promote healthy lifestyles and to lobby for affordable, all-inclusive national health plans to combat their impact.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

 Gala Benefits AIDSOne of New York’s most prominent events in support of AIDS research is the annual amFAR Gala, which will take place this year on Feb. 8. Included in the star-studded guest list are Donatella Versace, Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen, Heidi Klum and Lady Gaga. Lena Dunham, popularly known for her role in the HBO drama series, Girls, will host the event.

Since the American Foundation for AIDS Research’s first event in 1998, the annual amFAR Gala has collected more than $17 million in donations. With tickets starting at $1,750 and ending at $75,000, the black-tie event will include cocktails, dinner, a live auction and a special performance by Ellie Goulding. The gala serves to highlight the progress made in HIV/AIDS awareness and research. The event honors and recognizes those that have joined the fight against HIV/AIDS by donating.

Globally, 36.7 million people are affected by HIV/AIDS — 1.8 million of those being children who have most commonly inherited the disease during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. A majority of those infected live in poverty-stricken countries in the Asia-Pacific region and sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population and has the highest rate of HIV infection. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 25.6 million people living with HIV.

Because of advancements in AIDS research funding by organizations such as amFAR, 18.2 million people infected with the disease are able to receive treatment. AmFAR’s funding has led to the implementation of numerous programs worldwide that are used to both encourage and distribute treatment. Specifically, amFAR has been a source of international support through various programs. These programs include the TREAT program in Asia which focuses on building clinics and educations centers that provide treatment and prevention education. Nepal has received amFAR’s assistance through the creation of educational programs for HIV. Studies carried out by amFAR in Kenya have further revealed modes of disease transmission.

Since its founding in 1985, amFAR has invested more than $450 million toward AIDS research, which has led to the creation of numerous programs and developments in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It is because of these advancements that the celebrity community can come together at New York’s 18th annual amFAR Gala this February to honor the progress accomplished by contributing individuals.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Product (RED)
Since its discovery in 1981, 35 million people have died from AIDS or AIDS-related diseases. The early years of the disease presented challenges for the medical community. However, as more people learned about the disease, another challenge emerged: how to best educate the public about the dangers of the disease without creating a stigma. This challenge still persists today.

The worldwide impact of AIDS is prolific. In 2015, 36.7 million people were living with HIV. Every day approximately 5,753 people contract HIV — about 240 every hour. In 2015, 1.1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 78 million people have contracted HIV and 35 million have died of AIDS-related causes.

In 2006, Bono, lead singer of the Irish band U2, and Bobby Shriver, an activist and attorney, created Product (RED) to advocate for better awareness of AIDS. The two men believed that if they combined the efforts of NGOs, governments, the medical community, global business brands and celebrities, they could create a powerful force to foster understanding of the disease. The influential allies also provided funding for research to eradicate the disease.

Product (RED) business partnerships include Apple, Gap, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola. By creating products specifically for Product (RED), the partnership allows consumers to use purchasing power to fund AIDS treatment and awareness around the globe. (RED) partners contribute a portion of their (RED) product profits to fight AIDS, and up to 50 percent of the profits go directly to fighting AIDS.

Over the past decade, Product (RED) raised $365 million to support the Global Fund. Product (RED) has become a global brand; the combination of awareness and research is powerful. The money raised by Product (RED) provides life-saving medicine for those living with AIDS in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.

When Product (RED) began, only 2.1 million people had access to medication. Through their efforts, the organization raised money to fund medication for more than 18 million people. They have also increased the access to medication; in rural areas of Africa, filling a prescription is not easily accomplished. However, Product (RED) and its partnership with the Global Fund help create a pathway for the medication, by making sure the medicine reaches the people that need it most, the system is more efficient and life-saving.

AIDS is a worldwide epidemic, but the decade of Product (RED) illustrates the power of the combination of global alliances and knowledgeable consumers as a force for change.

Jennifer Graham

Photo: Flickr

PEPFAR Progresses Toward AIDS-Free Generation
December 1 marked World AIDS Day, which this year brought hopeful news about the 35-year-old epidemic. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) shared new data demonstrating significant progress in HIV reduction in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The announcement revitalized PEPFAR’s resolve to yield an AIDS-free generation by 2030.

In the press release, three countries represented the progress-at-large toward AIDS eradication due to the astonishing prevalence of the disease there. Respectively, Zimbabwe globally ranks fifth in most HIV cases among adults, followed by Zambia at seventh and Malawi at ninth.

Even so, reductions of the disease in these nations is appreciable. The incidence of HIV in adults since 2003 have decreased by 76 percent in Malawi, 51 percent in Zambia, and 67 percent in Zimbabwe. Across the three countries, the community viral load suppression among HIV-positive adults averages 65 percent, indicating HIV transmission is nearly under control. These shocking results are inspiring broader action and reinvigorating the AIDS-free dream.

Surpassing President Obama’s 2015 targets of global AIDS reduction, PEPFAR now provides about 11.5 million people with antiretroviral treatments, has performed 11.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions, and has facilitated 2 million HIV-free births.

The momentum is gaining. Along with their World AIDS Day press release, PEPFAR announced their $4 million, two-year partnership with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). The project will enhance HIV service delivery to men in the Mulanje District of Malawi through mobile clinics and door-to-door household level testing. According to the project’s success, it will serve as a community-based-treatment model for other areas that are difficult to service, improving health care opportunities for hard-to-reach places around the world.

While there is still a long road ahead, PEPFAR’s announcements last week served as reminders that an AIDS-free world is not only possible but well within sight. Now is the time to redouble global efforts to prevent and treat HIV so that a new generation can live completely AIDS-free.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

AIDS Today: Where Has the Aid Gone for AIDS?
How dangerous is AIDS today?

While many wealthy nations have found ways to manage HIV, neither it nor AIDS had yet been eradicated.

Since the epidemic began in 1981, over 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus, and upward of 35 million have succumbed to AIDS.

In 2015 alone, 1.1 million people died of AIDS or of an AIDS-related illness. Sub-Saharan Africa houses a majority of the AIDS infected population. One in every 25 adults is infected with the disease.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 70 percent of the worldwide infected population, while the other 30 percent are dispersed primarily throughout Western and Central Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Despite these substantial numbers, investments in HIV prevention research have decreased. Many donors were met with a slew of competing funding demands. Others no longer see the retrovirus as posing a current threat. Much of the world views HIV and AIDS as medical relics — diseases of a time long gone. Yet every day nearly 5,753 people are infected with HIV. That is about 240 people every hour.

HIV is transmitted from person-to-person through unprotected sexual intercourse, transmission of contaminated blood and from mother to child during birth or through breastfeeding. There is no cure for HIV, but the virus can be treated to almost a complete halt with antiretroviral therapy.

However, marginalized groups of people are not granted access to this therapy. As of December 2015, more than 60 percent of people living with HIV did not have access to antiretroviral therapy.

For the first time since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, scientists believe we are in reach of an entirely AIDS-free generation. Since 2000, the United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund estimates that about 30 million new infections have been averted, eight million lives have been saved and 15 million people who would not otherwise have access are now receiving treatment.

The International AIDS Conference is a biennial meeting held for people working in fields actively related to the prevention of HIV. This year, nearly 18,000 delegates and 1,000 journalists showed up. Many of those in attendance were policymakers, people living with the disease and others committed to putting a stop to the epidemic. This year’s theme was “Access Equity Right Now.” It focused primarily on the ways in which the world can refocus global efforts on HIV/AIDS today and hopefully making treatment readily available to everyone.

But why should we stop there? With access to birth control and prenatal care, better sex education and sterile medical equipment, it is conceivable that we could live in a world that is entirely HIV-free — a world where AIDS really is history.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

Annie Lennox _ The Globa
Activist and world-renowned musician, Annie Lennox, has become a powerful and influential voice for those suffering from malaria, HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis. Her dedication to the cause became even clearer at a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting in London where she spoke out in favor of the Global Fund and their efforts to reduce and treat disease in impoverished areas.

This is but one of the many ways in which Annie Lennox involves herself in issues of global poverty and disease. In the past, she has fundraised for the Treatment Action Campaign by donating the funds raised from her single, Sing. She is also a recipient of the British Red Cross’ Services to Humanity Award.

At the APPG meeting, she continued her charity work, by vocally supporting the Global Fund and their many initiatives. The Global Fund is a financing institution with the goal of providing support to countries suffering from diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The organization has set a $13 billion funding target for the 2017-2019 period. This money will go toward saving eight million people and stopping 300 million new infections across the span of three years. In order to reach this goal, donor nations will have to increase their offerings by 20 percent. Multiple nations such as Japan and Canada have agreed to this increase. However, the U.K.’s contribution is crucial to reaching this goal.

In her keynote speech, Annie Lennox urged British members of parliament to invest further in the Global Fund and increase their disease-fighting efforts. She said: “With the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund, the U.K. government has the opportunity to show that their continued leadership and dedication to saving and improving quality of life has not waned.”

Award-winning actress Emma Thompson supported the call for the U.K. to step up their funding. Other notable speakers, such as The ONE Campaign’s U.K. Director, Saira O’Mallie, spoke on the same subject. O’Mallie addressed the pertinent issue through her statement, “Amid the uncertainty over the U.K.’s position in the world following Brexit, the Government’s continued commitment to the Global Fund will offer reassurance to millions of vulnerable people.”

The Global Fund does wonders to improve health across the globe, and should be supported across all countries in addition to the U.K.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

Public Health Challenge: Combating the Top Diseases in Estonia
A member of the European Union since 2004, Estonia is among the wealthiest nations in the Baltic region. Likewise, the country has a modern health system that can reasonably support its population of 1.3 million.

Almost all Estonians are covered by health insurance, and the greatest menaces to public health, like heart disease and cancer, are characteristic of a developed country.

Nonetheless, more than one in five Estonians lives below the poverty line and are especially at risk for certain health problems that are prevalent in the country. Here are some of the top diseases in Estonia and what is being done to combat them.

HIV/AIDS

While the death toll from AIDS is dwarfed by that of heart disease and cancer in Estonia, the country has the highest prevalence of HIV in all of Europe. Around 1.3 percent of the population carries HIV, comparable to rates in Sierra Leone or Mali.

The first case of HIV was diagnosed in 1988, and the rate of incidence remained minuscule until the turn of the century. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease exploded in 2000, mostly among drug users.

Since then, the incidence rate has declined, but still more cases are reported each year. Epidemiologists have found that heterosexual transmission has increased in recent years, adding to the more than 9 thousand Estonians who have been infected.

Estonia has seriously grappled with HIV/AIDS for decades. All treatment for HIV-positive patients is free, and education about the disease is standard in Estonian classrooms. Some trends have epidemiologists in the country hopeful: according to UN AIDS, both safe sex practices and HIV testing are on the rise among Estonians.

Tuberculosis

Like AIDS, tuberculosis is not one of the major killers in Estonia, but the disease poses complex challenges for the country’s health system. Estonia has one of the highest multi-drug resistant tuberculosis burdens in the world. In many ways, tuberculosis in the country is tied to the issue of HIV: the prevalence of TB/HIV co-infection in Estonia is one of the highest in Europe at 15 percent.

Beyond people who suffer from AIDS, tuberculosis also particularly threatens Estonians who use intravenous drugs or drink heavily — a population that reports from WHO suggest could be large.

The rate of tuberculosis incidence is decreasing, indicating that Estonia is winning its battle against the disease. But according to WHO, as the incidence decreases, new challenges will arise. As the issue shrinks in magnitude, political and financial commitment may also dwindle — something that Estonia’s government must avoid if the disease is to be defeated in the country.

Obesity

There is still controversy over whether obesity is actually a “disease,” but reports and data on public health in Estonia have outlined it as a clear issue. Sources disagree, but 2014 research from the University of Tartu found that as many as one in three Estonians are clinically obese (a body mass index of over 30).

Obesity can greatly increase the risk of a myriad of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Heart disease and stroke accounted for nearly half of all deaths in Estonia in 2012 (48 percent), so many physicians believe the issue should be taken seriously as one of the top diseases in Estonia.

The issue may be correlated to modernization. WHO estimates that nearly half of Estonian adults are insufficiently active, while salt intake is growing.

Obesity is not an easy issue to tackle, but growing scholarship and research on obesity has helped Estonia assess its magnitude and effects. In recent years the government has implemented some policies to promote consumer awareness and healthy eating habits in schools.

Estonia faces unique but surmountable public health challenges. The government likely has the means to solve such issues, and the nation, therefore, serves as a good example of how funding is not the only weapon fights like these; there must be political attention, commitment and patience. Coming years will tell the extent Estonia’s diligence in the realm of health, and likely provide valuable lessons for nations facing similar issues.

Charlie Tomb

Photo: Flickr

International AIDS ConferenceThe International AIDS Society (IAS) hosted the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa from July 18 to July 22. The conference discussed the various improvements in HIV/AIDS science as well as challenges the medical community needs to address.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Access Equity Rights Now.” The event was designed to tackle inequalities in access to medical treatment, including barriers such as poverty, gender, race and location.

South Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. According to UNAIDS, anywhere between 6.7 and 7.4 million people live with HIV in the country. Yet, more than 60 percent of those infected are not on antiretroviral treatment.

The previous International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia called for the Victorian State government to repeal a law discriminatory to the HIV-positive population. Additionally, the 2012 conference in Washington, D.C. led to the government removing the country’s travel ban on individuals with HIV.

The equity rights movement within the 2016 conference is a push toward equality for marginalized communities affected by the virus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), two-thirds of new HIV infections occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Men who have sex with men, drug users and sex workers are among the various groups that are at a higher risk of infection. Even women face higher chances of transmission and greater barriers to treatment.

The International AIDS Conference brings together health professionals to improve the state of HIV/AIDS detection and treatment around the world. While there is still a long way to go in the struggle against this virus, statistics over recent years show promise.

The WHO reports a 35 percent decrease in new HIV cases in addition to a 28 percent decrease in deaths due to AIDS since 2000. With the majority of HIV cases in low and middle-income countries, the support of the international community is crucial to saving lives.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr