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

HIV and AIDS in South Africa

South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV of any country in the world. South Africa comprises of approximately one-fifth of the 37 million people in the world living with HIV, with an estimated 7.2 million people living with HIV in 2017. This translates to a general population in which an estimated 18.8 percent of South Africans are HIV positive.

And yet, the country is making progress in reducing HIV and AIDS. In recent years, efforts to combat HIV and AIDS in South Africa have been ramped up. According to a study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the statutory research agency of South Africa, there were 231,000 new HIV infections in 2017, representing a 44 percent decrease since the last major study in 2012.

Largest Antiretroviral Drug Campaign in the World

South Africa has the largest antiretroviral drug campaign in the world, which its own domestic resources largely fund. In 2015, South Africa was investing more than 1.34 billion (US dollars) towards its efforts to combat HIV and AIDS. And yet, it was not always like this; the South African government regarding and treating HIV and AIDS as a major and important public health issue and one to which it allocates resources to is a fairly recent phenomenon.

The government spearheaded this change, at least in part, by the exit of former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who headed the government between June 14, 1999, and September 24, 2008. He had a track record of aversion to the combating of HIV as a public health issue and largely turned a blind eye to the issue. ‘“Many people do not remember that in 2000 there were only 90 people in South Africa on treatment,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.” When Mbeki left office in 2008, a tide turned and HIV and AIDS became to be regarded in the milieu and in public policy as a major and important public health issue, and now approximately four million people are receiving antiretroviral drug treatment in South Africa.

The 90 90 90 Plan

The 90 90 90 Plan summarizes some of the efforts to combat HIV and AIDS in South Africa. This plan aimed to test 90 percent of people so they would know their HIV status, followed by 90 percent of those diagnosed receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of those receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression.

South Africa reached the first of the 90-90-90 targets, with 90 percent of people aware of their status, jumping up from only 66.2 percent in 2014. Of the affected, presently 61 percent of adults (people between ages 15-49) and 58 percent of children are on antiretroviral treatment, and so these current numbers are not at target though they are continuing to trend upwards. Life expectancy has seen a significant increase over the past several years, largely due to the efforts launched with antiretroviral therapy. There has been an improvement in life expectancy from 61.2 years in 2010 to 67.7 years in 2015.  With an increase of nearly 10 percent in just five years, one cannot overstate South Africa’s success in reducing HIV and AIDS within the country.

– Lacy Rab
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Zambia
Zambia is a tropical country in southern Africa with a population of approximately 16,445,079 people. It has a rich history of copper production and is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, HIV/AIDS has become prevalent throughout Zambia and is a large contributing factor to the country’s low life expectancy, which currently ranks second to last in a global comparison.

HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, attacks a person’s immune system by destroying white blood cells that fight disease and infection. Though there is no cure for HIV, people can control it successfully. Without proper medical care, the infection can lead to AIDS, which is the most severe phase of HIV infection.

The Current State of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Zambia

Heterosexual intercourse is what mainly drives Zambia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS particularly affects adolescent women compared to other age groups in Zambia. In fact, according to data collected by UNAIDS, one million women between the ages of 10 and 19 were living with HIV in 2017, while only 770,000 of their male counterparts had the same prognosis.

This discrepancy is due in part to the many societal issues that permeate throughout the lives of Zambian women. Younger Zambian women are more likely to have an older partner already infected with HIV. Additionally, many Zambian women are not in charge of their own reproductive health or education.

In fact, only 56 percent of Zambian women are literate. Meanwhile, the country only has a contraceptive prevalence rate of 49 percent. Both issues decrease a Zambian woman’s ability for education on the matter, as well as the ability to prevent pregnancy and the eventual exposure of HIV to a fetus in the womb.

Other marginalized Zambian groups disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS are children, sex workers and prisoners. According to UNAIDS, an estimated 8,900 children were newly infected with HIV in 2016 due to perinatal transmission. Perinatal transmission refers to when a mother passes HIV to her child during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding. Meanwhile, sex workers and prisoners had HIV prevalence rates of 56.4 percent and 27.4 percent respectively.

The Future of HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Zambia is currently taking steps towards decreasing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country. The first step has to do with prevention and education. According to the 2014 Zambia Country Report, the country’s provision of free condoms nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 19.6 million.

Additionally, according to the National AIDS Strategic Framework (NASF), comprehensive sex education will become a larger focus for adolescent Zambians within forthcoming years. Furthermore, several HIV prevention programs are active in Zambia and focus on empowering the country’s most susceptible population — young and adolescent women. Zambia is one of 10 countries that takes part in the DREAMS initiative, which strives to reduce new infections among women by addressing structural inequalities and gender norms.

Though Zambia has recently scaled up its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, it needs to do more to effect real change. Zambia’s domestic spending on HIV/AIDS only takes four percent of the overall budget, despite having risen drastically within the past few years. Even if Zambia were to spend this portion of the budget on providing ART, testing facilities and eMTCT services, a real societal change would not occur unless communication in Zambia health care systems increases. Zambia must see to the general population being educated about adhering to treatment, getting tested regularly and exercising effective prevention techniques.

There is much room for improvement when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS in Zambia. However, by increasing access to education and focusing upon marginalized groups — such as young women — the prevalence of this infection in Zambia will drastically decrease.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in ArmeniaArmenia is a landlocked country sharing borders with Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Throughout history, this key location rendered Armenia vulnerable to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian and Ottoman empires. Most recently in 1920, the Soviet Red Army ruled the country until 1991 when Armenia regained its independence. The following year Armenia joined the United Nations and in 2001 it became a member of the Council of Europe. This is a country with a long, rich and complex history infused with religion, national strife, war and genocide.

Like every other country in the world, present-day Armenia battles a deadly condition: HIV/AIDS. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, rendering it vulnerable to other infections and even various cancers. Globally in 2017, 1.8 million people were newly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). If untreated HIV results in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In 2017 AIDS took the lives of 940,000 people worldwide.

4 Facts About the Status of AIDS in Armenia

  1. In 2016, the World Health Organization recognized Armenia as one out of four countries that eliminated mother-to-child transmissions of HIV. Additionally, since 2010, new HIV infections in Armenia decreased by 31 percent.

  2. Although new cases of HIV declined within the last decade, AIDS-related deaths increased by 26 percent. Although there isn’t a known cure for HIV or AIDS, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can suppress the virus and prevent its spread to others. However, in 2016 only slightly more than one-third of Armenians with HIV sought out ART.

  3. There are ways to continue the fight against AIDS in Armenia. In 2017 there were an estimated 3,400 Armenians living with HIV or AIDS. One of the key issues surrounding AIDS in Armenia is that nearly half of Armenians with the virus don’t know that they have it. Preventative measures such as comprehensive and inclusive sex education, increased use of protection during sex and regular HIV testing are key in lowering the number of AIDS-related deaths and fighting AIDS in Armenia.

  4. Key populations most affected by AIDS are sex workers, LGBTQ+ individuals, people who inject drugs, prisoners and outbound migrant workers. These groups oftentimes face social stigma and discrimination which render them more vulnerable to contracting HIV. They also tend to have reduced access to HIV testing and ART.

For the last three years, Armenia has upheld its status as having ended mother-to-infant transmission of HIV. This is a massive success for Armenians and the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS worldwide. However, there are many more steps that Armenia and other countries can take to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and lower the number of AIDS-related deaths. Comprehensive sex education, access to condoms, HIV-testing and antiretroviral therapy are key in fighting this deadly condition. Additionally, combating stigma and reducing discrimination against vulnerable populations will greatly impact the prevalence of HIV and AIDS worldwide.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: UNFPA

The Impact of HIV on Women in GhanaIn Ghana, a nation in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, approximately 190,000 women and girls above the age of 15 are living with AIDS. This high number can be attributed to the lack of necessary resources and education. The social and gender norms for females in Ghana also put girls at a higher risk. In fact, women are two to four times more susceptible to HIV infection than men. Some organizations are working to educate and empower women in Ghana and reduce the transmission of HIV.

Gender Roles in Ghana

The expectation that women and girls stay apathetic and quiet about intercourse leads to their inability to speak up about safe sex. These stereotypes and expectations mean that women in Ghana have less access to education and information than men, which minimizes their ability to negotiate and argue the need for condoms and other forms of safe sex. Even if a woman has the necessary education, it is a stereotype that married women who want to use contraceptives are having an affair.

Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are often asymptomatic for women even though they are not for men. The existence of an STD puts an individual at higher risk of HIV infection. So, when women go untreated they become more susceptible without being aware of it. Also, women have a higher surface area that is exposed to contact during unprotected sex than men, which leads to a greater risk of infection. These are just some of the reasons why education about safe sex is so important.

The impact of HIV/AIDS on women in Ghana also comes from their role as caretaker to those suffering from the illness. This is especially impactful when a family member becomes sick. When a woman has to spend much of her time caring for a family member with HIV/AIDS, this takes away from her work, household tasks, time for self-care and time that she could be spending with her children.

WomenStrong International in Ghana

A community of organizations, WomenStrong International, works with women and girls to end extreme poverty. Their goal is to “find, fund, nurture and share women-driven solutions that transform lives.” Women’s Health to Wealth, an organization within WomenStrong International, started a women’s clinic in Kumasi, Ghana. One of their goals is to deliver more information about reproductive and family health to women in Ghana. More information and education for women and girls would give them the ability to voice their wants, needs and opinions about their sexual health.

As one of the top diseases in Ghana, HIV/AIDS education and prevention is extremely important regardless of gender, but in the current climate, especially for women. Although leaps and bounds still need to be taken towards progression, there has been movement in the right direction through organizations such as Women’s Health to Wealth. With organizations fighting for equality and raising awareness, there is hope for improved health for women in Ghana.

Malena Larsen 
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in ZambiaZambia is home to 16.45 million people. It had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies up until 2014. Despite this, rural poverty and high unemployment levels remain rampant across the country. As a result, the nation’s average life expectancy is lower than the global average. However, significant steps have been taken in an attempt to improve the situation. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Zambia.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Zambia

  1. The CIA reports the average life expectancy for in Zambia to be 51.4 years for males and 54.7 years for females. This is a slight increase from life expectancy in 1980 when Zambian males had an average life expectancy of 50.4 years while Zambia females had an average life expectancy of 52.5 years. Zambia currently ranks 222 in life expectancy out of 223 countries.
  2. Over the last 10 years, there has been a 30 percent reduction in child mortality in Zambia. UNICEF reported that Zambia’s under-five mortality rate was 60 deaths per 1000 births in 2017. This is an extremely large decrease in comparison to the 1990 under-five mortality rate, which was 185 deaths per 1000 births.

  3. Zambia’s high rate of child stunting is due in part to lack of poor water sanitation and hygiene. Currently, 14 percent of the Zambian population and 46 percent of Zambian schools do not have access to basic hygiene services, such as handwashing facilities with soap and water.

  4. UNICEF has set up the WASH program in response to the lack of hygienic access in Zambia. In partnership with the Government’s Seven National Development Plan, UNICEF is helping Zambia achieve the Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals. WASH has been providing sustained access to clean water and encouraging the adoption of hygiene practices in schools throughout Zambia.

  5. Since 2010, Zambia has been part of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) in order to further battle childhood stunting, which affects 40 percent of children under the age of five. Since joining SUN, the District Nutrition Coordinating Committees (DNCC) has expanded its efforts throughout several districts in Zambia. From 2010 up to 2017,  SUN in Zambia had reached 44 percent of its goal to create coherent policy and legal framework, 62 percent of its goal of financial tracking and resource mobilization and 81 percent of its goal to align programs around a Common Results Framework.

  6. The top cause of early death in Zambia is HIV/AIDS. However, new HIV infections have dropped since 2010 by 27 and AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 11 percent. In order to maintain this downward trend, comprehensive sex education have been implemented in schools. As of 2016, 65 percent of Zambians living with HIV had access to antiretroviral treatment to prevent further transmission.

  7. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has expanded its efforts to spread treatment for HIV/AIDS throughout Zambia. In 2018 alone, AHF provided treatment for 71,000 Zambian HIV/AIDS patients.
  8. HIV/AIDS, neonatal disorders, and lower respiratory infections are the top three causes of death in Zambia since 2007. However, the number of deaths caused by these diseases have dropped since 2007 by 63.1 percent, 8 percent, and 14.5 percent respectively.
  9. As of 2018, a total of $64 per person was being spent on health in Zambia. This money comes from development assistance for health ($28) and government health spending ($24) while $12 comes from out-of-pocket and prepaid private spending, respectively. This total is expected to increase to $135 by 2050.

  10. Though the Zambian uses 14.5 percent of its total expenditures on health expenditure, there is still much work to be done. Currently, Zambia benefits from USAID’s assistance in order to scale up prevention, care and treatment programs. However, the country does not have enough advanced hospitals to offer specialized treatment. Nationally, there is an average of 19 hospital beds per 10,000 people. Additionally, WHO reports that Zambia has a physician density of 0.1 doctors per 1,000 people, which is far below the comparable country average of 3.5 physicians per 1,000 patients.

The 10 facts about life expectancy in Zambia listed above can be corrected through proper planning, targeted efforts to decrease poverty, the establishment of water/hygiene practices and development of education throughout the country. With the help of other nations and organizations, life expectancy in Zambia can be improved.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Botswana
In working on ameliorating living conditions in Botswana, there still remains a lot of work to be done, especially on improving women’s rights. For housing opportunities, organizations and the government in Botswana are still working on providing access to housing to meet the rise of people moving to cities. One positive development is the significant decrease in poverty. In the article below, the positive and negative trends of the country will be presented through the top 10 facts about living conditions in Botswana.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Botswana

  1. The unemployment rate for women remains higher than the unemployment rate for men. Of the girls and women who are unemployed in urban areas, 48 percent of them aged 15 to 29 did not have employment in 2009.
  2. There have been significant strides in reducing poverty and ameliorating living conditions in Botswana. From 2002 to 2010 poverty decreased from 30.6 percent to 19.4 percent, mostly in rural areas. One of the causes of this decrease is the government bolstering incomes for people working in agriculture and demographic changes. The result of this was 180,000 people who have gotten out of poverty. Of this number, 87 percent were from rural areas. However, 50 percent of the population in the country still lives below the international poverty line of $60 per month.
  3. Beginning in 1981, Botswana has affirmed the human rights to water and sanitation. Section 57 of the Public Health Act helps officers to provide the purity of water for drinking and domestic purposes by the public. There have been reforms in sanitation in a period from 2008 to 2013 from the review of the Botswana National Water Master Plan as well as in water supply, wastewater services and resource management.
  4. Working on achieving the Millenium Development Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), Botswana has been made substantial progress towards zero hunger. One area of research is weight-for-age children. The Botswana National Nutrition Surveillance System oversees this part of the research. The information records that there has been a substantial decrease in child malnutrition. Child malnutrition has gone down from 14.6 percent in 1993 to 4.3 percent in 2008. Botswana has strived to support the connection between nutrition and development, demonstrated by providing free meals in public schools.
  5. Starting in 2011, Project Concern International (PCI) has been helping to improve the quality of life in Botswana. Botswana is the country with the third largest HIV prevalence in the world. In total, 21.9 percent of the population is infected with HIV. Yet, there have been significant strides in the antiretroviral treatment program, completely free for everyone.
  6. In 2017, the GDP in Botswana was $17.41 billion. Botswana’s GDP value in the world economy totals to 0.03 percent. Value of GDP in 2017 was the highest ever, and the lowest value of the country’s GDP was $0.03 billion, recorded in 1961.
  7. There has been a sharp increase in urban growth in Botswana. One issue that impoverished people in Botswana face is lack of access to land and housing. Possible solutions for this problem are the construction of squatter settlements, public housing and service and self-help housing.
  8. Around 60 percent of the population lives in the cities. As a result of this high percentage of urbanization, there is a difficulty in providing substantial access to quality housing in urban areas.
  9. The health system is made up of the public, profitable private and nonprofitable profit sector. The public sector provides 98 percent of all health care. In addition, referral hospitals, primary hospitals, clinics and health posts administer health care. Shedding light on Botswana’s health system is an analysis carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report made the claim that providing universal coverage of health care is key to striving for an equitable health system. As of yet, there has not so far been a way developed to finance a health system to provide all people in the country with equal access to health services. One initiative working to improve people’s health in Botswana is the IntraHealth International CapacityPlus initiative that seeks to increase access to data on the health workforce in order to bolster teaching skills to the health workforce and boost retention.
  10. The education system aims to provide high-quality education to its students. In primary schools, 86 percent of the children who began enrollment in school have a probable chance of moving on to the fifth grade. Students have the assurance of having at least 10-year long education. Half of the students go for two years of additional schooling to receive the Botswana General Certificate of education. After completing secondary school, there are opportunities to seek out vocational training and opportunities in higher education.

While there is room for efforts to be made to improve living conditions in Botswana, the country has made significant progress. Specifically, it has almost cut the poverty rate in half from 2002 to 2010. With more work, Botswana can continue to see an improvement in living conditions for its citizens.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

Five solutions for reducing HIV in South Africa
South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world with a prevalence of 18.8 percent of the country’s population aged from 15 to 49. Consequently, South Africa has some of the most comprehensive treatment and support systems for this issue. In addition to dedicated civil society organizations, the government has a guiding framework for reducing HIV in South Africa. One of such initiatives is the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB (tuberculosis) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) 2017-2022 that aims to overcome barriers and set goals that could ultimately help influence global HIV infection management. In this article, five solutions for reducing HIV in South Africa that this country is implementing are presented.

Five Solutions for Reducing HIV in South Africa

  1. Address inclusivity. Reducing the HIV epidemic in South Africa requires caring for the most vulnerable populations in society: sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender women and people who inject drugs. Discrimination, intolerance and neglect culminate in intense stigma consequently keeping these cohorts out of the research and clinics where valuable testing and treatment are available. In addition, up until recently, nationally available programs like the National Sex Worker HIV Plan and the South African National AIDS Council’s LGBTQ HIV Framework were unavailable. The creation of specialized programs to address the unique needs of a chronically abused population is a valuable first step towards reducing HIV in South Africa.
  2. Support women. Women and girls comprise more than half of the 36.7 million people living with HIV around the world. This statistic is even worse in South Africa where HIV prevalence is nearly four times greater for women and girls than that of men of the same age. These staggering high numbers are the result of poverty, systemic gender-based violence and intergenerational marriage. In addition to the programs identified above, nationally deployed resources like the She Conquers campaign provide multiple societal interventions like reducing teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence as well as providing educational support and business opportunities.
  3. Prioritize prophylactics. A little over three years ago, South Africa became the first country in Africa south of the Sahara to completely approve pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which stands for the use of antiretroviral drugs to protect HIV-negative people from infection. This initiative is a primary tenet in the NSP‘s first goal to acceleration HIV prevention, especially for the most vulnerable population. The goal is to increase PrEP treatments to nearly 100,000 participants in the coming years. In addition, campaigns to distribute condoms, educate the population and even encourage male circumcision are operating to reduce initial transmission by providing means to encourage safe sex thus keeping the entire population safer from infection.
  4. Deliver ART. South Africa has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) program in the world and UNAIDS estimates that 61 percent of South Africans living with HIV are receiving treatment in 2017. This figure has more than doubled since 2010. This success is largely due to the latest “test and treat” strategy that makes anyone who has tested HIV positive immediately eligible for ART treatment. Moreover, this strategy incentivizes the population to get tested which is a major barrier to reducing HIV in South Africa. Additional work is needed to encourage South Africans, specifically men, to get tested, as men tend to get tested and start treatment much later and at a more progressed stage of infection thus reducing effectiveness and placing the population, especially women, at risk. It is important to note that South Africa has made tremendous strides in reducing mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) largely because of the ubiquity and delivery of ART therapies. As a result, MTCT rates have been reduced by more than half between 2011 and 2016, achieving the national target for 2015 of a transmission rate below 2 percent.
  5. Treat Tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in South Africa. HIV severely suppresses the immune system leaving victims vulnerable to all infections, however, TB is particularly difficult and without treatment, fatal. It is estimated that two-thirds of HIV-positive South Africans have TB. In response, South Africa’s NSP incorporated TB reduction strategies and sets forth priorities for reducing TB mortality.

These five solutions for reducing HIV in South Africa have been a successful start for the country as they tackle the world’s largest HIV epidemic. The government has developed a comprehensive, multi-dimensional plan that shows a lot of promise, however, following through remains questionable. National organizations like the Treatment Action Campaign question the government’s ability to remain engaged and accountable.

Addressing HIV requires relentless attention and civil society participation, especially since UNAIDS’ ambitious 90-90-90 (90 percent of all people know their HIV status, 90 percent HIV-positive patients will receive ART therapy and 90 percent of ART therapy patients will have viral suppression) goal to suppress and eliminate HIV and AIDS, all by 2020, is right around the corner.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

Why HIV Treatment Is Becoming A Reality For People Everywhere
Just last year, it was announced that, for the first time in history, 50 percent of those infected with HIV/AIDS were receiving treatment. This landmark achievement is a massive process with different factors worldwide, but it’s all an interconnected humanitarian struggle against this life-threatening disease. 
As the year moves closer to 2019, it’s important to evaluate the measures being taken to keep the epidemic at bay and to take a closer look at the future of HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide.

A Survey of The World

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, reported in 2017 that, of the 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 19.5 million are now receiving life-saving treatment in the form of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

This trend has risen steadily since 2014 when UNAIDS announced that, if countries could meet the following goals for 2030, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic would be eliminated. Some of these goals are:

  • 90 percent of those with HIV are aware they carry the virus
  • 90 percent of the previous group begins using ARVs for treatment
  • 90 percent of those receiving treatment continue their treatment and reduce the levels of the virus in their system to levels below standard testing baselines.

These goals may seem as though it sets the bar high. However, after calculating the data from 168 countries in 2017, the world was already at 75-79-81. Several countries are doing exceedingly well: Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, Botswana, Cambodia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

These nations have managed to keep the virus in 73 percent of the carrying population suppressed. This means that, after receiving HIV/AIDS treatment, 73 percent of individuals have such low levels of the virus in their blood that the disease is no longer transferable by them to another person.

An Uncertain Future

Though the world has made tremendous progress in recent years in controlling the number of HIV patients, much of this progress has to do with aid provided by the U.S. In 2018, the Trump Administration has been proposing cuts to the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. As one of America’s major global health initiatives, PEPFAR is responsible for HIV/AIDS treatment to millions of patients around the world.

President Trump’s budget proposal would strip PEPFAR’s funding from $6 billion to $5 billionThis is significant, as this program benefits those living along east and southern Africa. This area contains the highest concentration of those living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. The $1 billion cut would result in 1.8 million deaths over the next ten years in South Africa and The Ivory Coast alone. Those currently receiving ARV treatment will not lose their access to the life-saving medications they need because of the budget cuts.

Though the outcome for the future is uncertain, currently the world has been succeeding in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS treatment is becoming a reality worldwide. If countries worldwide can stay on track in meeting UNAIDS guidelines, then the global community may see this notorious virus eliminated by 2030.

Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr