Affordable Medicine in Developing Countries
In 1997, thousands of people in low-income, developing countries died every day from treatable diseases because they could not pay the high price pharmaceuticals charged for medicine. Today in these same regions, millions are receiving treatment and mortality rates have dropped dramatically as drugmakers around the world are providing affordable medicine in developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals in the Past

In 1997, AIDS was killing thousands of Africans each day. In the same year, people with AIDS in the U.S. were enjoying greater life expectancy and quality of life, with AIDS-related deaths dropping by 42 percent thanks to the use of anti-HIV drugs.  With a $12,000 per patient per year price tag and strict patent laws forbidding the purchase of generic types, these life-saving drugs were inaccessible to millions of AIDS victims in developing countries. Unwilling to lower their prices, the pharmaceutical industry looked on while thousands of people died with treatment just beyond their reach.

Refusing to sit by as its people died every day while a treatment existed, South Africa legalized the suspension of drug patents in 1998, making it possible for South Africans to purchase generic anti-HIV drugs at affordable prices. Thirty-nine top pharmaceutical companies promptly engaged South Africa in a lawsuit, attempting to keep them from accessing HIV drugs at a reduced cost for fear that other countries would follow and the industry would miss out on profits.

The pharmaceuticals soon dropped the lawsuit when the international community received word that drug companies were keeping poor and dying people required medicines. However, drug prices remained inaccessibly high.

Finally, a turning point came in 2001 when Indian drug-maker Cipla shocked the international pharmaceutical industry by announcing its plan to sell anti-HIV drugs directly to poor nations and to Doctors Without Borders for only $350 per patient per year (less than $1 a day). Cipla’s offer exposed the huge markups pharmaceutical companies were profiting from, prompting several major drug-makers to lower their prices and make drugs more accessible to developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals Today

Today, the pharmaceutical industry’s attitude and approach toward providing affordable medicine in developing countries have greatly shifted. The Access to Medicine Foundation shares that nearly all major drug companies have goals for addressing access to medicine now, while many have pioneered innovative ways to reduce costs and create medicines and vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In the past 10 years, drug makers have doubled the number of medicines they are developing for LMICs.

Nine companies that own patents for HIV/AIDS treatment now use their IP rights flexibly to allow LMICs to import and purchase generic supplies. As a result, over 14 million Africans are now on HIV drugs, and AIDS-related deaths dropped drastically by nearly 40 percent over the past 10 years.

Seven drug companies have made efforts to include the poorest populations in their customer base, focusing on products for diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs which are a rising problem in the developing world. In 2017, the leading drug maker, Pfizer, partnered with Cipla to sell chemotherapy drugs to African countries at prices just above their own manufacturing cost, selling some pills for as little as 50 cents.

Several leading pharmaceuticals now partner with generics to produce affordable drugs for Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a fair price strategy now covers 49 percent of products. Thanks to the improvements in the pharmaceutical industry, hundreds of thousands of people now have access to affordable medicine in developing countries.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Cure for HIV
HIV/AIDS affects nearly 37 million individuals around the world every day, with close to 5,000 new infections daily. The virus’ reach extends around the world, affecting individuals in all six habitable continents. However, new research from the University of Nebraska Medical Center indicates that there may now be a cure for HIV. The journal, Nature Communications, published this research on July 2, 2019, and it has major implications; such a cure could bring relief to countless millions of individuals who currently suffer from the virus.

Treatment Development

Using mice as test subjects, researchers utilized a “long-acting, slow-effective release” antiretroviral (referred to as LASER ART) therapeutic strategy in conjunction with gene-editing (done with a tool called CRISPR-Cas9) to remove the HIV DNA from the mice’s cells. The HIV virus replicates by inserting its genome directly into the host cell’s genome. The LASER ART treatment stopped the HIV virus from replicating, while the gene-editing removed the HIV DNA from the infected genomes. Together, the two therapies completely removed HIV in roughly one-third of the mice tested. While that number may seem low, researchers say that there is potential that the treatment could be 100 percent effective on mice within two to three years. These results are a promising step towards a human cure for HIV.

HIV/AIDS Reduction & Potential Roadblocks

HIV affects millions of individuals every day around the world. Over 70 percent of affected individuals reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these individuals do not have the financial means to purchase HIV/AIDS treatments; given this, it is of the utmost importance to have a cheap, efficient, alternative solution to cure HIV/AIDS.

While the issue of HIV/AIDS is very prevalent in a number of countries, many positive steps have moved towards the reduction of disease prevalence in recent years. Such positive steps have included preventative measures such as educating individuals about HIV transmission as well as on the benefits of using condoms during sexual intercourse. There has also been work done to help increase the availability of health services that can give individuals a proper HIV diagnosis (roughly 50 percent of individuals with HIV do not know that they have the virus). The push for a cure, however, has proved difficult, and while this latest innovation brings great promise, there are some potential roadblocks to implementation. Assuming that humans can use the treatment, researchers must still access whether it will work for those in rural areas where the disease is often most prevalent. Finding an effective treatment is only one part of the problem. There is still a lack of trained individuals and sufficient infrastructure to help administer the treatments currently available and a cure for HIV will not solve that part of the problem.

Potential Impact on Global Poverty

If development goes smoothly, this new treatment has incredible potential to solve one of the biggest problems currently plaguing both the developed and developing world. While the treatment requires a lot of testing and work, researchers have taken an important step towards curing a disease that many previously believed to be incurable. In time, HIV may no longer be a lifelong burden, but rather something that someone can eradicate with two simple injections.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lesotho
For those living in the landlocked country of Lesotho, life is far shorter than it is in most of the world. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho that help reveal the reasons for its low life expectancy, as well as what the country has done and needs to do to improve the lives of those in Lesotho.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS: By far the most important of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho is that it has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. Health services are difficult to access and poor quality once received, contributing to an increase in the disease. Sentebale, a nonprofit created by Prince Harry, works in Lesotho to provide holistic care for children with HIV and those who have been orphaned as a result.
  2. Unemployment: Landlocked in Southern Africa, Lesotho has always depended on neighbors for employment. A majority of the working population traveled to South African mines for work, but recent retrenchment has left 24 to 28 percent of people jobless and without income. There have been few domestic opportunities to offset this deficit and improvement in Lesotho’s private sector will be crucial to creating much needed local jobs.
  3. Low Agricultural Output: Only a small portion of Lesotho’s land is arable enough for steady crop growth. This combined with recent droughts has created intense food scarcity. Some progress is happening as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation has created several Nutrition Corners that help parents find nutritious food for their children’s development, despite limited quantities. The World Food Programme has also planned to distribute food to 103,000 beneficiaries and additional food to nearly 5,000 children by 2024. This should greatly improve life expectancy by providing for the most basic of needs.
  4. Natural Disasters: The effects of climate change are evident in the 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho as the country continues to experience floods, droughts and other intense weather. This jeopardizes Lesotho’s material security, further disrupting the Basotho people’s lives. In response, the United Nations Development Programme has designed several projects to restore degraded landscapes and enhance climate resilience.
  5. Gender Roles: The HIV/AIDS crisis disproportionately affects women in Lesotho because they often must take in sick relatives or community members on top of performing existing domestic responsibilities. This amount of pressure forces women to pursue risky work such as prostitution or human trafficking. These jobs often damage women’s wellbeing and make it hard for them to live long and healthy lives.
  6. Few Social Services: One of the most interesting 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho is that Lesotho has a relatively large population of elderly citizens despite the HIV/AIDS crisis. The country created its Old Age Pension to provide each citizen over 70 years old with roughly $40 per month. While the social service has had a tremendous impact by making elderly people stable caregivers for their families, including orphaned grandchildren, it is one of the only social services in Lesotho. More programs of this caliber would drastically improve the total health of the population and thus increase Lesotho’s life expectancy as well.
  7. Improving Education: Education has been a consistent priority for Lesotho, and one that has yielded substantial results. After implementing free primary education, enrollment among children increased from 65 percent to 85 percent in three years. The next goal for Lesotho is to decrease the price of secondary school, as many children cannot currently afford to enroll. The best chance for the Basotho people to raise their life expectancy is to become educated, empowered and informed people.
  8. Water and Sanitation: Several people in Lesotho (18.2 percent) do not have access to dependably clean water despite several dams present. The water is instead transported to South Africa for profit which leaves local people thirsty. Organizations such as The Water Project are building wells, water catchments and other water solutions for the people of Lesotho.
  9. Few Accessible Doctors: Lesotho has one doctor per 20,000 people, compared to the one per 400 in the United States. This makes health care inaccessible and costly for most of Lesotho. Lesotho recently added a residency program in family medicine, which will hopefully increase the retention rate of doctors and create a reasonable ratio of doctors to patients.
  10. Infant, Child and Mother Mortality Rates: An important cause of the reduced life expectancy in Lesotho is an infant mortality rate of 44.6 deaths per 1,000 births and a maternal mortality rate of 487 deaths per 100,000 births. This is largely due to preterm birth complications that come from the frequently poor living conditions of mothers. Both infant and maternal health outcomes are looking much better after Lesotho’s hospitals introduced free deliveries, providing a safe place for mothers to deliver cost-free.

Lesotho is attempting to make the lives of the Basotho people better. Free primary education, enhanced feeding programs and efforts at improving the health sector bring new hope and promise for the country. Though Lesotho needs to do more to fully help its people, its people’s lives are slowly growing longer and their quality of life should continuously improve.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Poverty-Related DiseasesEvery day, billions of individuals around the world suffer from diseases. To make matters worse, many of these individuals are mired in poverty with limited access to health care services. Reducing the negative impact that these diseases have on individuals in poverty starts with identifying which diseases are affecting the most people. Listed below are three diseases that are closely linked with individuals in poverty.

Top 3 Poverty-Related Diseases

  1. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease that stems from the presence of bacteria in someone’s lungs. It is common in many poorer, more urban areas because it can spread quickly when individuals are in close contact with each other. TB killed over 1.5 million people in 2018 and infected 10 million individuals in total. The disease takes advantage of individuals who have weakened immune systems, which can happen to individuals who are malnourished or who are suffering from other diseases simultaneously. When an individual in poverty is diagnosed with TB, their options are limited. Treating TB is costly and many people cannot afford treatment. However, not all hope is lost. Organizations like the TB Alliance aim to produce more affordable TB treatment for individuals in poverty. The TB Alliance has already helped many individuals and is working to expand its operations in the coming years.
  2. Malaria
    Malaria is a parasitic disease that is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. It accounts for roughly 435,000 deaths per year (affecting roughly 219 million people) and disproportionally affects individuals under the age of 5 (children under 5 accounted for over 60 percent of malaria deaths in 2017). One NGO that is leading the fight against Malaria is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have partnered with the U.S. Government, the WHO and NGOs like the Global Fund to help protect individuals around the world from malaria-transmitting mosquitos. So far, their work has been beneficial, as the number of malaria cases has been reduced by half since 2000. However, there is still much work to be done, as malaria remains a deadly disease that negatively affects millions.
  3. HIV/AIDS
    HIV is a virus that is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. It affects nearly 37 million people worldwide every year, 62 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS (HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS) is common in countries where the population either does not have the knowledge or resources to practice safe sex. HIV can also spread in areas with poor sanitation, as individuals who use previously used needles can become infected with the virus. Many governments and NGOs around the world are doing good work to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDs. For example, in 2003, the U.S. Government launched The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to address the global HIV/AIDS issue by helping those who already have the condition as well as by spearheading prevention efforts. Since the program was implemented, the results have been positive- the program is widely credited with having saved millions of lives over the last 16 years.

Each of these diseases negatively affects millions of individuals around the globe on a daily basis. Yet there is reason for optimism — continued work done by NGO’s such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TB Alliance and The Global Fund, as well as efforts from governments to improve the current situation, will lead to a better future, hopefully, one where individuals no longer suffer from there poverty-related diseases.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Namibia
Namibia has continued to make large strides in many aspects of life, including life expectancy. Having suffered a history of colonization and oppression, Namibia struggled for years with political, social and cultural issues. However, as the country has begun to strengthen and mingle on a global level, it has and is continuing to make exceptional progress. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Namibia will bring attention to the country’s progress and highlight the necessary changes.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Namibia

  1. Life Expectancy in Namibia is Improving: The CIA World Fact Book rates the average life expectancy for Namibians at 64.4 years, ranking the country 189th worldwide. This is a giant increase from the previous life expectancy rate of 53.5 years in 2005.
  2. Infant Mortality in Namibia is Improving: Coinciding with the steadily increasing life expectancy is the steadily decreasing infant mortality rate. According to the World Bank with data going back to 1967, the infant mortality rate has halved, going from a staggering 62.6 deaths per 1,000 births down to 31.8 deaths per 1,000 births. This is in line with countries that share a similar history to Namibia, like South Africa, which has an infant mortality rate of 28.8 deaths per 1,000 births. Both of these countries still trail behind other nations within the continent, like Egypt, which has an infant mortality rate of 18.8 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Namibian Economy is Improving: There is a strong correlation between Namibia’s continually improving social and medical situation and its continued economic prosperity. According to the World Bank, the country’s GDP has more than quadrupled from the 1980s to today jumping from $2.4 billion in 1980 to an impressive $14.5 billion in 2018. Namibia continues to improve economically and was the top emerging market economy in Africa in 2013. It is also important to note that there have been continued efforts to distribute the wealth that the country is coming into. In 1990, after Namibia had gained its independence, it had the highest levels of income inequality in Africa. After policy changes, however, income inequality has significantly decreased.
  4. Social Justice Has Helped Namibia Prosper: Similar to South Africa, Namibia has a long and unfortunate history of apartheid. Apartheid prevented black Namibians from having any political rights and restricted social and economic freedom. It was not until the 1990s that Namibia gained its independence. Namibia’s large population’s roadblocks resulted in the before mentioned wealth inequality. However, once everyone received an equal footing and the Namibian Government looked at the entire population rather than a small few, the poverty rate decreased from 53 percent to 23 percent.
  5. Health Care in Namibia is Not Consistent: As Namibia has continued to improve, so has its health care. There are currently both public and private health care options with 85 percent of the population having the former. There is, however, a severe discrepancy in the service provided between private and public health care. Public hospitals are understaffed and offer limited services. The government has expressed its awareness of these issues and commitment to solving them. Its commitment is outlined in the National Health Policy Framework 2010–2020 and it is implementing efforts to grow the government budget line for health.
  6. Namibians Suffer From Preventable Diseases: Similar to many African countries, the impoverished sectors of Namibia are suffering from preventable diseases, but that is not to say that there have not been major improvements. The country has eliminated neonatal tetanus and the African Regional Certification Commission recognizes it as polio-free. This is due to the Government’s intense focus on fixing these issues. The Namibian Government has even decreased the number of malaria cases by 97 percent in just a decade.
  7. HIV is on the Decline in Namibia: One of many countries suffering from an HIV epidemic, Namibia is thankfully showing improvement. A report published by the Namibia Statistics Agency showed that the new infection rate had decreased from 14 per 1,000 adults to four per 1,000 adults. The same report stated that “as with the fight against extreme poverty, it is possible that a continuation in this effort can lead to zero new infections in the country by 2030.”
  8. Climate Has an Impact on Namibia: According to the World Health Organization, climate change and environmental safety are two major issues facing Namibia. Droughts, floods and disease outbreaks highlight the need for better planning and coordination as well as the importance of attending to environmental health as a preventative method when considering social, economic and cultural progress. Groups all over Namibia dedicate themselves to different issues within the larger context. Two of those groups are Namibia Nature Foundation, which is committed to conservation, and the Africa Drought Conference, which is part of the Government’s efforts to address the drought issue.
  9. Namibia is Rapidly Urbanizing: Urbanization has long been a sign of prosperity, but mass urbanization presents challenges. In Namibia, there are constantly high unemployment rates stemming in part from rapid urbanization. A staggering 34 percent of the total labor force, which mostly affects youth and women, do not have employment. This has been contributing to a growing number of poor who lack access to food and other social services.
  10. Namibia Has a Food Problem: Although Namibia is an upper-middle-income country, it still faces many problems including poverty and malnutrition. Namibia only produces about 40 percent of food consumed and is very reliant on imports. The limiting of access to food leads to price fluctuations harming up to 28 percent of Namibian families. The Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA) is just one of the many groups trying to improve the quality and access to nutrition. It also has an increased focus on sustainability.

Some have labeled Namibia one of the most promising countries in Africa because of its increasing social, cultural and economic status. One, however, cannot ignore that there is still a lot of room for progress, especially when looking at the less privileged groups in the country. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Namibia highlight all the good that has taken place and should pose some insight into the future.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Eritrea
The average life expectancy in Eritrea is 65 years, nearly seven years short of the world average. Before getting to the 10 facts about life expectancy in Eritrea, here is some general background on the country’s health metrics. In 2000, life expectancy in Eritrea was only 55, meaning there has been a substantial improvement over the past two decades. However, Eritrea’s growth has been comparatively less than neighboring Ethiopia, which increased from nearly 52 to 65.5 over the same period and surpassed Eritrea for the first time since 1970.

According to the WHO, despite political turmoil and high poverty rates, Eritrea has managed to improve its health resources. With the official end of the Ethiopian-Eritrean war in 2018, all signs seem to indicate that life expectancy in Eritrea will continue to increase in the coming years.

Still, Eritrea is a complicated country with past political and economic troubles that make its future uncertain. However, present trends may give insight into the future longevity of the country’s citizens. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Eritrea.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Eritrea

  1. Women live longer than men: Women, on average, live to be almost 68, whereas male life expectancy is only about 63.5. Even so, one problem that connects to women’s health in Eritrea is the lack of access to medical care during childbirth. About 70 percent of women give birth at home, which greatly increases the risk of complications. In addition, malnutrition poses serious problems for women who are breastfeeding, as it can cause both them and their children to be dangerously underweight.
  2. Health has not increased as much as lifespan in recent years: According to Charles Shey Wiysonge, though Sub-Saharan Africa has marked an up-tick in life expectancy over the past several decades, the average number of healthy years people live has shown smaller growth. This means that while people are living longer, their quality of life may remain more or less unchanged. When looking at health statistics, it is important not to celebrate prematurely.
  3. Eritrea has one of the lowest rates of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: UNAID statistics show that Eritrea is one of the few countries in the region to have an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of less than one percent. Sub-Saharan Africa’s average is 4.7 percent, while Eritrea’s is 0.6 percent.
  4. Eritrea’s first medical school opened in 2004: The Orotta School of Medicine in Asmara opened on February 16, 2004. The inaugural class included 32 students, six of whom were women. In addition, over the past several decades, Eritrea has steadily increased the percentage of its population with medical training. In a 2010 workshop supported by the World Bank and WHO, the country established goals to increase the overall number of health workers, increase retention rates, encourage a diverse mix of skills and improve access to technology. The country currently has 6.3 health professionals per 10,000 people. This is significantly above the world average of roughly 4.6.
  5. Eritrean youth frequently seek asylum in Europe: In 2015, 5,000 minors from Eritrea survived the dangerous crossing into Europe to request asylum. Though the number decreased to 3,500 in 2018, the fact remains that an outflux of the nation’s youth could affect average life expectancy. Moreover, the continued export of asylum seekers from Eritrea is indicative of considerable unrest among the population, which will likely impact future political attitudes towards things like public health.
  6. Infant mortality remains an issue: The infant mortality rate in Eritrea is 47 percent, and the under-five mortality rate is 89 percent. The country is attempting to address this, however. One of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for Eritrea is to reduce child mortality. According to a 2002 report, Eritrea is on track to meet this and other goals in the near future.
  7. In 2019, the Eritrean government closed 22 Catholic-run health care clinics: According to a 1995 decree, all Eritrean social and welfare projects are to be state-run. The government recently used this precedent to justify the military seizure of the health clinics. BBC analysts believe the seizures to be a punishment for the Church’s call for governmental reform. As the clinics in question served some of the poorest sectors of the nation’s population, their closure has harmed overall health.
  8. The number one cause of death in Eritrea is tuberculosis: Despite increases in access to medicine and technology, tuberculosis remains Eritrea’s number one cause of death killing more than 600 people per year and affecting roughly 2,000. Neonatal disorders and diarrheal diseases also remain everyday challenges. However, since the country has made significant strides in reducing other areas of premature death and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has dropped by nearly 58 percent, it stands to reason that the incidence of tuberculosis will decrease in the years to come as more medical training and technology becomes available.
  9. Malnutrition remains the number one risk factor for death and disability: Like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Eritrea struggles with sufficient access to food, water and sanitation. In 2007, the top three factors to a disability or premature death were malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation and air pollution. This ranking remained unchanged in 2017, despite a decrease in the prevalence of almost 30 percent across all three areas. Eritrea has also made progress in other key health areas. Unsafe sex as a cause of health complications decreased by 47 percent over the 10-year period. Similarly, tobacco use dropped from the sixth to the ninth most prevalent risk factor for poor health.
  10. Per capita spending on health is poised to increase in Eritrea: According to healthdata.org, the per capita spending on health was $30 compared to the United States’ $10,000 per person. Though some project this number to almost double by 2050, the majority of health funding will likely still come out of pocket. Unless Eritrea takes action, this lack of funding may leave the poorest citizens of Eritrea vulnerable.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Eritrea indicate that the country is a long way from solving the humanitarian crisis which continues to affect its population. However, these facts do give some idea of which areas the country is addressing successfully and which it is neglecting. Many aid organizations around the world are working hard to increase the standard of living in Eritrea and elsewhere in the developing world. It, therefore, seems likely that in the near future, life expectancy in Eritrea will rise significantly.

– Alexander Metz
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

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

Government Efforts

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

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

Positive Effects

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

HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality

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

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

Work Still to be Done

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

– Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Swaziland
In Swaziland, a relatively small, landlocked country in Southern Africa, a surprising trend has emerged: girls are receiving education at a higher rate than boys. According to the latest count on gross enrollment rate, the percentage of girls at every level of schooling has been higher than boys. However, due to the high rate of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancies, the education of girls in Swaziland still has a lot of room for improvement.

Girls’ Education in Swaziland

Currently, although 97 percent of girls enroll at some point into primary school, only 37.7 percent of them continue into secondary education. Beyond that, only about 5.5 percent enroll in tertiary education.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of girls’ education in Swaziland is poverty. Primary education in Swaziland currently operates under the Free Primary Education grant, launched in 2010, which stipulates that families send all children to public primary schools up to grade seven from the ages of six to 11. As of 2014, this program has enrolled about 80 percent of primary school-aged Swazi children. However, schools charge annual top-up fees, averaging at $76 per year, to cover running costs. With 58.9 percent of Swazis living below the national poverty line, defined as $2 or less per day, higher education becomes out of reach for many girls. This has resulted in many families withdrawing from educational programs in order to pay for the ever-growing costs of basic necessities such as food and medications.

Health Care, HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Next, the health care issues that have plagued Swazis for decades often disproportionately affect girls. The country experiences a significant HIV/AIDS gender gap which has been widening in recent years, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 being almost twice as likely to have contracted HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age. HIV/AIDS inhibits children from attending schools as income initially used for school fees often becomes redirected toward medications.

Premature parental deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has also led to record-high numbers of orphans in the country. With few institutions in place to cope with the crisis, many of these minors, especially girls, become heads of families. As a result, they must forfeit their education in order to care for their siblings.

In addition, the country has a high rate of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting from sexual abuse by close male relatives. One in three girls report having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. With less than 30 percent of sex occurring with contraceptives, many of these sexual relationships result in teen pregnancies. Although there are no explicit laws in the country to exclude pregnant students from schools, local communities often ridicule and stigmatize these young mothers, which, often in combination with the needs of their children (schools rarely offer childcare or support), frequently results in them dropping out. The numbers indicate this because although 98 percent of Swazi children enroll in primary school at some point in their lives, only 27 percent enroll in secondary school.

UNICEF, Children’s HopeChest and mothers2mothers International

There is, however, much hope for the future for girls’ education in Swaziland. For example, UNICEF is currently actively collaborating with the Swazi government as well as the U.N. to decrease teenage pregnancy and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization has dedicated human resources to Swaziland starting in 1968 and has since then engaged the Parliament to adopt better legislation regarding health and education issues and have supported strategies reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through changes in community behaviors. Many NGOs are also invested in the issue, including Children’s HopeChest, which has been working to empower orphans in Swaziland by constructing housing and other facilities for them. Since 2004, the organization has impacted over 7,000 children. Furthermore, mothers2mothers International operates in Swaziland with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as providing support for individuals and families who have contracted the disease. Between its inaugural year of 2008 to its last data count in 2017, the program has enrolled 68,796 clients.

Conclusively, although the girls’ education in Swaziland still has many obstacles to overcome, including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancy, there is much hope on the horizon. Today, over 95 percent of female Swazis are literate and that number should grow. With new educational and health programs being put in place by both the government and NGOs, teenage pregnancy and HIV rates are almost certain to decrease within the next decade.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Captain Planet
Age is never a barrier in the fight for social justice. At least, Captain Planet teaches this lesson. During the animated series’ six-year span, “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” sought to educate and empower young people to take an interest in environmental issues.

Origin

Media mongrel, Ted Turner, conceived of the idea for Captain Planet. To bring this superhero to life, Turner sought the help of longtime environmentalist and film producer, Barbara Pyle. Inspired by people she met during past projects, Pyle created the Planeteers: Kwame, Gi, Linka, Wheeler and Ma-Ti. Together, the Planeteers and Captain Planet work to combat ecological and global problems.

“Captain Planet and the Planeteers” premiered worldwide in 1990 and the children’s animated series gained popular success as well as critical acclaim. Captain Planet was one of the first television shows to openly advocate for the environment. Apart from addressing environmental issues, the television show also encouraged young people to have an interest in the issues plaguing their own communities. Here are two examples of how Captain Planet challenged its audience to be advocates for nonenvironmental social justice issues.

Issue #1: HIV/AIDS Epidemic

In the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic devastated the United States. The number of reported cases was over 100,000 and it affected everyone in sight. Ryan White was one of the first children diagnosed with the deadly virus. Doctors diagnosed White with AIDS when he was 13 years old after he received a blood transfusion. After this diagnosis, White’s school banned him and his community ostracized him, similar to other individuals. People were afraid of White due to the misperception that AIDS could transmit by air or touch.

During the middle of the epidemic, Captain Planet addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS in its episode, “A Formula for Hate.” The episode challenged the audience to put aside ignorance and fear to reduce discrimination against people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The plot of the episode parallels White’s situation after his diagnosis with AIDS. In the episode, the townspeople learn about a student’s (Todd Andrews) HIV-positive diagnosis. The townspeople turn against Andrews and his family, going as far as burning his mother’s vegetable stand. Captain Planet and the Planeteers intervene by educating the townspeople on the virus, dispelling the misperception that HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact. As a result, Andrews and his family were once again accepted by the townspeople and no longer discriminated against.

Issue #2: Gang Violence

Gangs and firearm violence were on the rise in the United States during the 1990s, especially among young people. In 1990, the number of fatal and nonfatal violent crimes with a firearm was at an all-time high at 18,253. In 1993, 45 cities reported that over 100,000 young people were involved in a gang. The rise in violent crimes created toxic environments among youth and places considered safe zones for young people, like parks and schools, became battlegrounds.

In 1994, Captain Planet addressed the issue of gang and gun violence in the episode, “Teers in the ‘Hood.” The episode’s plot revolved around a shootout between two rival gangs and The Planeteers became caught in the middle of the conflict. Captain Planet and the Planeteers defused the situation by talking about the peace messages of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi. The episode also debunked the myth that gangs offer positive communities for its members. After two of the Planeteers infiltrated one of the rival gangs, the gang quickly pressured them to use violence in order to gain acceptance. In short, the episode’s message was on the power of positive community and peace.

Today, Captain Planet continues providing fun, innovative opportunities to support environmental issues worldwide. To get involved or learn more, visit www.captain planet foundation.org.

– Paola Nunez
Photo: Flickr