mass incarcerations in Colombia
Colombia is a country in South America with a population of nearly 50 million as of 2018. It is the second largest country located in South America, with the 38th largest economy in the world. The Colombian Justice System is structured similarly to that of the United States, where defendants have the right to a fair and speedy trial and are sentenced by judges.

Colombian prisons have a problem with mass incarceration. They have an overall capacity of 80,928 people; however, their actual capacity is at 112,864 people as of May 2020. The majority of people are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, such as drug-related offenses. Mass incarcerations in Colombia are also an issue because they lead to other health issues, such as the transmission of HIV and tuberculosis. Here are four more important things to know about mass incarcerations in Colombia.

Mass Incarcerations in Colombia: 4 Things to Know

  1. Capacity Rates: There are 132 prisons in Colombia with a total maximum capacity of just over 80,000 people. Despite this capacity, Colombian prisons have an occupancy level of 139.5%, or just over 112,000 people. Women make up approximately 6.9% of this number, or about 7,700 women. There are no children actively incarcerated in Colombian prisons. The country’s congress has regularly fought against the release of prisoners, instead choosing to keep the prisons full.
  2. Effects of COVID-19: Prison riots are becoming increasingly common in Latin America with the spread of the coronavirus. Mass incarcerations in Colombia have created panic amongst the prisoners, who have demanded more attention to their conditions. The Colombian Minister of Justice, Margarita Cabello, has not outwardly acknowledged the prison riots as demands for better care against COVID-19. Instead, she has stated that the riots were an attempt to thwart security and escape from prison. Furthermore, because of the scarcity in the number of doctors, many prisoners have contracted and/or died from COVID-19. In one particular prison in central Colombia, over 30% of staffers and prisoners have become infected with the virus.
  3. Infectious Diseases: Beside COVID-19, mass incarcerations in Colombia have allowed for the spread of other infectious diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis. Colombian prisons have designated cell blocks for those who contract HIV, as it is common for prisoners to engage in sexual relationships with guards. Healthcare facilities are not readily available in prisons, and condoms are in scarce supply. Active cases of tuberculosis (TB) also correlate with mass incarcerations in Colombia. Approximately 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 were found to have active cases of TB with little to no access to affordable care.
  4. Possible Solutions: Local citizens Mario Salazar and Tatiana Arango created the Salazar Arango Foundation for Colombian prisoners. Salazar conceived the idea after being imprisoned in 2012 on fraud charges and seeking ways to make serving his sentence more tolerable. The Salazar and Arango Foundation provides workshops for prisoners in the city of La Picota and puts on plays for fellow inmates. Prisoners have found the organization to be impactful to their self-esteem and their push for lower sentences.

Mass incarcerations have had major impacts on the Colombian prison system. Issues such as food shortages and violence have given way to poverty-like conditions with little action. Despite these conditions, organizations such as the Salazar Arango Foundation look to make mass incarcerations in Colombia more tolerable for those behind bars. Hopefully, with time, mass incarcerations in Colombia can eventually be eliminated.

– Alondra Belford
Photo: Unsplash

HIV in Eswatini
Swaziland or Eswatini, as it was officially renamed in 2018 by King Mswati III, is a tiny landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, with the disease infecting about 31% of its sexually-active population. In 2018, HIV infected about 8,000 new adults and caused approximately 3,000 new fatalities. However, recent data suggests that the country has found ways to slash the new rate of infections by almost 45%. Here are eight facts about the fight against HIV in Eswatini.

8 Facts About Eswatini’s Fight Against HIV

  1. Mode of transmission: Heterosexual sex is the primary way HIV is transmitted, with about 94% of all new cases coming from it. The disease affects sex workers, adolescent girls and young men and women significantly more than other demographics.
  2. Poverty and education: Almost 59% of people in Eswatini live below the poverty line. Some regions have still not been able to recover from the regional droughts of 2015 and 2016. Due to poor economic conditions, young girls are often unable to continue their education. As a result, they are less empowered to negotiate for safer sex and sometimes also have to resort to prostitution. Rampant poverty also means that many suffering from the disease cannot afford proper healthcare.
  3. Most affected age group: Adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are most affected by HIV. Over the long term, this has induced major cultural changes surrounding death and illness. It has also led to an expansion of services such as life insurance and mortuary.
  4. Impact on women: HIV has affected women disproportionately. 35.1% of women in Eswatini are living with HIV, compared to 19.3% of men. This stems from widespread gender inequality in the country. Gender-based violence and men indulging in more than one partnership at the same time increase the risk of women contracting HIV. King Mswati withheld royal assent on The 2015 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill, which could offer more protection to women. The bill finally passed in 2018, however. This is an essential first step for improving gender equality in Eswatini.
  5. Condition of children: About 11,000 children (0-14 years) were living with HIV in Eswatini as of 2018. Only 76% of these children were on ARV treatment. Approximately 45,000 children have also been orphaned due to AIDS-related illnesses. Fortunately, the number of new infections and AIDS-related deaths have reduced to fewer than 1,000 each year.
  6. Increase in circumcision: The proportion of men opting to be circumcised increased significantly in recent years. Circumcision is a scientifically-proven way of reducing the transmission of the virus. The rate of male circumcision in the productive age group (15-49 years) more than doubled from 7% in 2007 to 19% in 2010.
  7. The 90-90-90 model: UNAIDS has developed the 90–90–90 testing and treatment targets to help Eswatini and other countries across the world address HIV and AIDS. Local and national efforts are working towards the following three goals by 2020: 90% of people living with HIV will be aware of their HIV-positive status, 90% of those who have been diagnosed with HIV will continuously and consistently receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90% of all people who are receiving ART will have viral suppression. The 90-90-90 model is a world-renowned global benchmark to curb the spread of HIV in geographies with high prevalence.
  8. Availability of condoms: Targeted mass media campaigns promote condom use and sexual health services distribute condoms across the county. These efforts have resulted in about 51 condoms per year per male available in Eswatini. However, in spite of increased availability, condom use has actually declined. This suggests that a change in mentality is more important than increasing the distribution of condoms.

It is clear that Eswatini has made great strides in the fight against HIV in recent years. However, the high HIV prevalence indicates the government needs to address significant problems such as poverty, gender inequality and risky cultural practices, which contribute to a high risk of HIV infection. Moving forward, a greater focus must be placed on combatting HIV in Eswatini.

Akshay Anand
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in LesothoIn the country of Lesotho, a mountainous region landlocked by South Africa, there are two playing fields, although neither one of them results in a fair chance of winning a life away from poverty’s grasp. Instead, the two fields paint similar pictures of poverty with contrasting colors. The first field, the lowlands, is statistically less impoverished than its towering companion, the highlands. Agricultural impacts are not the only factor impacting poverty. Here is some information about the impacts on poverty in Lesotho.

Agricultural Impact

According to UNICEF, 82% of children living in the highlands are multidimensionally poor compared to 53% of children living in the lowlands. This is due to the fact that the natural landscape of the lowlands is more suitable for agricultural endeavors as opposed to the rocky, mountainous terrain of the highlands. Since the majority of Basotho, the proper term for the country’s natives, grow their own food, a season of drought could greatly impact not only the current year’s harvest but future harvests as well because seeds would not reproduce for the Basotho to use the following year. Children lacking food and proper nutrition also increase student growth. In 2014, stunting impacted approximately 88,900 of 275,000 Basotho children. Stunting can result in a compromised immune system and poor cognitive performance which adds an unnecessary barrier to childhood education and future employability.

Educational Impact

One of the impacts on poverty in Lesotho including both the highlands and the lowlands is the absence of proper and consistent education. School is free for elementary-aged children. However, after these years, children have to purchase school uniforms to continue their education. This pulls many children out of the cinder-block classrooms and back into their homes. At home, they must often care for younger siblings or other abandoned children even though they have yet to reach puberty.

Allison Barnhill of Reclaimed Project, a nonprofit that partners alongside local churches to educate, equip and care for orphaned children, spoke with The Borgen Project saying, “Education is a huge part of it [poverty]. If you want to grow up and change the country, you have to be educated.” Reclaimed Project acknowledges this need by providing uniforms and school supplies to children in its program. These children also receive educational training outside of the classroom after each school day at one of Reclaimed Project’s orphan care centers. The care centers are located in two different highland villages and allow students to grow forward. Later in 2020, Reclaimed Project plans to open a skills training center to teach high schoolers and local Basotho basic computer, mechanic and sewing skills.

HIV/AIDS Impact

Another of the impacts on poverty in Lesotho is HIV/AIDS. It is easy to tell if a family does not have the means to purchase school uniforms. However, there is a type of poverty the Basotho people face that others cannot see. It is invisible and inescapable. HIV and AIDS fell upon the country of Lesotho in the 1990s, creating a wave of economic and social destruction. Currently, it affects 74% of children under the age of 2 with 23.2% of adults affected. Many victims of the disease are Basotho who once held steady jobs and now must succumb to treatment interventions.

Unfortunately, Basotho culture still highly stigmatizes this disease. Medical clinics, which predominantly serve people infected by HIV and AIDS, have specific days when people come to receive treatment. Therefore, if others witness a Basotho walking towards the clinic on this given day, they might assume that he or she has HIV or AIDS. This makes the unknown known and creates a social scar. To prevent this from happening, some Basotho willingly choose to avoid treatment and risk death to maintain their social standing. Overtime, refusing treatment can result in the inability to work, further lengthening the downward economic spiral of poverty.

Fortunately, with the passage of time comes the gradual reformation of these ideals. Within a five-year time span, the average percentage of full acceptance of Basotho living with HIV increased by 3.5%. This indicates that community acceptance is improving. However, HIV/AIDS treatment funding is limited and a burden on the government of Lesotho. In fact, the government funds less than half of Lesotho’s HIV/AIDS response. The majority of funding for HIV/AIDS reform comes from international resources. Therefore, the country relies heavily on the generosity of middle-income countries and nonprofits.

Future Impact

Speaking on the many dimensions of poverty, Barnhill stated that, “The issues are always compounding. If you’re living on the brink, it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge.” Fortunately, by 2030, the number of people living near the edge should reduce as the World Bank works with the Government of Lesotho to reduce extreme poverty. Even though poverty plagues the country of Lesotho, the country has come a long way from its roots. Lesotho continues to grow forward, creating branches of prosperity and leaves a budding of hope.

– Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Chatham Kennedy

The US is Making Strides to Help Reduce HIV in Tanzania Tanzania is the largest and most populous country in East Africa, with nearly 59 million inhabitants. It is a youthful and rapidly growing population with a fertility rate of nearly 4.8 children per woman. Almost two-thirds of the population is under 25, and 42% is under 15. While malaria is the leading cause of death for children under 5, HIV/AIDS is the main killer among adults. In 2018, 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Tanzania, with a prevalence rate of 4.6% among adults. Approximately 24,000 adults died of AIDS-related illnesses, the seventh-most in the world. As more of the country’s population reaches adulthood, containing the spread of HIV in Tanzania will become even more important, and international assistance can continue playing an important role in the effort to do so. 

The 90-90-90 Target to reduce HIV in Tanzania

In 2017, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, a joint venture of six UN agencies that coordinates the international fight against HIV, set a “90-90-90” global target for 2020. The goals were by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV would know the status of their disease, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV would be receiving antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving treatment for HIV would have viral suppression. 

Although it is too early to predict whether Tanzania will achieve these targets, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS reports the country has made strides in fighting the disease. In addition, the number of AIDS-related deaths per year declined to 49% between 2010 and 2018. Moreover, according to a 2019 report based on a 2016-2017 survey, Tanzania appeared close to reaching at least two of the three 90-90-90 benchmarks: 60.6% of people knew their status as living with HIV; around 93.6% of people diagnosed with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy; 87% had viral suppression of the people receiving treatment.

Action Taken by the United States

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the United States’ response to the epidemic and is a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The initiative provides antiretroviral treatment to more than 14.6 million people in more than 50 countries. As a result, this reflects remarkable progress since the program began in 2003 when only 50,000 people were on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the United States’ program uses granular data to map the HIV epidemic and maximize the impact of its efforts. For example, in 2014 the U.S. announced the Accelerating Children on HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) Initiative. Around 84,745 people in Tanzania who are 20 years or younger were receiving ART. The ACT initiative has given ART treatment to over a million children and adolescents in total.

PEPFAR and DREAMS

Girls are roughly 75% more likely to become HIV infected than boys. In addition, PEPFAR has created DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe). In an overview between 2016 and 2019, PEPFAR DREAMS in Tanzania was given over 52 million dollars in funding. Private sector partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson and Johnson. As with all PEPFAR countries, the U.S. collaborates with Tanzania’s government in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children started the National Aids Control Programme (NACP).

Tanzania took strides to reach the 90-90-90 target. One of these is the Treat All strategy, where they attempt to test and treat as many people as possible. Another effort includes distributing condoms to public and private places consistently to prevent the spread of infection. They also hope to educate males to raise awareness about their vital role in spreading the virus. Finally, they hope to address sub-groups at higher risk, such as those who inject drugs. These efforts, among many others, have helped reach the hopeful numbers listed above and have given Tanzania great potential for progress towards 2030.

Looking Ahead

The NACP is proud of its efforts to eradicate HIV in Tanzania. Looking forward, UNAIDS has created a new target: 95-95-95 by 2030. Tanzania is making progress and has a bright future.

Annie Raglow

Photo: Flickr

facts about child marriage in Africa
Child marriages have been occurring for thousands of years. While child marriage is more commonly seen between female children and much older men, child marriage is defined as marriages where either one or both partners are younger than the age of 18. According to UNICEF, Africa has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Specifically, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates where every four in 10 girls are married before the age of 18. Within this region, the country of Niger has the highest child marriage rates, with 77% of girls married before the age of 18. Here are seven facts about child marriage in Africa.

7 Facts About Child Marriage in Africa

  1. Children marry as young as 7 and 8 years old. The U.N. estimates that every day around 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married. Of the girls forced into marriage, one in three girls experience child marriage before the age of 18 and one in nine experience it before the age of 15. UNICEF estimates that if no change occurs, the rate of child marriages in Africa alone may double by 2050.
  2. Girls often experience suppressed education. Most girls who are in a child marriage do not get an education higher than the mandated primary education of grades one through nine. This is due to social stereotypes that categorize girls as domestic wives who stay in the home to cook, clean and bear children. Another reason is that most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas and they cannot afford to pay for an education or do not have access to education near them.
  3. Children involved in child marriages are at greater risk of domestic violence. A high percentage of girls in a child marriage experience domestic and sometimes sexual violence. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), girls who marry before the age of 18 are twice as likely to experience domestic violence when compared to girls who marry after the age of 18. Many girls cannot escape this violence because of poverty and the lack of education.
  4. Having a daughter is seen as a burden in Africa. Most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas where families consider daughters to be economic and financial burdens. Many families, wanting to make up for the money they put into raising a daughter, require a dowry for their daughter’s marriage. The high cost of a dowry means that most men will work for years to save up for a wife. As a result, most child marriages are between a young girl and a much older man.
  5. Child brides have a greater risk of contracting HIV and other STDs. Since men are typically much older when they marry a child bride, they tend to have had multiple partners before they are married. As a result, girls involved in child marriages are more susceptible to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, research found that many young people lack the proper knowledge of HIV and other STDs and safe sexual education. Sex education is a mandatory curriculum in Africa, but religious and cultural taboos prevent schools from properly teaching this curriculum. In 2015, the Department of Basic Education began developing lesson plans for grades seven through nine that properly educate children about safe sex and STDs.
  6. Many child brides face high-risk pregnancies. Since girls marry at such young ages, many girls have high-risk pregnancies due to their underdeveloped bodies. As a result, they often have a difficult childbirth. Additionally, pregnancy lessens the body’s immune system, leaving young girls easily susceptible to illnesses such as malaria. Malaria is harder to treat when one is HIV positive and can lead to death in young pregnant girls.
  7. Ultimately, child marriage violates human rights. Child marriages involving boys is significantly more rare than those involving girls. The primary difference in a marriage involving young boys is they do not pose the same health risks as girls. However, child marriages between both sexes take away a child’s basic human rights. In 1948, in an attempt to discourage child marriages, the U.N. declared child marriage an act against human rights, as stated in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These seven facts about child marriage in Africa explain the difficulties young girls face every day. While child marriages around the world have been in a steady decline, Africa has been the slowest progressing area. According to the U.N., child marriages in Africa could actually continue to grow rather than decline. A continued growing awareness around the world helps to end child marriages. A group of girls in Africa started a petition to change the laws and raise the age of consent. So far, the petition has received over 245,000 signatures. Efforts like these continue to help bring an end to child marriages in Africa.

– Chelsea Wolfe 
Photo: Flickr

HIV in South AfricaFollowing apartheid, South Africa became the focal point of the AIDS epidemic. Despite the rapid rise of HIV in South Africa, the governmental response was slow. During the 1980s, people often assumed that the virus spread because of the behaviors of injection drug users and gay men. However, the spread of the disease in Africa looked incredibly different since more than half of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa were women.

HIV and AIDS in South Africa

When HIV and AIDS started having a widespread impact on South African society and communities, President Thabo Mbeki followed the arguments of Peter Duesberg. Duesberg believed that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS. This was opposed to Western medical approaches to solve the epidemic. Moreover, Tshabalala-Msimang, the Health Minister, advocated for nutritional solutions in 2003.

Other countries tried to help President Mbeki but were unsuccessful in persuading him. Civil society groups raised grave concerns over the need for urgent action. One of the most prominent groups to raise concerns and to have the greatest impact in the region was the Treatment Action Campaign.

The Treatment Action Campaign

Zackie Achmat, along with fellow 10 activists, founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 1998. Achmat was a gay rights activist living with HIV. TAC was a tripartite alliance between the AIDS Law Project and COSATU. It was formed as a response to HIV in South Africa. The organization was needed because of the lack of urgency that the government and the medical industry had in responding to the virus. 

TAC is a rights-based organization focused on getting those in need access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. TAC is technical and political in its arguments as it utilizes justifications for actions through moral, scientific and economic reasoning. Also, TAC develops partnerships with activist groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP. It aids in training on ‘treatment literacy’ and initiated a more extensive peer education network. In addition, TAC formed partnerships between elites, academics, professionals and press. However, it ultimately served to strengthen the effort for the poor to advocate for themselves. TAC uses its sources for social mobilization, advocacy, legal action and education.

TAC Fight Against HIV in South Africa

TAC’s first action was to argue for the right to access medical resources, namely antiretrovirals (ARVs). The organization found an inherent fault with the World Trade Organization’s 1995 TRIPS agreement, which legally protected intellectual property and patents.

In 1998, TAC demanded that the South African government introduced a program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). The social movement around advocacy for PMTCT was primarily made up of predominantly poor black women living with HIV. The issue was framed as a moral issue. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was profiteering off the sale of the drug. As a result, TAC demanded a price reduction and framed it as a moral issue regarding the South African constitution. The organization succeeded in its demand for legal action.

TAC’s Success

The essential tools for TAC’s success were its use of legal resources and advocacy. TAC made legal demands of the South African government. It also collaborated with progressive lawyers, scientists and researchers to develop plans and alternative policy proposals. TAC went beyond merely advocating for the poor and based policy on the entitlement of rights. The organization has taken successful litigation measures on many occasions. The past successful cases were supported by the efforts of lawyers and TAC’s actions, which involved marches, media campaigns, legal education and social mobilization.

This was possible due to advocacy and partnerships that TAC formed and developed. The structures in which it functioned also made it possible. Article 27 of the South African Constitution took effect in 1997. It includes the right to access medical services, reproductive healthcare and emergency medical treatment.

A key component that made TAC successful was the context in which it was based. The actions of TAC would not be possible without the tools it employed that were already in place within South African infrastructure and ideology. Additionally, TAC focused on the issues of the affected people. This included economic inequity, women’s rights, post-apartheid race relations and the necessity of medication access. The Treatment Action Campaign met immediate and long-term demands for people affected with HIV by addressing inherent human rights issues. TAC was mostly successful in its response to HIV in South Africa because it mobilized the personal into the political.

Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

Why HIV and AIDS in Russia is Steadily IncreasingHIV and AIDS have increased in Russia throughout the years. In fact, Russia’s failure to implement government policy, education and resources has allowed HIV/AIDs rates to increase at an unknown rate. These rates allow poverty and infection to course throughout the country. According to estimates from the World Bank, more than 10 percent of the total population will have HIV/AIDs by 2020. Also, as many as 21,000 people per month could die from infection of HIV and AIDS  in Russia. Experts anticipate that these values will continue to increase by 10 to 15 percent each year.

Efforts

The Russian government has made minimal efforts toward eradicating this epidemic. Numbers show that HIV and AIDS in Russia primarily occur among certain groups of people. In 2016, individuals who inject drugs accounted for the largest number of confirmed cases at 48.8 percent.

Further, in 2015, government reports determined that more than 38 percent of newly diagnosed cases occurred in women. These numbers pushed experts to believe that heterosexual transmission would significantly impact the heterosexual population. In fact, in 2017, researchers found that heterosexual transmission occurred in 48.7 percent of the Russian population.

Additionally, sex work is one of the leading causes of HIV and AIDS in Russia. People’s stigmas with this specific group of people inevitably cause an increased risk for those who utilize this service. Sex workers are often unable to access health care resources to decrease the likelihood of spread, thus making it challenging to eradicate HIV and AIDS in Russia.

Barriers

The marginalization of certain groups of people has led to a reduction in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS in Russia. One study showed those who are living with HIV/AIDS and are injecting drugs are unlikely to seek treatment. Only 10 percent of that specific group has sought treatment. Some experts assume that the inaccessibility of information and denial of treatment or prevention services are the primary reasons for this low percentage.

Also, women who are sex workers are particularly vulnerable. Studies have shown the unwillingness to seek treatment due to negative opinions regarding the occupation of these women.

Another obstacle is funding for HIV and AIDS education, which is very minimal if it exists at all. Financial support for HIV/AIDS programs in Russia remains a significant barrier to treatment and prevention. Dedicated support for HIV and AIDS in Russia has decreased and no programs to educate and prevent the disease have replaced it.

Solutions

In 2013, the Aids Healthcare Foundation in Russia registered with the Russian Federation to ensure the implementation of programs to contribute support financially, provide education about HIV and treat those living with HIV. Russia made further efforts in 2017; the Russian Federation committed to a 90-90-90 target by 2020. This goal aimed to diagnose, update treatment status and suppress the viral loads of 90 percent of people living with HIV.

In 2018, the Russian Federation released a progress update, showing substantial improvements from 2017. Overall, 81 percent of people living with HIV received confirmed diagnoses, 45 percent of people who knew of the diagnosis received treatment and 75 percent of people who obtained treatment experienced viral suppression.

At the 28th meeting of the Health Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ms. Veronika Skvortsova, the Russian Minister of Health stated that “We have to provide every person living with HIV with quick access to the correct treatment. The Ministry of Health plans to increase the coverage of people living with HIV who know their status on antiretroviral therapy to 75 percent by 2019, and by 2020 the figure should reach 90 percent.”

Rates of HIV and AIDS in Russia continues to raise concerns across the country. Without Russian government implementation of policy toward a movement of eradication, estimates suggest that the numbers will continue to rise.

Tiffany Hill
Photo: Wikimedia

HIV in Djibouti
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), addressing poverty means first reaching those who feel the greatest impact; progress does not necessarily trickle down to the population that is most disadvantaged. The 2016 Human Development Report found that one-third of the world’s population lives in low human development circumstances. Furthermore, some sectors of society are more disadvantaged than others. Inequalities and social exclusion that people such as those living with HIV face present larger barriers to development and access to health programs. For this reason, the World Food Programme, alongside UNDP, UNAIDS and the national network of people living with HIV in Djibouti (RNDP+), have created an income-generation program that provides loans for people living with HIV. Such loans are empowering women with HIV in Djibouti to live dignified and successful lives.

Men and Women with HIV in Djibouti

As of 2017, 1.3 percent of the adult population in Djibouti was living with HIV, a decrease from 1.6 percent – or 9,900 people – in 2014. Social and cultural norms, destructive policies, improper medical services and restrictive laws impede HIV treatment and prevention measures. In Djibouti, women are most vulnerable to stigma and social exclusion and therefore often suffer the most.

The Income Generation Programme

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative supports and empowers women through longterm aid. By providing a regular, stable income, the World Food Programme is creating financial security for women with HIV in Djibouti. The money that women receive typically goes toward starting and running a retail business. These loans generally range from $141 to $148 per person and include a training program teaching effective business skills.

How it Works

Recipients of the loan become chosen from two networks in Djibouti that specifically support those living with HIV: ARREY and Oui à la Vie – Yes to Life. Oftentimes, those diagnosed with HIV are susceptible to deteriorating conditions, are unable to hold down a job and face discrimination, causing the citizens to be unwelcome in public sectors. Women with HIV in Djibouti that receive these loans are able to make a consistent income for themselves and overcome the stigma that some associate with HIV. Further, these women are able to take back control of the lives they previously led.

The Outcome

One such recipient of the loan stated that she was “no longer a desperate woman.” She now makes enough to support her family and other dependents. Additionally, once this loan gave her the capital to launch a sustainable business, she was able to repay the loan in only 10 months. During that time the recipient was also able to expand the retail business to include furniture and electronics.  

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative aids the Sustainable Development Goal of ending HIV by 2030, and furthermore, leaving no person behind. According to UNDP’s findings, development itself does not automatically ensure that the entire population is included. Programs such as this target the multidimensional factors involved in people receiving proper aid.

Empowerment is an essential part of development; without the ability to feel successful and fulfilled, women often lack the means to seek treatment and make educated decisions regarding health. The loan initiative empowers women living with HIV in Djibouti to combat the associated stigma and obtain financial investment necessary to develop a sustainable business. With a stable income, women are able to seek health services that might not have been previously accessible. 

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Life Expectancy in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and the second most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. With a population of 6.4 million, nearly 50 percent live on just $2 a day. Though Nicaragua’s odds seem to be against it, the last two decades have shown an increase in life expectancy, averaging 74.5 years, which is an increase of six years since the late 90s. There are many contributing factors to this increase. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Nicaragua

  1. Nicaragua’s life expectancy is one year higher than the world average. As of 2019, the world average life expectancy was estimated at 72 years. One can follow life expectancy back to the Age of Enlightenment when only certain countries had the resources to industrialize. Consequently, this affected the distribution of health across the globe. Wealthy countries were healthy, whereas poor countries were not.
  2. Malnutrition and undernutrition is the primary cause of child mortality. Although Nicaragua is an agrarian economy, finding food and clean water is difficult. According to Project Concern International (PCI), nearly one of every five children have chronic malnutrition. PCI implemented the Food for Education project and feeds over 77,000 children every day. The integration between food and education encourages students to continue schooling without worrying about an empty stomach.
  3. Education is free and compulsory. However, travel expenses are costly and serve as an obstacle for low-income rural families. Only 29 percent of children attending school finish their primary education and roughly 500,000 children under the age of 12 are completely out of the education system. Those with more wealth and better health typically have an education of more than 12 years.
  4. Access to onsite health services is widely available. Nicaragua has a total of 32 public hospitals, 21 of which are departmental reference facilities. This means that medical professionals perform a variety of health services like inpatient care for internal medicine or surgery, and even diagnostic lab testing, in one central location. The majority of the hospitals, however, are on the Pacific side of the country, limiting access for those unable to travel.
  5. Nicaragua has the lowest HIV infection rates in Central America. Although case detection is slow (anywhere between two weeks and six months), preventive measures are stopping further spread of the disease. The Ministry of Health implemented case-based-surveillance (CBS) information systems. It continuously collects data on demographics, health events, diagnosis and routine treatment. The system also tracks outbreaks, viral mobility and mortality. CBS information systems support faster public health action.
  6. The Sustainable Sciences Institute (SSI) developed and implemented technologies for low-income health settings. Diagnostic kits are readily available to test for communicable diseases like dengue and leptospirosis. Testing and sampling happen at local or regional labs and lab techniques such as cell culturing receive modifications on-site in low-resource settings.
  7. Nicaraguan health care systems have the support of nonprofits. To name a couple, Project HOPE created the International Diabetes Educator and E-Learning Program to combat the rising threat of diabetes. The program’s aim is to train health care professionals and volunteers. Similarly, the Manna Project created adolescent health education programs in response to teen pregnancy. It also implemented Community Health Promotion, a program to teach communities about healthy lifestyle changes.
  8. Life expectancy for males and females follows the same pattern worldwide. As of 2019, females outlive their male counterparts by four years, averaging 76 years. This is one more year than the world average.
  9. The primary cause of death is noncommunicable disease. Diseases of the circulatory system account for 27 percent of premature deaths. Roughly 13 percent are due to external causes such as suicide and accidents, and nutritional/metabolic-related diseases like chronic malnutrition cause 9 percent of deaths. The Family and Community Health Model that the Pan American Health Organization implemented has improved health service accessibility by renovating the technology and health infrastructure.
  10. Health expenditures are the lowest per capita in Central America. Nicaragua spends about 8.7 percent of its total GDP on health care services and resources. Nicaragua spends roughly $59 on one person with an average of $27 out-of-pocket payment. Out-of-pocket payments directly influence the increase in privatized health care facilities.

The years of dedicated collaboration and innovation created health modifications that directly impact the life expectancy of Nicaraguans. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua illustrate how far it has come in the last 20 years and how far it has to go before it has health, wealth and happiness.

– Marissa Taylor
Photo: Flickr

hiv_vaccine
A potential medicine to be used to help skin cancer patients has been proven to also function as an HIV vaccine. This not only eliminates the deadly virus but also makes apparent dormant and hidden parts of the virus that would otherwise remain in a patient’s body until they became active again.

The drug that is used is called PEP005 and has been used primarily for the treatment of cancer patients. This was an ingredient in a treatment used to prevent skin cancer in individuals. However, recent studies have shown the further extent of the drug’s use with HIV-positive patients. Though still in its early stages, the drug has already been approved by the FDA, and researchers say the potential use of the drug in the treatment of HIV patients is incredible. The drug has primarily been significant in treating newborns and very small children who were born with the virus.

This new means of eradicating the virus opens new doors for a number of people that face the epidemic of HIV and AIDS. The previously considered anti-cancer treatment now comes as an additional treatment of the virus. Injection of the PEP005 drug, as well as the use of other treatment options, can work to treat particularly young victims of the life-threatening disease. Studies done at the University of California Davis have shown the potential of the drug. It performs a specific function known as “kick and kill,” in which it activates previously dormant cells of the virus and makes them obvious to doctors. The drug then works to immediately attack and kill the newly active HIV cells. The “kill” aspect obviously is the most important aspect of the drug’s function, especially because it reactivates the deadly virus.

Discoveries like these bring hope to the treatment of such horrible diseases. With the discovery of such a treatment next comes the necessity to find a means to make it accessible to other parts of the world such as Africa, which has the most concentrated number of cases of HIV than any other region of the world. Both HIV and cancer are universal evils we as a global community must combat together. Further research leading to further discoveries will hopefully render the HIV virus something that the global community faced together and eradicated, making it a thing of the past.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: BBC, UC Davis Health System
Photo: Unity Observer