Device_to_Diagnose AIDS
Could a smartphone-powered device save millions from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?

Researchers at Columbia University seem to think that it can. A study showed that a small device, which is attached to the headphone jack of a smartphone, is nearly as effective as industry leading equipment in the detection of HIV and other pathogens in blood samples.

The catch? While current HIV detection equipment costs around $18,000, this new device, referred to as a ‘dongle’ costs $34 to make.

The new device to diagnose AIDS reads blood samples from a finger prick and can deliver results in 15 minutes. Researchers and developers hope the device will play a large role in the eradication of AIDS and HIV in Africa. In 2011, 70% of all deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa were reported due to complications involving AIDS and HIV.

Early detection is key to stopping the spread of the deadly virus. With such rapid response time, the device has the potential to save millions. Research shows that infected mothers who are diagnosed early and begin treatment can minimize the possibility of transmitting disease to their unborn children to less than 1%.

The research team just wrapped up clinical trials in Rwanda with extremely promising results, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given the project a large grant. Device developers hope to gain regulatory approval from the World Health Organization so that they can begin mass production of the unnamed tool.

The unobtrusive nature of the new device is another benefit playing to the human aspect of medicine. As the study report says “Patient preference for the dongle was 97% compared to laboratory based tests, with most pointing to the convenience of obtaining quick results with a single finger prick.”

The study also claims the dongle can prove to be more effective in the diagnosing of AIDS is because 55% of patients in Rwanda report a fear of intravenous needles. The device puts most of those fears to rest.

Portability in addition to cost is what sets the device apart. It uses the smartphone’s power supply and thus can be used wherever a mobile device can be. The device is also no larger than any market standard cellular phone, and hardly requires any specialized training. It could be placed in the hands of doctors, hospitals, and NGOs across the globe. Researchers are confident that with recent advances in manufacturing technology that millions of units could potentially be made for a very low cost.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Wired, Reuters, Science Translational Medicine
Photo: voanews

AIDS and TBIn an August 11th press release, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced a $41 million financial injection to Sudan to advance its response to the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) epidemic.

Sudan is an African Country in the Nile Valley of North Africa bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest.

Although recent years have seen improvements in the response to HIV/AIDS and TB, the illnesses maintain their death grip on the population.

The UNDP in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS have created two new partnership agreements totaling $41 million for the country to continue fighting the deadly diseases.

The funding is broken into two grants. The first grant worth $20.4 million will be used to manage and track the decrease in TB cases from now until 2017, as well as to commit to identifying more new cases.

By identifying more cases of TB, the disease can be better controlled and spread less. The grant will also go toward improving treatment for 90 percent of newly infected patients as well as for 75 percent of those undergoing a relapse.

The second grant amounting to $20.8 million will go toward halting the spread of HIV among communities most at risk between now and 2017. The grant will also work at keeping the HIV prevalence rate below 2.5 percent among key populations and below 0.3 percent among the general population.

The UNDP, since 2005, has been a key organization assisting Sudan with its ongoing health care challenges. It’s played an important role in decreasing the transmission and morbidity rate of HIV and TB plaguing the Sudanese.

In the past few years, the UNDP has assisted the government with containing the epidemic, increasing service coverage and strengthening the national health system.

The UNDP website reported that the number of people accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 14,000 in 2007 to more than 250,000 in 2014. In the same period, the number of health facilities providing antiretroviral treatment increased from 21 to 36.

Also, as of 2014, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased to 3,937 from only 319 back in 2007.

UNDP Sudan Country Director Mr. Selva Ramachandran was quoted in the press release to say, “UNDP’s goal is to strengthen the response at the national, state and local level by supporting the development of local expertise and backstopping program performance.

To get TB under control, the authorities are planning to provide social support to patients and develop a national campaign to fight the stigma and discrimination that severely hinders TB efforts. Regarding HIV, testing is essential to bend the curve of the epidemic and we remain committed to supporting the provision of HIV testing, counseling and treatment to those in need.”

In nations like Sudan, poverty grips the population and health care can be almost nonexistent. With the help of the UNDP and the extra funding given, the fight to help the poor in Sudan has again gained momentum, and another dent in ridding these ugly diseases has been made.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: United Nations Development Programme, The Global Fund,
Photo: Flickr

The Latest in AIDS Research from UNC Chapel Hill
There’s good news and bad news for those who suffer from AIDS in the developing world.

On July 20, researchers, public health institutions, international policy makers and numerous others gathered in Vancouver, Canada for the eighth International AIDS Society Conference. Myron Cohen of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Disease, had an interesting announcement. This announcement was the result of a huge, cross-sectional study on AIDS called HPTN 052 that he conducted on over 1,700 couples worldwide.

It wasn’t the first time that a major breakthrough had come out of Vancouver. At the same conference in 1996, AIDS research showed that it was possible to effectively treat AIDS, when contracting the disease previously would almost always lead to an early death.

First, the good news. According to Cohen, a particularly potent cocktail of AIDS medications can effectively render the disease incommunicable, as long as medicines are taken consistently. In the study, the treatment was shown to cut the risk of infection by 96 percent. This type of preventative treatment is known as antiretroviral therapy. If patients stop taking these antiretroviral drugs, the infection will reemerge.

While the study was almost entirely confined to heterosexual couples, Cohen said that, “Observational studies show it should work in men who have sex with men and we’re doing a study now looking at intravenous drug users.”

This means that if the current generation of those who suffer from AIDS can adhere to a strict regimen, they can avoid passing on the disease to successive generations. If treatment is widespread enough, this could eventually eradicate the disease.

However, there is a downside. The combination of antiretroviral drugs that can cripple the disease are quite expensive, making them all but inaccessible to the poor.

This hasn’t stopped the World Health Organization (WHO) from enthusiastically recommending that anyone who tests positive for HIV be immediately given antiretroviral treatment. WHO had previously recommended antiretroviral therapy for certain demographics, such as pregnant women and children, but has since expanded their recommendation based on the results of the study. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of WHO’s HIV/AIDS division, has noted that reaching currently untreated populations around the world would require an extra $30 billion in funding.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who funded Cohen’s study, has said that, “For a long time there was the tension between whether you should focus on preventing HIV infection or treating HIV infection, [but] HPTN 052 showed that treatment is prevention.” However, given that antiretroviral treatment is so expensive, prevention strategies such as the use of condoms should still probably remain a prominent feature of global health policies.

Fortunately, there is cause to be optimistic about the capacity of global institutions and aid contributors to address the AIDS epidemic. Michel Sidibe, executive director of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, points out that the world has reached its target of treating 15 million of the 35 million people infected with the virus worldwide by 2015. Perhaps in another 15 years, the remaining 20 million people who suffer from AIDS will have access to treatment as well.

Derek Marion

Sources: Charlotte Observer,, Nature, Ahram
Photo: Instinct Magazine

UN Report Reveals Goals Met in HIV Prevention for 2015
A UN report released on July 14 revealed that the sixth goal of the Millennium Development Goal agenda– to halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015– has been met six months ahead of schedule. According to the report, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 41 percent since the MDGs were implemented in 2000, while new HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent. The report also reveals that the international commitment to the MDGs and to ending the HIV epidemic has averted 7.8 million AIDS-related deaths and 30 million new incidents of HIV prevention.

The MDGs, which were created by the UN in partnership with the largest gathering of world leaders in history 15 years ago, consisted of a list of eight goals that countries committed to reach as part of the UN Millennium Declaration. UN reports released this year, which have analyzed the success of the MDGs, have revealed that many of the goals have been successfully met.

Efforts to achieve MDG Goal 1, to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, for example, resulted in a decline in the number of people living in extreme poverty by 130 million between 1990 and 2002. Efforts to achieve MDG 4, to reduce child mortality rates, also helped child mortality rates fall from 103 deaths per 1,000 live births a year to 88 within the same time period. The success in achieving MDG 6, however, has been particularly remarkable, especially given that in 2000, AIDS was one of the biggest killers in the world.

The results of the recent report also represents a huge success in the way that UN goals are measured; since it reveals that success in achieving MDG benchmarks can actually be quantified with real, hard data when the international community puts in a concerted effort to record progress in achieving a specific goal. The success of MDG 6 of HIV prevention is also regarded as one of the smartest investments in global health and development to be reached in recent history.

UNAIDS has also stated that the result of efforts to combat HIV and AIDS illustrates a theoretical success, since it reveals a seismic change in the way that the international community regards illnesses that have traditionally been concentrated in poor, non-Western areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

“Fifteen years ago there was a conspiracy of silence. AIDS was a disease of the “others” and treatment was for the rich and not for the poor,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We proved them wrong, and today we have 15 million people on treatment—15 million success stories.”

No longer is AIDS regarded as an irrelevant and far-off illness, but a disease that affects the international community and global world as a whole. Moreover, the international community has realized that in order to meet goals such as MDG 6, collaborative efforts need to be made not only horizontally–among and between various international organizations–but also vertically, including individuals, civil society organizations and NGOs across the world.

As the Millennium Development Goals transition into the Sustainable Development Goals this year, UN officials have argued that more aggressive steps need to be taken to continue the work achieved in slashing the AIDS epidemic and increasing HIV prevention.

“The world has delivered on halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic,” said Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “Now we must commit to ending the AIDS epidemic as part of the Sustainable Development Goals [by 2030]”.

Ana Powell

Sources: UN, UNAIDS, UN Millennium Project
Photo: UN

The Threat of a Major AIDS Resurgence
Is AIDS on the rise despite the increase in HIV treatment availability throughout the world? A recent report by the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and The Lancet, a medical journal, have called attention to the emerging risk of a major AIDS resurgence in already affected regions.

According to the study, high rates of population growth in heavily affected areas and staggering infection rates, which continue to only fall slowly, will increase the number of people who need access to life saving treatment.

Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of the report, Professor Peter Piot, stated, “We must face hard truths — if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries.”

Among the most vulnerable populations, women and girls have not reaped the same benefit from slowly falling infection rates in comparison to their male counterparts. According to U.N. News Centre, AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for Sub-Saharan woman and girls of reproductive age.

The population of HIV-positive adolescent girls reaches sevenfold that of males. Additionally, many adolescent girls become infected with HIV 5 to 7 years before men.

In a commitment to prevent new HIV infections and increase treatment among women and girls, UNAIDS and the African Union have come together in a report called “Empower young women and adolescent girls: Fast-Track the end of the AIDS epidemic in Africa”.

“As we work with our communities, our networks, our health service providers and our governments, we must commit to demanding a comprehensive focus on young women in the AIDS response,” said Rosemary Museminali, UNAIDS Representative to the African Union.

In this response lies the answer to the threat of resurgence. As the study argues, efforts to combat AIDS must be enhanced to proportionally treat those infected, improve knowledge and prevention, and provide better access to medication.

More recently, the United Nations sponsored a successful deal with Roche Diagnostics in order to reduce the price of early infant diagnostic technology by 35 percent to US$9.40. Early diagnosis of HIV is essential to accessing treatment at a vital stage since many children who go undiagnosed only live up to 2 or 5 years.

“We have to act now,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS cautions, “The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. If we don’t, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”

– Jaime Longoria

Sources: UNAIDS, UN News Centre 1, UN News Centre 2, UN News Centre 3

Photo: HealthNest

global_health_corps
Former President George W. Bush is remembered for his efforts to combat AIDS in Africa during his time in the Oval Office, but, as it turns out, he isn’t the only Bush with a passion for global health.

It was on a trip with her father to Uganda in 2003 that Barbara Bush, the elder of the former president’s twin daughters, was shocked by the toll AIDS was taking on population and the health inequality in the country.

One of the 43rd president’s lasting legacies is his creation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which as of September of last year had supported life-saving treatment for seven point seven million people with the virus, in addition to helping provide over 56.7 million people with testing and counseling.

After graduating from Yale with a humanities degree in 2004, Barbara worked at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa, where she frequently worked with kids with AIDS, before returning to the United States to try to mobilize the global health movement and get more people involved.

The end result was she and five friends creating Global Health Corps, which she became chief executive of at the age of 26. The organization gives young professionals the chance to work at the front of the fight for global health equity and places fellows in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.

According to Global Health Corps website, the goal of the organization is “to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity.” The website also says that health is a human right.

Fellows are placed with organizations, such as Partners in Health, in either of the two continents, where two fellows work together for a year. One fellow is from the host country, whereas the second is from abroad.

For example, young professionals with expertise in logistics worked to improve drug access in Tanzania by working on the supply chain. In Rwanda, architects designed medical clinics with less airflow, making it less likely that those with tuberculosis would infect others.

Today, Global Health Corps is booming, receiving praise from health professionals around the world. In addition, the organization gets around 6,000 applications a year for fewer than 150 fellows positions.

Matt Wotus

Sources: Global Health Corps, The New York Times, PEPFAR
Photo: Huffington Post

HIV_Prevention

When Ben Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, he probably wasn’t referring to HIV/AIDs prevention and international development, yet the idea is applicable nevertheless.

Oftentimes, medical interventions in the developing world consist of sending and administering medical supplies, personnel and medical training. However, when it comes to HIV prevention, secondary school education might be a “two birds, one stone” scenario, cost-effectively cutting down the rate of new infections in the first place rather than focusing on expensive treatment.

Traditional HIV/AIDS reduction programs such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have focused on primary school education and generally expanding access to information regarding HIV/AIDS as a prevention strategy. However, programs like PEPFAR generally don’t go so far as to include secondary school education as a strategy, which can be a rather ambitious objective.

A recent study published by The Lancet suggests that secondary school education ought to be a main feature of programs such as PEPFAR.

The study correlates a drop in new cases of AIDS with extra schooling in Botswana. Jacob Bor of Boston University School of Public Health, one of the co-authors of the study, made this point succinctly saying, “investments in secondary schooling are a slam dunk and should go alongside biomedical interventions in any effective HIV prevention strategy.”

According to the study, young people who attended an extra year of secondary school were 8.1% less likely to contract HIV. Girls in particular were 11.6% less likely if they attended at least two years of secondary school. The study found that there was no such correlation with primary school attendance. Apparently, the greater impact on preventing new cases of HIV in girls might be due to the fact that there are simply more women with the virus to begin with; in 2013, almost 80% of new adolescent infections in Sub-Saharan Africa occurred among girls.

Because AIDS has a disproportionate impact on women, secondary school education might even represent a grand slam of development objectives, improving health, education and gender equality; expanding opportunities for women and girls is widely regarded as one of the most effective poverty-reduction strategies.

The Millennium Development Goals included the objective of achieving a universal primary education for all children, which even now is a lofty goal. However, to realize a substantial improvement in AIDS reduction as well as other related goals, universal secondary school education might need to be included in the next set of global development objectives.

Derek Marion

Sources: SciDevNet, The Lancet, PEPFAR
Photo: Flickr

The_AIDS_Crisis_in _Thailand
When many think of places most devastated by the AIDS crisis, usually Sub-Saharan Africa first comes to mind. However, the disease also has spread to parts of South and Southeast Asia, where it is perhaps not as destructive, but still a major public health concern. Countries such as Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Sri Lanka all have rising rates of HIV/AIDS deaths. Thailand is particularly afflicted by this auto-immune disease. In total, nearly 500,000 people live with HIV/AIDs.

Mechai Viravaidya, the former politician and activist who first began the campaign to fight AIDS two decades ago, has become vocal once again. He claimed that “The government has fallen asleep at the wheel” and that HIV has become a health crisis in Thailand.

The figures seem to confirm his decree. HIV/AIDS remains the number one cause for premature death in Thailand and HIV infections are now rising. Since 2011, the number of AIDS-related deaths has also been rising.

The burden of the epidemic has fallen heavily on certain high risk groups. One such group is young people; those aged between 15 and 24 accounted for around 70% of the annual sexually transmitted HIV cases.

Among young people, certain minority and marginalized demographics are even more likely to contract HIV. In Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, the percentage of gay men with HIV has risen drastically. While in 2003 an already shocking 17% of homosexuals living in the city had HIV, by 2011 those figures had risen to nearly 30%.

Two more marginalized groups, intravenous drug users and migrant sex workers, are also vulnerable. Unlike their counterparts in brothels, informal, migrant sex workers do not receive information or health services that would help them to avoid contracting HIV. Those who inject drugs are likely to receive inadequate government support for their addictions; the Thai government will only provide addicts with 11 sets of clean needles a year compared to the 88 needles deemed necessary.

Yet, as bad as the crisis is now, it was once far worse. From 1991 to 2003, Thailand experienced a 90% decline in the number of HIV infections. This trend, until recently, had continued; while in 2005 the annual total of new infections was around 15,000, in 2013 it fell nearly in half to only 8,000. Much of this dramatic decline can be contributed to comprehensive awareness campaigns and the widespread dissemination of condoms throughout the sex industry.

So, then, why has this progress stagnated in recent years?

The answer lies in generational changes that have taken place over the past 20 years. The advent of smart phones and the expansion of social media on the Internet have allowed people to connect and have sex without having to meet in public places such as bars, where many of the awareness campaigns took place. This shows in the data; according to a UNAIDS report, “There is no clear sign of improvement in knowledge, condom use and STI among general population and youths on the national scale.”

AIDS was once the number one cause of death in Thailand when the epidemic was at its peak. Today AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death. With renewed efforts, hopefully it can fall even lower on that list.

Andrew Logan

Sources: Bangkok Post, Trust, UNICEF, UNAIDS, Voice of America
Photo: Flickr

Growing up in the 90’s, it is not easy to forget those who mustered up the courage to appear on national syndicated talk programs, where they detailed impactful incidents while addressing how they managed to not let it interfere with their lives. Hydeia Broadbent embodied that example, and years later she is still addressing an issue: smiling in the face of AIDS.

Since her birth on June 14, 1984, Broadbent, a Las Vegas native, has been HIV positive. Abandoned by her drug-abusing biological mother and raised by adoptive parents, the young Broadbent sought medical treatment throughout her early life, traveling from state to state in a desperate attempt to find an answer to the life-threatening disease.

The time would come when Broadbent, at five-years-old, was enrolled at the Maryland-based National Institutes of Health (NIH). There, Broadbent garnered attention from famous AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser, who branded Broadbent her hero and willingly asked Broadbent’s mother, shortly before her death, if the young AIDS sufferer could speak publicly of her experience.

Her mother agreed, and what soon followed were iconic visuals featuring Broadbent advocating for increased awareness of the misconceptions concerning HIV/AIDS.

Among those pieces included the 1992 Nickelodeon televised special featuring famed basketball player Magic Johnson. The televised event presented a group of kids whose lives had been altered by the contraction of AIDS, and also featured a weeping Broadbent who cried and yearned for the comfort of former playmates that lost their lives to AIDS.

The awareness statement soon accumulated not only news coverage, but also assorted views from several activists and entertainers, including Broadbent’s favorite singer, Janet Jackson.

Just two years following the child-targeted special, Broadbent already possessed various experiences and accolades under her belt. The young activist toured with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus at AIDS-benefit concerts, established the Hydeia L. Broadbent Foundation and soon attained her first honorific recognition from the Black Achievers Awards, as documented in the March 1994 issue of JET Magazine.

The philanthropic win would open the door to more opportunities for Broadbent to voice the adjustments she had to make as means to survive with an AIDS infection.

From guest college lectures to documentary segments, Hydeia Broadbent earned eligibility as a guest attendant on a 1996 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

During her televised appearance, Broadbent disclosed the horrors of how AIDS altered her immunity and health. The tiny advocate shared that fungus was growing on her brain and that blood infections increased her chance of dying, but among the most difficult for Broadbent to fathom was the reality that AIDS-infected friends of her own had died.

Her emotional plea was not the only massive reception-generator of 1996; an esteemed hearing at a Californian Republican rally would position Broadbent for popular philanthropic stardom.

“I am the future, and I have AIDS” served as vital words that emphasized Broadbent’s command upon the political stage and would go on to captivate a nation, placing pressure on politicians to up the ante on awareness of and medical tactics towards combating the harrowing sexual disease.

With high achievements and laudable recognition channeling from coast to coast, Broadbent felt inner torment eating away at her as she struggled with the overwhelming responsibilities of being a humanitarian success, all while battling deep depression. By the late 90’s, it became all too much for the young AIDS sufferer.

From 1998 to 2011, Broadbent kept a low profile to explore what she had left of her youthful years. But during her public absence, Broadbent’s name still managed to surface in scarce reports and rare public television appearances.

The Broadbent family’s book, “You Get Past the Tears,” published in 2002, and their 2004 feature on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” were close enough to what the nation would get as far as Hydeia Broadbent’s health progress was concerned.

However, she would not be missing from the public eye for long. In May 2012, Broadbent’s name reemerged when she was tapped for commentary in a CNN article detailing her involvement with the ESPN documentary “The Announcement,” a visual featuring AIDS sufferer Magic Johnson, who had previously met Broadbent in his Nickelodeon-sponsored special decades prior.

Within the news report, Broadbent was deemed a “life changer” by Johnson for her courage in sharing her turbulent struggles of living with AIDS at such a young age.

Further media buzz skyrocketed when Broadbent was highly requested by audiences to be featured in a 2014 “Where Are They Now” special on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), catching viewers up on how her personal life has progressed, specifically concerning romantic relationships and steady donative work.

Broadbent, now 31-years-old, is still vowing to remain a pivotal voice in the HIV/AIDS community to convey her message that AIDS is neither something to play around with nor something that should be viewed as an easy way of living.

Broadbent feels the burden day-in and day-out of taking a handful of medications each day to prevent potential AIDS-induced infections, citing the responsibility as a “life sentence” rather than a “death sentence,” especially when dealing with financial hardships relating to medical insurance.

Nevertheless, the series of frustrations stemming from medical visits has not interrupted her diligent work ethic as a key speaker for AIDS awareness programs.

As recently as February 2015, Broadbent has added another endorsement to her extensive list of accolades: she was chosen as a partner for “Ampro Pro Style” beauty line to raise awareness of the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This was part of a campaign to increase efforts to educate black communities on the basics of how to prevent the sexual disease.

Yet it is not only endorsements that Broadbent continues to accumulate on her shelf of awards. Known for the lectures and speeches she gives yearly in college and academic settings, in early June 2015, she secured a keynote speaker role at Louisiana-based Southern University’s annual O.M.G. Youth Conference, to elaborate on the AIDS crisis with young women in a “girl talk-style outlet.”

With further academic orations and pending documentary plans still going strong, Broadbent works effortlessly to remind the unaware of the dangers that await them if protection is not fully recognized when engaging in sexual activity.

Broadbent, whose hometown of Las Vegas has commemorated a holiday in her honor, believes that with time and the right medical innovations, HIV/AIDS will eventually be fully eradicated. She concedes, however, that it is going to take time and full knowledge from the public to understand that this is not a disease to joke around with.

As the optimistic Broadbent proclaimed to CNN reporting staff: “[The current generation] thinks [they] can pop a pill and be OK, [but] they don’t know the seriousness of the disease, [let alone medicated] side effects and financial realities of the situation. They really don’t know that you can die.”

– Jefferson Varner IV

Sources: CNN, People, Las Vegas Sun, The Advocate, Huffington Post, PR Newswire, POZ
Photo: APB

Human Rights and Gender Equality on the Rise in Africa-TBP
Recently in Dakar, Senegal, UNAIDS and the Alliance Nationale Contre le Sida, or ANCS, held a three-day capacity workshop. This workshop was designed to discuss the continued political, legal, cultural and social challenges that hinder efforts addressing the HIV epidemic in Africa.

So then, why are human rights and gender equality so important? According to UNICEF, “A lack of respect for human rights fuels the spread of HIV and exacerbates the impact of the epidemic … at the same time, HIV undermines progress in the realization of human rights and hampers the scale-up of high-impact interventions.” Without proper education of human rights and gender equality, atrocities like gender-based violence not only increase the vulnerability of the area, but also the likelihood of transmitting the HIV infection.

The discussions focused on the fact that human rights, gender equality and the involvement of people living with HIV were rarely factored into the national programs and planning aimed at reducing or preventing HIV. In the few instances where human rights, gender equality and the involvement of people living with HIV were included, they were not addressed at the cost and budgeting phase; with little ability to track progress, these programs were not evaluated or taken to scale.

Over fifty participants from ten countries across Western and Central Africa, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad, participated in the workshop.

Participants stressed the importance of different approaches and tools for ensuring the inclusion of programs to advance human rights and gender equality. Each country elaborated on individual national action plans with specific commitments to integrate these human rights and gender programs into their national HIV/AIDS response.

Leopold Zekeng, deputy director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, said, “Unless the legal and social environments are protective of the people living with and vulnerable to HIV, people will not be willing or able to come forward for HIV prevention and treatment. Human rights need to be at the core of our Fast-Track efforts towards ending the AIDS epidemic in the region.”

At the end of the meeting, the delegation concluded that human rights and full access to services for everyone in West and Central Africa should be the core of the “Fast-Track” declaration, now named the Dakar Declaration, which aims at scaling up the HIV response in West and Central Africa. With this new plan, one hopes to see positive and significant change—such as erasing AIDS from the region by 2030.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: UNICEF, UNAIDS, HRW