Native American communities During COVID-19
As of July 20, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 190 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with almost 4 million deaths and the administering of almost 3.5 million vaccine doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in December of 2020 that Native American communities are 3.5 times more likely to fall sick with the novel coronavirus and 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people.

Harvard field research teacher Eric Henson calls what the tribes are having as “the worst of both worlds at the same time.” Businesses entirely stopped their services at the start of this health crisis. These communities had their tax base reduced entirely to zero. All tribal businesses closed. Like other minority groups, Native American communities often work jobs that do not provide proper medical insurance. Many of these jobs are ‘essential work,’ meaning these individuals nevertheless face an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. However, efforts are providing aid to Native American communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Minorities

Native American communities during COVID-19 are accepting safety measures to prevent the novel coronavirus. Early discussions considered giving priority to minorities with the first vaccine dose, at odds with the Trump Administration. While little data exists regarding vaccination rates amongst ethnicities during the vaccine rollout under President Biden, several prominent Native Americans were prioritizing vaccines in their communities. As a result of the American Indian communities’ core values of putting the community first before the individual, their stance to accept the first wave of vaccines is for the health of their whole tribe as well. One individual’s health protected through the vaccine keeps other non-infected community members in a safer environment.

A recent survey that the Urban Indian Health Institute conducted showed that 75% of Native Americans are willing to receive vaccinations. Surveys show 75% of American Indians are concerned with side effects from novel coronavirus protection measures. However, two out of three participants are confident they are safe.

Funding For Native Americans During a Global Pandemic

The CDC has given $219.5 million to aid tribal communities during this health crisis. Its approach has ensured that these communities have access to necessary materials to prevent, provide for and respond to outbreaks. The U.S. Congress directs $165 million of the funding from the CDC through two acts. The acts are H.R 6074, a bill providing $8.3 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19, and the CARES Act, a bill protecting the healthcare system, employed workers and the economy against the health pandemic.

The Administration for Native Americans has a branch referred to as the Administration of Children and Families (ACF). The branch exists within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ACF has supported Native American communities during COVID-19. Its website provides resources to grant programs providing Native tribes, families and individuals access to funding for the pandemic. Resources include administrative relief, human services activities and natural disaster alleviation for Native Americans during COVID-19.

A Return to Normalcy

The effects of COVID-19 are detrimental to many communities, especially those already in the minority before the pandemic. As Native Americans are some of the first to receive vaccines, the families are back on their way to normalcy.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Chagas Disease in BrazilMore than 1 billion people in developing countries are sick and require treatment for Neglected Tropical Diseases, or NTDs. These are infectious diseases that have very little attention and donor funding compared to diseases like malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. NTDs can have debilitating results such as malnutrition, blindness, weakening mental development and more. They also tend to go hand in hand with poverty, because less access to clean water and sanitation allows these diseases to thrive. One of these diseases, Chagas disease, also known as “the kissing bug disease,” exists in the areas of Brazil where poverty is prominent.

“NTDs are not prioritized in wealthier, developed countries because they do not experience the same living conditions that affected populations are in, said Jadie Moon, a representative from NGO De-Neglect. “Diseases like HIV and tuberculosis are more prevalent in developed countries and attract more attention. Additionally, the public tends to focus more on diseases that kill such as malaria. However, NTDs are more likely to disfigure and affect [the] daily lives of individuals.”

History of Chagas Disease in Brazil

Chagas disease exists in the Americas, mainly in rural areas of Latin America where poverty is prevalent. It was first reported in Brazil by Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas in 1909. A parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transferred from the waste of triatomine bugs, or kissing bugs, causes the disease. The disease can also be spread through food that has been contaminated by the bug’s feces, infected blood transfusions and organ donations. This disease affects 8 million people today, and 20,000 people die from it every year.

From 2001 to 2018, 5,184 cases of acute Chagas disease were found in Brazil. The rate of infection recorded in Brazil annually was “0.16 per 100,000 inhabitants.” Studies show a rapid increase in records of Chagas disease before 2005. Though there was a drop from 2005 to 2009, there was another increase in infections after 2009.

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Chagas Disease

Though many NTDs are not considered life-threatening, the results of Chagas disease can be. The acute phase of the disease has minor symptoms. They include fever, swelling at the infection site, rash, nausea and enlargement of the liver or spleen. These symptoms will usually go away on their own, but if left untreated the disease can advance to the chronic phase.

The chronic phase is more serious and may occur 10 to 20 years after the infection. The parasites hide in the heart and digestive muscles, leading to cardiac and digestive or neurological disorders. Chronic symptoms include an irregular heartbeat, esophagus enlargement, difficulty swallowing, an enlarged colon and heart failure.

Around 20 to 30% of individuals who are in the chronic phase of Chagas disease eventually develop clinical disease. Usually, the clinical disease that develops is cardiac. Chagas disease is often discovered in an individual years after the infection in late stages, and once established it can cause severe, even deadly cardiac and digestive disorders.

“Because of the commonly asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic acute phase of infection, Chagas disease is difficult to diagnose, and often leads to missing the best time frame of treatment,” said De-Neglect members Jesse Chen and Helen Lee.

Prevention and De-Neglecting Chagas Disease in Brazil

One of the key methods in protecting people from Chagas disease – like any other NTD – is prevention. Methods of prevention in areas that are high-risk include:

  • Using bed nets that have been soaked with insecticide
  • Avoid sleeping in a mud, thatch or adobe house
  • Making home improvements to prevent bug infestation
  • Screening pregnant mothers, blood donations and testing organ/tissue/cell donations (as an infected individual can spread the disease to a healthy individual that way)
  • Washing, checking and cooking food well so there is no bug feces

De-Neglect

One of the best ways of preventing Chagas disease in Brazil is educating the public that lives in high-risk areas. A social media concentrated NGO in California called De-Neglect has a mission of doing just that. The organization has been around since 2018, formed by a group of UC Berkeley students and alumni. De-Neglect’s mission is to raise awareness and education about NTDs like Chagas disease, and how they affect communities in poverty. De-Neglect works to accomplish this goal through research, educating the public in health and participating in “community-based mobilization.” Their members are in contact with individuals and organizations from around the world and use their media platforms to raise awareness for NTDs like Chagas that affect areas like the rural communities in Brazil.

“I know someone who passed away due to Chagas disease almost 3 years ago in Brazil,” said De-Neglect team member Paula Serpa. “It is suspected that my friend acquired the infection due to his poor living conditions and, while playing a pickup soccer game, he suffered a heart attack and passed away.”

Growing the Organization

De-Neglect Team member Jessica Tin recounts the feat it took to form De-Neglect and build their network of collaborators. They faced certain roadblocks about finding accurate and up-to-date info for some NTDs. “Recently, we reached our next milestone with the release of our “What is scabies?” video and a social media campaign for World NTD Day, said Tin. “This was our first major moment in getting our name and mission out to the NTDs community as well as to our personal circles, where most of our friends and family had never even heard of NTDs before. Seeing our impact has given us extra momentum to continue our mission by expanding our network and educating the community.”

Lessening the Impact of Chagas in the Future

“Given that NTDs are concentrated in developing, poverty-stricken countries, their management often takes up most of a person’s existing and potential wealth,” said De-Neglect Team Member Jessica Yescas. “By providing solutions, such as medication and accessibility to medical care — as well as raising awareness through education — the possibility of alleviating the perpetuation of poverty due to NTDs can become a reality.”

Those infected with Chagas disease in Brazil face additional challenges if they already struggle with poverty. If not provided reliable, affordable medication the results could cost them dearly. They can miss out on work and educational opportunities, pushing them further into poverty. Raising awareness for Chagas disease and other NTDs in areas impacted by poverty and putting them in the spotlight creates more opportunities to instill solutions, not allowing them to be neglected anymore.

Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

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

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

HIV Diagnosis Decline

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

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

PrEP and PEP

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

HIV Self-Testing Market

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

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

– Amanda Ortiz
Photo: Flickr

Global COVID-19 Response
President Joe Biden’s selection of Dr. Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be instrumental in strengthening the agency’s global COVID-19 response moving forward. By strengthening the agency in three key ways, Dr. Walensky will benefit the CDC’s pandemic response both at home and abroad.

3 Ways Dr. Rochelle Walensky Will Benefit COVID-19 Global Response

  1. Dr. Walensky’s previous work improving access to HIV testing brings hope that, under her leadership, the CDC will strengthen the global COVID-19 response by determining effective testing measures and increasing access to testing. Scientists continue to call for increased testing to effectively manage and control the spread of COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases remains uncertain due to insufficient testing worldwide. Dr. Walensky has received international recognition for prior work on cost-effective HIV testing, care and prevention. Her previous research has emphasized the importance of providing treatment to those living with HIV while also highlighting the need for greater access to HIV testing in order to reduce the spread of the disease. Given Dr. Walensky’s knowledge and experience demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of increased access to HIV testing, expectations have determined that she will similarly advocate for more accurate COVID-19 testing as the head of the CDC.
  2. A study by Dr. Walensky and other researchers demonstrates the need for greater investments in overall vaccine distribution if countries hope to control the spread of the coronavirus through immunization. While Dr. Walensky’s expertise in HIV prevention will prove to be essential as COVID-19 vaccines become available, growing concerns exist regarding vaccine distribution in low-income countries. The wealthiest countries have purchased the two leading COVID-19 vaccines, threatening to delay access to vaccines in poorer nations. This situation could be devastating for developed and developing countries alike, as even countries that achieve herd immunity could be vulnerable to outbreaks if the world’s poorest countries do not bring the virus under control. While the researchers’ research centers on vaccine distribution within the United States, the concerns they present apply to vaccine distribution in developing countries, where proper investments in vaccination campaigns will be necessary to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all people. By placing these concerns at the forefront of vaccine distribution, the CDC under Dr. Walensky will benefit the agency’s ability to assist vaccination campaigns internationally.
  3. Dr. Walensky’s colleagues and mentors have praised her for her ability to bring cultural sensitivity to her work, a practice that will endure as she leads the CDC. Her previous work has equipped Dr. Walensky with the experience necessary to provide tailored knowledge and COVID-19 support to developing countries within the respective contexts. With limited COVID-19 funding, the CDC will benefit from Dr. Walensky’s guidance, as she recognizes the importance of addressing underlying factors that contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including poverty and the living conditions of the impoverished. Additionally, others know her for her effective communication within underserved and marginalized communities.  By improving adherence to CDC guidelines in communities that have historically experienced exclusion or mistreatment by Western medical professionals, Dr. Walensky will further benefit the CDC’s response.

Although the CDC has previously lacked in its ability to respond to the pandemic both domestically and internationally, Dr. Walensky’s leadership will benefit the global COVID-19 response by strengthening the agency’s focus on adequately combating the virus globally. Her prior experience and research insights will help shine a light on those at risk of being left behind.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Disease Treatment in Bangladesh
The country of Bangladesh sits in the Northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent. Also, it is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. This high population of more than 166.2 million has been hard hit by disease. For example, the primary causes of death in Bangladesh include respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis. To combat the threat posed to its citizens, the government installed many hospitals and rural health centers to treat tuberculosis and other fatal yet common diseases. Moreover, cholera and malaria also fall into this category of fatal, common diseases plaguing Bangladesh. These centers came about to improve disease treatment in Bangladesh, especially in the more rural regions. Unfortunately, it is these rural regions where such services would normally be scarce.

Problems and Progress

The Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) and the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), located in Dhaka, have both worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This joint effort aims to conduct public health research. The organizations seek to gather more information to categorize and treat a multitude of diseases, such as encephalitis, rotavirus, polio, and viral hepatitis. The main hope of these programs is to learn more about the transmission of the pathogens in question and their ability to spread between hosts of different geographic areas.

Also, the CDC assists government staff on effective and efficient techniques to investigate the conditions and cases of a disease outbreak. Moreover, the CDC also provides guidance and instruction on how to respond to public health threats. Policymakers have referenced medical studies to help them make better-informed decisions about introducing vaccines and other interventions. All of this, to improve disease treatment in Bangladesh.

The Impact of COVID-19

Currently, it is these services that the nation looks toward in hopes of dealing with the ongoing, new coronavirus pandemic. The virus has had a dramatic, negative impact on Bangladesh on many fronts. There have been nearly 17,000 deaths within the past few months — with the first cases being detected in early March 2020. The nation’s economy has also taken a massive hit. The annual economic growth had remained steady at around 7% for the past decade. However, now it suddenly dropped to an estimated 2%. This could potentially prove problematic for plans to increase domestic aid. Less trade and resources mean that loans would have to be taken out, to support citizens. This, alongside the projected $250 million required for clinical testing and equipment.

Vulnerable, Rural Populations: A Potential Solution

Bangladesh is working with other research centers to push for potential treatments and research on the virus. Since more than 63% of the population lives in rural areas, the situation is complex. For example, typical prevention methods in place, world-wide, such as lockdowns and social distancing will not be viable in the long-term. Many citizens are poor farmers and will be unable to provide for themselves and their families if quarantining persists for months at a time. However, a potential solution is on the horizon. With the help of the armed forces, it may be possible to install a system of clean and non-contact rationing, to provide people with the supplies and food they need. In theory, such as service could also provide medical supplies to hospitals, volunteer groups and other medical centers working on disease treatment in Bangladesh.

The economic situation of Bangladesh makes plans for dealing with the coronavirus tenuous at best. However, through their strong connections to research institutions and global organizations dedicated to providing support for these scenarios, disease treatment in Bangladesh can still be managed. Regardless of the large scale of diseases and pandemics.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

The Cost pf Ending PovertySeveral economists estimate that the cost of ending world poverty is around $175 billion. To the average person, this amount can seem like an unachievable goal to reach, therefore making any contribution futile. In other instances, some people prefer not to make direct donations to end poverty, in fear that their money is not being allocated efficiently.

Let’s consider a product that has had immense success despite its price often being called into question.

AirPods, similarly to most Apple products, have become a staple for many technology users. Chances are that you either know someone who owns a pair of AirPods or you own a pair yourself.

On different social media outlets like Twitter and TikTok, AirPods have turned into a meme in which the small product is often mocked for its big price. The first generation AirPods sold for an average of $149 per pair. On October 30, 2019, Apple launched AirPods Pro at a price of $249.

Apple sold over 60 million pairs of AirPods in 2019 and is projected to sell an estimated 90 million pairs in 2020. In 2019, AirPods generated an estimated revenue of $6 billion while the revenue in 2020 is expected to reach $15 billion.

Apple’s sales of AirPods in 2020 alone is eight percent of the yearly estimated cost of ending poverty. On a large scale, this percentage may seem like a small portion of what is needed to minimize this global issue. However, $250 on a smaller scale can go a long way to help.

6 Other Ways to Spend $250 that can Help End Global Poverty

  1. Sponsor a child – Many children from war-torn countries live as refugees in impoverished conditions. With a full $250 donation, UNICEF will be able to sponsor three refugee children for a lifetime. Through this donation, UNICEF can provide these children with access to clean drinking water, immunizations, education, health care and food supply.
  2. Buy a bed net – A bed net can help prevent the spread of malaria by creating a physical barrier between the person inside and the malaria-carrying mosquitos. The CDC Foundation’s net is an insecticide-treated net (ITN) which continues to create a barrier even if there are holes in it. Each net can protect up to three children and 50 nets can be provided with a $250 donation.
  3. Provide a community with bees – Bees pollinate around an average of a third of the food supply. Consequently, providing a community with a batch of bees could help local agriculture flourish. Additionally, these bees are often monitored by community-based youth programs that promote entrepreneurship. Through Plan International, seven different communities could benefit from a $250 donation.
  4. Register a child – By registering a child with a birth certificate, that child then has access to necessary human rights such as health care, education and inheritance. A birth certificate is also an essential part of protecting children from child marriage, human trafficking and forced labor. A $250 donation could register seven children for a record of existence.
  5. Buy a goat, baby chicks and a sheep for a familyGoat’s milk can provide children with protein that is essential for growth. Baby chicks can also produce nutritious eggs and the possibility to generate income. Sheep will yield milk, cheese and wool for a family. All of these animals will offer a family a continuous supply of living necessities. One of each animal can be given to a family through a $250 donation.
  6. Fund a community center – A $250 donation could go towards investing in the lives of youth in poverty by funding a community center. This donation goes towards building or modernizing youth centers in impoverished areas. A community center creates a space for health operations, play spots for children and technological hubs.

These are a few of the many effective ways to make a simple contribution to alleviating this global problem that costs no more than a set of AirPods.

Ending world poverty is not an easy task, nor is it inexpensive upon first glance. However, an individual can make a massive impact once the cost of ending poverty is put into perspective. A personal contribution to ending poverty can be as simple as making a donation for the same price as a pair of AirPods.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Dikembe Mutombo's Impact
Dikembe Mutombo is most famous for his basketball career as a player in the NBA for 18 years and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year award recipient, but he is also well-known for his humanitarian work. Mutombo, born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has spent the last 22 years contributing much of his time to helping his home country. Dikembe Mutombo’s impact has been significant due to creating the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Struggle With Poverty

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced a long history of injustice due to political corruption and economic collapse which has affected the country in a multitude of ways. Approximately 70 percent of Congolese people have little or no health care, and many hospitals and clinics lack necessary components to keep them running smoothly. Many health care facilities have shortages of personnel and equipment and frequently run out of necessary medicine and supplies.

Some of the top causes of death in the DRC include preventable or treatable conditions such as malaria, lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. However, in the last 12 years, child vaccinations have increased from 31 to 45 percent, and the DRC has been free of polio for over three years. Still, because 64 percent of Congolese live under the poverty line, they often have to make the choice between food and medicine.

The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation

Mutombo founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation (DMF) in 1997, in honor of his mother. Due to civil unrest, she was unable to get to the hospital for treatment and died that year.

This inspired Mutombo to create a foundation focused on primary health care, disease prevention, health policy and research and access to health care education. Its mission is to improve the health, education and quality of life for the people in the DRC.

DMF opened its first hospital in 2007, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named after Dikembe Mutombo’s mother. It commits to providing high-quality health care regardless of economic status. Dikembe Mutombo’s impact has allowed the hospital to treat over 30,000 patients and employ almost 400 doctors and nurses.

A future project of the foundation will be the building of a Welcome House next to the hospital. It also plans to construct an elementary school with an emphasis on science and technology outside of Kinshasa.

Mutombo on the Ebola Crisis

Mutombo and his foundation have recently joined with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to communicate with the Congolese about the Ebola crisis. Almost a year after the initial outbreak, reports mentioned 2,284 cases of infection and almost 1,500 probable deaths, making this the 10th and worst Ebola outbreak that the DRC has faced.

The CDC began posting the public service announcements to its YouTube channel and on the agency’s website on Monday in some of the native languages of the DRC, French and Swahili. In the video, Mutombo describes the early signs of Ebola, treatment, preventative measures and recommendations. Mutombo told the Associated Press, “When there’s something happening around the world, it should be a concern of everyone living on this planet, and I think the epidemic of Ebola is touching all of us.”

Mutombo’s philanthropy in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo will impact generations to come. Mutombo stated it best in the Ebola PSA: “I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to humanity and health.”

– Alexia Carvajalino
Photo: Flickr

PEPFARThe United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has saved more than 17 million lives in the past 15 years. George W. Bush started PEPFAR in 2003 as a response to the global HIV or AIDS academic. The hope is to make a small difference in the lives affected and to educate the world about the epidemic. In turn, this provides HIV prevention medications to millions that would otherwise not have accessibility.

Children at Risk

Globally, about 36.9 million people are currently living with HIV and 1.8 million of the HIV-affected population is children. The number of children affected would be even higher, but statistics show that 80 percent of children born with HIV or AIDS who are left untreated die before their fifth birthday. Around 950,000 people around the world have died from HIV or AIDS-related causes. However, PEPFAR has significantly contributed to positively impacting the HIV or AIDS epidemic over the last 15 years.

PEPFAR has put much of their efforts into preventing mother-to-child transmission, the leading cause for children contracting HIV or AIDS. The plan provides lifelong antiviral treatment for current breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women. PEPFAR has contributed to 10 percent of all program funds preventing children from being affected by HIV or AIDS. Its efforts have resulted in more than 2.2 million babies being born HIV-free.

Ending the Epidemic in African Countries

PEPFAR is currently working in over 50 countries and has made a large impact on those who are affected by the HIV or AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 50,000 people living in Africa were being treated for HIV or AIDS at the start of PEPFAR. The program has now provided more than 14.6 million people with antiviral medication. It also offers worldwide counseling. As a result, the United States’ contributions are on track to help control HIV epidemics in up to 13 of the highest HIV-prevalent countries by 2020.

PEPFAR is Reducing the Effect of HIV

According to the CDC, PEPFAR’s mission is to “deliver an AIDS-free generation with accountability, transparency, and impact.” Its priorities include working with partner countries, organizations, and people with or affected by HIV or AIDS in order to combat the disease. But years later, PEPFAR now also focuses on granting services for families with vulnerable children, orphans, adolescent girls and other neglected populations around the world. As a result, PEPFAR has contributed to giving more than 6.4 million vulnerable children and orphans the care and support they need. It has gifted 85.5 million people HIV tests. This has influenced the amount of HIV diagnoses which is declining 25 to 40 percent in adolescent girls. PEPFAR has also helped support the training of almost 250,000 health care workers to deliver HIV health services to those in need around the world.

PEPFAR started out as a proposal by George W. Bush in 2003. Only 15 years later, the plan has saved more than 17 million lives. The plan to invest almost 2 billion dollars, this year alone, will empower women and girls around the world. If PEPFAR’s impact on those who have HIV/AIDS remains steady, the global epidemic will continue to decrease to a point of no existence.

– Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

Drug Resistant Infections
Antibiotics have long been considered one of the greatest marvels of modern medicine. Since their discovery in the early 1900s, antibiotics have promoted a previously unprecedented large-scale fight against disease. Their effectiveness, however, is starting to show its limits.

CDC Analysis

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance—also known as antimicrobial resistance or general drug resistance—is becoming more and more prevalent, with over 23,000 people dying from a drug-resistant infection or disease in the United States alone. Studies have shown that over 700,000 people die annually worldwide from drug-resistant infections. Diseases once thought to be treatable, such as tuberculosis and common bacterial infections, are slowly becoming harder to cure with standard antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs.

A Mounting Crisis

The sheer overuse of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, antimicrobials, or antifungals, is often cited as a factor in the rise of drug resistance. Numerous studies show that these medications are grossly overprescribed, specifically drugs in the antibiotic category. The overexposure of antimicrobial drugs to different bacteria drastically reduces the drug’s ability to fight infections and diseases, leading to a resistance that is almost impossible to treat. This phenomenon is only growing, with the United Nations estimating that resistant infection could kill up to 10 million people annually by the year 2050.

The Developing World at Risk

Developed nations like the United States and Western Europe have far greater chances of eliminating the problem by fighting diseases from the backend, with access to clean water, food and sanitary living conditions. But for underdeveloped countries where over half of the population lives below the poverty line, drug-resistant infections pose even more serious risks. These countries rely on antimicrobial drugs and vaccines to stave off epidemics and diseases and cannot afford to develop drug resistance of any kind. The United Nation’s (UN) latest findings point towards economic hazards of drug resistance as well, showing that if resistance continues to develop, healthcare costs and lack of resources could potentially send the economy into a decline similar to that of the 2008-2009 era.

Innovative Solutions

Finding innovative ways to combat drug resistance is the most urgent goal. The UN is among several groups looking to solve the resistance crisis, calling upon major pharmaceutical companies, research groups and investors to accelerate funding and assistance. Emphasizing the need for a worldwide plan, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General for the World Health Organization, has stressed the need for a timely response, “Antimicrobial resistance is a crisis that must be managed with the utmost urgency. As the world enters the ambitious new era of sustainable development, we cannot allow hard-won gains for health to be eroded by the failure of our mainstay medicines.”

As a part of the much-needed urgent response plan, the WHO proposed a new strategy to the World Health Assembly in 2015 that highlights five main goals to fight drug resistance:

  1. Raise awareness
  2. Gain knowledge
  3. Reduce risk of infections overall
  4. Optimize the current use of antimicrobial drugs
  5. Increase investment in research and technology for new antimicrobial drugs

Hope for the Future

The CDC has also constructed what is known as the National Action Plan, a five-year goal with similar objectives working under their Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative. Despite the imminent threat of drug resistance, the crisis is being taken seriously with appropriate responses in progress and clear plans of action to follow.

Olivia Bendle
Photo: Pixabay