An Insider’s Look: HIV/AIDS Clinics in South AfricaAccording to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), roughly 7.8 million adults and children are currently HIV positive in South Africa. HIV is a life-threatening immunodeficiency virus transmitted through bodily fluids. Upon infection, the virus causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) which cannot be reversed or cured. As a result, people living with HIV/AIDS have weak immune systems and cannot fight off common diseases.

Considering the seriousness of HIV/AIDS, affected communities in South Africa require immediate attention and assistance. Below are 3 facts about a non-governmental organization called Child Family Health International (CFHI) that sends healthcare students to work in HIV/AIDS Clinics in South Africa. Afterward, a CFHI healthcare student recalls his experience working at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Durban, South Africa.

3 Facts about Child Family Health International (CFHI)

Firstly, CFHI offers health education programs around the world. Every year, the organization sends undergraduate students and faculty members abroad to experience healthcare systems in different countries. To date, the organization offers programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Ghana, India, the Philippines, Uganda and South Africa. For the South Africa program, participants have an opportunity to work in a tertiary public hospital, a Parochial Hospital, a hospice center or an HIV/AIDS clinic.

Secondly, CFHI partners with HIV/AIDS clinics in South Africa. To help mitigate the rising number of HIV-positive cases in Durban, South Africa, CFHI sends students and staff to a local HIV/AIDS clinic called the “Blue Roof Clinic.” Originally, the Blue Roof building housed a local nightclub renowned for drug and alcohol abuse. However, in 2006 the non-profit organization Keep a Child Alive (KCA)‘s cofounder, professional singer Alicia Keys, helped to buy the building. After years of renovations, it became a local HIV/AIDS clinic dedicated to providing free medication and treatment to South Africans testing positive for HIV.

Thirdly, CFHI helps to combat poverty in South Africa. By sending students to the Blue Roof Clinic, the organization assists thousands of HIV-positive patients every month. This type of assistance includes giving patients anti-retroviral medicine, psychological support, legal advice, nutrition guides and HIV prevention tips. Best of all, HIV/AIDS treatments are free of charge and offered to everyone in need. The only cost to patients includes transportation to and from the clinic. Overall, CFHI continues enrolling thousands of students from over 35 different countries to help people around the world.

3 Interview Questions with a CFHI alumnus

To learn more about CFHI, The Borgen Project interviewed Christian Warner, a CFHI healthcare alumnus.

  1. Tell me about yourself and why you participated in the South Africa CFHI program. “My name is Christian Warner and I studied public health at Oregon State University (OSU). I had an internship in South Africa through CFHI my senior year of school. I chose CFHI’s program in South Africa because students have an opportunity to work in local HIV clinics and help local populations living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Overall, I wanted to gain healthcare experience working in a foreign environment.”
  2. What does an average day working in HIV/AIDS Clinics in South Africa look like? “I spent time working at an HIV/AIDS clinic called Blue Roof Clinic. Each morning, I arrived at the clinic to make sure we had adequate supplies. Typical supplies included sanitation gloves, cleaning supplies and antiretroviral treatments for patients. A couple hours later, patients would start showing up. During the day, I shadowed retired nurse practitioners working in the clinic. The nurses would ask patients a variety of medical history questions before administering treatment. They also asked whether patients had trouble getting to the clinic transportation-wise. Our mission is to ensure everyone can access the clinic and its resources.”
  3. How do HIV/AIDS Clinics in South Africa ensure treatment is available to all, regardless of socioeconomic status? “The Blue Roof Clinic offers free walk-in appointments and HIV treatments for everyone in need. This allows people to seek medical assistance without visiting the hospital or acquiring insurance. The clinic also makes people feel comfortable because their medical and visitation history is 100% confidential.”

Ending the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

The U.N. pledged to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030. To accomplish this goal, 90% of people living with HIV must know that they carry the disease and have access to treatment. Therefore, governments and non-governmental organizations worldwide are donating billions of dollars to provide affected communities with antiretroviral medicines and other treatments. However, governments must also monitor antiretroviral medicine supply chains and stockpiles to ensure economic ramifications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic do not disrupt people’s access to treatment.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS In Zimbabwe
HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe has become prevalent, mainly due to unprotected sexual transmission. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe reported that in 2020 there were “approximately 1.23 million adults in Zimbabwe living with HIV.” Zimbabwe has the sixth-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, considering that the nation has roughly 31,000 new infections annually. However, despite the common misconception, the high rate of HIV/AIDS does not stem only from sexual activity. High case rates have become common among children as infected mothers pass HIV/AIDS on to their kids during childbirth. Organizations are working to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.

What is HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) “is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.” When an HIV/infected person goes without treatment, the condition can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a “late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus.” There is no cure for HIV/AIDS to this day, despite extensive research since the virus was initially identified in 1981. However, by taking antiretroviral drugs, people “can live long and healthy lives and prevent transmitting HIV to their sexual partners” and children.

Action to Address HIV/AIDs in Zimbabwe

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) supports an HIV/AIDs program in Zimbabwe that began in 2004. In 2019, the program achieved a milestone, extending the reach of antiretroviral treatment coverage to 82% coverage for infected men and 88% coverage for women. In 2017, a UNICEF-led HIV program helped achieve the target of “ensuring that 80% of pregnant women, new-born, children and adolescents have equitable access to cost-effective and quality health interventions and practice.” With the support of organizations, overall, Zimbabwe has had success in “expanding access to HIV testing and treatment, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and lowering HIV prevalence.”

Data from the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey (ZIMPHIA 2020) shows the nation’s progress. The survey indicates that almost 87% of HIV-infected adults knew their status. In addition, of the population “aware of their status,” 97% were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Finally, “among those on treatment, 90.3% achieved viral load suppression,” meaning they are now unable to transmit the disease to other people. With this progress, Zimbabwe is on its way to achieving the UNAIDS target of eradicating AIDS by 2030.

Looking Ahead

Although HIV/AIDS has been a significant public health crisis in Zimbabwe for quite some time, the government is taking the necessary steps to reduce its prevalence. Increasing diagnosis rates have set off a chain reaction in Zimbabwe as people seek the necessary treatments and educate themselves on the condition and preventative measures to protect themselves and others. There is still much work that needs to occur, however, the country is doing its part to safeguard the lives of its citizens through early detection measures and access to treatment.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr

HIV and AIDS in Kyrgyzstan
Human rights groups and legal organizations are working to protect the rights of Kyrgyz living with HIV and AIDs. As it currently stands, in a country already plagued with poverty and inequality, those with HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan experience discrimination and violence, and have inadequate access to state services. Organizations aim to change this.

Kyrgyzstan’s HIV and AIDs Epidemic

Beginning in 1996, but growing immensely in 2001, HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan rapidly spread throughout the nation. The virus was especially prevalent among the impoverished, which at the time, around 2003, affected 68% of the population. Fueled by poverty and unemployment, prostitution and injected drug use promoted the spread of HIV and AIDs.

Despite all the aid Kyrgyzstan received during the HIV/AIDs epidemic, such as when the World Health Organization (WHO) provided affordable antiretroviral drugs to the country, the government did not handle the overall HIV/AIDs crisis well. For instance, the government failed to adhere to a 2005 law passed per “international norms of eligibility” guaranteeing “social protection for people living with HIV/AIDs and social security assurance” for citizens living with HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan. Instead, these people live in constant fear of losing their homes and jobs, face deportation and illegal detention as well as violence and stigma simply because of their HIV/AIDs affliction. These people need help in the form of improved access to treatment and equality.

Besides the discrimination that Kyrgyz with HIV and AIDs endure, the government did not take advantage of the WHO’s support with care protocols and control and prevention measures. The government also mismanaged the millions of U.S. dollars received from the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the World Bank. This is evident in the rising number of children and adults living with HIV, with less than 500 people in Kyrgyzstan living with HIV in 2003 in comparison to 9,200 as of 2020.

Taking Action

Adilet, “the largest human rights and legal services organization in Kyrgyzstan,” and an NGO called The Public Foundation “Positive Dialogue,” are doing a lot to help people living with HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan. The organizations protect their rights and provide them with legal services for free.

For example, Adilet lawyers and activists convinced the country’s Constitutional Court to allow people with HIV to adopt children and become parents. Additionally, in July 2021, they won a case for a child infected with HIV in a Kyrgystan medical institution in the mid to late 2000s, getting the child more than $20,000 in compensation.

The 10-10-10 Targets

To make further progress in the HIV/AIDs arena and to create a more “enabling environment for ending AIDs,” global organizations have presented the 10-10-10 targets:

  • “less than 10% of countries have punitive legal and policy conditions that prohibit or restrict access to services.”
  • “less than 10% of key populations and people living with HIV face discrimination and stigma.”
  • “less than 10% of women, girls, people living with HIV and key populations face violence and gender inequality.”

Organizations are hoping to reach these targets by 2025. Hopefully, with the help of groups like Adilet, Kyrgyz affected by HIV/AIDs can look to a brighter future.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Unsplash

Botswana’s Interior Conflict
Botswana is a country that people know for its relatively peaceful and politically stable environment; however, it also has a high prevalence of HIV. It has some of the highest HIV rates of any country in the world, which particularly affects Botswana’s women and children. This reality affects several factors contributing to Botswana’s society and economy, including a drastically fallen life expectancy, the death rate, the effects of the virus on the body and the age of those most affected. For more than 40 years, HIV/AIDs in Botswana has been prevalent resulting in a conflict between HIV/AIDs and economic success. Here is some information about it as well as how the country is tackling HIV/AIDs in Botswana.

HIV/AIDs in Botswana

In its article on the economic impact of AIDs in Botswana, the POLICY Project writes that the virus is “different from most other diseases because it strikes people in the most productive age groups and is essentially 100 percent fatal.” This directly impacts the economy by essentially removing people who would be productively contributing. The economic output then plummets because the loss of young, formerly able-bodied adults limits the workforce. The shortage of skilled, trained laborers impacts income distribution across economic sectors as well.

The life expectancy in Botswana has fallen drastically. Some estimates place it at 60 years in 1990, then 40 years in 2001 and about a projected 30 years as of 2010. In his memoir “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa,” Peter Godwin explained that AIDs impacts the younger generation in particular. Due to the low life expectancy that the virus creates, there are villages where the oldest members of the community are teenagers. Projections estimated that two out of every five children would become orphans by 2010, subsequently requiring state aid.

The Effects of the Virus

There are several principal costs that many people associate with having AIDs. Direct costs or physical, financial losses include medical care, treatment drugs and funeral expenses. Indirect costs, or more long-term, possibly unforeseen financial losses include lost work time, care of children who have lost their families due to AIDs and time spent searching for and hiring new workers to replace those lost to the virus. These are costs to Botswana’s economy in general, as well as to individuals and their households.

The effects of AIDs on the economy are particularly apparent in Botswana, a country that many otherwise applaud for being a lower-middle-income country that has avoided several other economic downfalls in recent years. Nevertheless, on a microeconomic level, households with AIDs in Botswana struggle to acquire basic necessities such as healthcare, education, food and shelter. Loss of employment and particularly the loss of a family’s breadwinner can begin a downward slope into extreme poverty. This then expands outwards to include the macroeconomy where businesses and firms are understaffed and have to close. Botswana’s conflict between HIV/AIDs and economic success is clearly one of the country’s greatest to date.

Solutions

Botswana has made leaps in tackling its HIV/AIDs in Botswana; however, a “one-size-fits-all approach” does not target specific high-risk groups and means reaching far fewer people. Those most at-risk –men who have sex with men, sex workers, young people and women– require individual strategies to deal with the prevalence of AIDS.

The use of condoms and sex education have played major roles in attempts to control the epidemic. The Ministry of Health and UNDP educate teachers first, who then spread their awareness to their young students. Peace Corps volunteers to Botswana work with the government and with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to better respond to the AIDs epidemic. Volunteers work in small communities addressing and educating on AIDs, with a focus on the youth.

Though no one solution exists regarding tackling HIV/AIDs in Botswana, global and regional efforts work to weaken and reverse a painful national slide. Botswana stands to gain much from meaningful efforts focused on health and the economy.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Māori with HIV
The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people native to New Zealand. The Māori population diminished severely, from 1 million to 40,000, when European settlers came to New Zealand due to warfare and conflict. However, the current population is almost 5 million, and more than 80% of the Māori live in urban environments. Despite the rise in population and reparations from the New Zealand government to the Māori, the Māori have faced economic and social challenges and discrimination. In 2021, Te Whāriki Takapou released the first-ever report on the inequity of Māori with HIV titled “Aotearoa New Zealand People Living with HIV Stigma Index: Māori Participants Report.”

The Te Whāriki Takapou Report

Te Whāriki Takapou is an organization with a focus on the “sexual and reproductive health” of the Māori people. As a result, it has conducted research, such as in the case of the Māori participants in the report. The report centers on “HIV-related stigma and discrimination experienced by Māori people living with HIV.” The report’s main purpose is to showcase the unique experiences of Māori living with HIV and give the participants “a sense of their health and well-being compared to the general Māori population, and compared to the non-Māori study participants living with HIV.” There were 37 Māori participants in the study, which included a survey questionnaire and a peer interview. The final report utilized findings from relative research due to data limitations.

The Findings

The survey and interviews resulted in several findings. About 25% of participants revealed that they faced a violation of their rights due to having HIV or had to report if they had HIV to areas such as their workplace. Māori living with HIV also detailed that the stigma and discrimination affected their mental health and relationships, resulting in almost 33% isolating themselves and limiting their “ability to earn an income that met their needs.” On a positive note, the participants generally felt that their whānau and friends were supportive; however, many of the participants revealed that others disclosed their HIV status without their permission to other whānau and friends, and also at places such as where they work or go to school.

Several of the participants experienced some form of discrimination due to their HIV status, including experiencing verbal abuse when seeking healthcare or losing jobs. Māori with HIV experience several forms of prejudice and injustice in the healthcare sector, including having to undergo testing for HIV against their will, unequal treatment of non-related HIV care by healthcare workers and professionals violating their confidentiality. Māori women also experienced uncomfortable and unwanted pressures and advice regarding their reproductive health and pregnancies, such as sterilizations and/or abortion. The treatment that Māori people receive in and out of the healthcare system is discriminatory and unethical, which is one of the reasons why there are several calls of action within the report following the results.

Future Policy and Initiatives

Currently, there are no modern laws or policies that protect HIV-positive Māori people from discrimination (or even non-Māori who have HIV). Additionally, Te Whāriki Takapou’s study revealed that those who have been HIV-positive for two to three decades have not witnessed a reduction in discrimination. This report details several specific recommendations to stop discrimination and erase the stigma surrounding HIV; some of those recommendations include an HIV and AIDS policy and action plan, incorporating a goal to abolish the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV. Other proposals involve better quality and access to reproductive health measures and education, especially better resources for Māori women with HIV to improve their health in the long run, no-cost counseling, a better system to file HIV-related complaints and so much more. All of the recommendations center on protecting, supporting and improving the lives of Māori with HIV.

Even though the report focuses on Māori individuals who have HIV, the recommendations also advocate for non-discrimination. The Māori experience discrimination in New Zealand and HIV-positive Māori face even more discrimination and stigma, affecting not only their mental health but also their physical health. The Te Whāriki Takapou report is a loud and necessary call to action to end the HIV stigma and discrimination against the Māori in New Zealand.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in VietnamThere has been a great deal of success in fighting HIV/AIDS in Vietnam in recent years. UNAIDS figures show that in 2020, new HIV infections numbered 6,100 in the Southeast Asia nation of 95 million people. This marks about a 71% reduction from the peak in 2003 and the lowest number of new infections since 1992. AIDS-related deaths fell from a peak of 9,600 deaths in 2006 to 3,800 deaths in 2020 — about a 60% reduction.

The Role of Foreign Aid

Over the years, foreign aid has advanced efforts to control HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. The United States has long been the largest donor, bilaterally through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and multilaterally through its contributions to the United Nations.

The U.S. began PEPFAR in 2003 when the global HIV/AIDS epidemic was near its peak severity. PEPFAR initially focused on 15 countries in which the HIV/AIDS epidemic was most out of control, including Vietnam. Vietnam received $288.7 million in assistance from the program between 2004 and 2008. This aggressive funding went a long way in helping Vietnam educate high-risk populations about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; providing antiretroviral treatment (ART) for infected persons and addiction treatment for people who inject drugs (the highest risk population).

UNAIDS 90-90-90 Goals and Beyond

In October 2014, Vietnam became the first nation in Asia to adopt the UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 initiative, which set the following aggressive goals to be reached by 2020:

  • “90% of all people living with HIV will” have a diagnosis.

  • “90% of all people diagnosed with HIV” will obtain antiretroviral treatment.

  • “90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.”

A 2020 UNAIDS report shows that  Vietnam had incomplete data for the first two goals and a 95% score for the third. The data also indicates that 66% of all people in Vietnam living with HIV were virally suppressed. UNAIDS has set new goals to reach 95% in all three areas by 2025.

The Positive Impact of Poverty Reduction

A few years before Vietnam discovered its first HIV infections in 1990, its government implemented economic reforms known as Doi Moi. These changes made the Vietnamese economy more market-oriented, which in turn, attracted foreign investments and allowed the nation to tap into globalization. The economic results were so dramatic that the IMF says Vietnam’s per capita growth of 5.6% between 1990 and 2017 was “second only to China.” More than 40 million people rose out of poverty from 1993 to 2014. According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s poverty rate now stands at less than 6% based on the purchasing power parity of $3.2 a day.

This vast reduction in poverty has no doubt helped in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. The American Psychological Association says that risky health behaviors, such as substance abuse and transactional sex work, are more likely in areas with a low socioeconomic status (SES). It also notes that HIV-infected people with low SES are less likely to receive treatment early on, and that, once treatment begins, the demands and costs of their medical care often hurt their SES even further.

The Impact of a Change in Economic Status

Efforts to control HIV/AIDS in Vietnam have been affected by the change in 2009 of Vietnam’s economic status from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country. Foreign donors have since demanded that Vietnam cover an increasingly high share of the costs to run its HIV/AIDS programs, which Vietnam has agreed to. Today, the nation covers approximately 40% of the total costs of HIV/AIDS treatment.

Going forward, it is imperative that Vietnam and foreign donors work closely together to help ensure a smooth transition for critical HIV/AIDS programs as Vietnam takes on more autonomy.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare successes in BurundiIn Burundi, over 65% of people live in poverty. The country has the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, the presence of disease is widespread and only 32% of children make it through the equivalent of middle school. Despite these statistics, recent healthcare successes in Burundi are creating many improvements for the country.

5 Healthcare Successes in Burundi

  1. USAID providing health services. Burundi’s health systems aren’t adequate for the 11.5 million people living there. Fortunately, outside organizations are supporting the country. USAID has backed efforts in Burundi that assist with child and maternal services, HIV/AIDS, malaria and malnutrition. By providing support for the Government of Burundi’s plan for HIV/AIDS prevention, USAID has also assisted in expanding control for and education about HIV. Besides HIV, there is currently a malaria epidemic in Burundi. Since 2019, there have been six million cases, but USAID has introduced treatment, prevention and testing options to the country, helping to combat malaria and trace the spread of infections. About 56% of children in Burundi live without access to the necessary amount of food, but USAID hopes to curb these numbers. The organization offers supplements and nutrition lessons to pregnant mothers and young children to assist with malnutrition. The services that USAID provides help the Burundi healthcare systems in multiple aspects. They have allowed for improved service delivery, better treatment for childhood diseases and viruses and more accessible medicine and assistance during pregnancy.
  2. A $5 million grant in response to COVID-19 from the International Development Association. On April 14, 2020, this grant was approved by The World Bank and gave Burundi the chance to build up its health services as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Burundi was originally not in a position economically to handle this pandemic. The grant has given the country more access to testing, equipment, facilities and health professionals. Along with this, it has helped to reduce the spread of the virus through strategies that improve communication and tracking within the country.
  3. Improved financial access to healthcare in Burundi. In 2002, Burundi implemented a policy to perform cost recovery and provide financial relief to citizens that can not afford necessary healthcare. This exemption allows more citizens to get proper treatment and not be concerned about being forced further into poverty because of medical bills.
  4. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations was launched at The World Economic Forum in January 2000. This alliance includes the World Health Organization, The Gates Foundation, UNICEF and many similar organizations. It aims to provide more access to new vaccines to children in countries like Burundi. Between 2005 and 2008, the Alliance donated $800 million to 72 underdeveloped countries to help increase vaccinations, fund health systems and provide healthcare services. This assistance created many new healthcare successes in Burundi. For example, Burundi has trained more people in midwifery, meaning there has been an increase in safe, assisted births. The country has received an average of $3.26 million annually from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. Additionally, healthcare workers have received more training and there has been increased coverage of immunizations.
  5. Reduced HIV/AIDS and new health ministries. From 2000 to 2013, HIV infections decreased by 46%. Civil conflict in Burundi between 1993 and 2003 caused the rapid spread of HIV in the country and a fractured health system. The government initially divided the health and HIV/AIDS ministries, causing political turmoil. But then non-governmental organizations stepped in, started HIV-specific clinics and offered incentives to health personnel working with HIV.

What Does This Mean for Poverty in Burundi?

These healthcare successes in Burundi are creating economic, social and physical improvement for the country. Malnutrition, the rate of disease and poverty are all decreasing. These operations expand beyond just healthcare, though. They reach every aspect of living in Burundi. They create opportunities for more children to thrive in school and more people to go to work. Ultimately, these opportunities lead to economic growth and a more sustainable country.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

Artists Striving to End Poverty
Broadway musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell created Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP), a charity organization. She and a group of Juilliard students created an organization that will engage underserved children in performing and visual arts in order to break the cycle of poverty. ASTEP connects artists with youth who lack the opportunities to receive a fine arts education. Artists Striving to End Poverty serves youth affected by immigration status, gun violence, HIV/AIDS and systemic poverty.

South Africa Program

Recently, ASTEP partnered with artsINSIDEOUT, an organization that consists of artists who travel to areas that the AIDS epidemic has hit hard. Through this work, they have been able to reach mothers and children that the AIDS epidemic has affected.

Artists Striving to End Poverty and artsINSIDEOUT support Nkosi’s Haven. Nkosi’s Haven is an organization located in Johannesburg that supports women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Nkosi’s Haven received its name from Nkosi Johnson, an AIDS activist who became separated from her mother due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She then lived in poverty due to a lack of financial support. Johnson made it her life’s mission to never let another family experience what she experienced. ASTEP Teaching Artists inspire children and mothers to unleash their creative sides. This two-week camp helped families affected by the AIDS pandemic to communicate their feelings with each other, building a strong and safe community of people with shared experiences.

India Program

Artists Striving to End Poverty has two major programs in India. The first program is the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, which hosts a two-week arts camp for the students who live at the school. Shanti Bhavan believes that lower caste children in India can rise out of poverty if they receive a proper education early on in life. Shanti Bhavan is working to build a foundation based on the interests of the students that go there and ASTEP has helped Shanti Bhavan implement fine arts education. ASTEP believes that the power of the arts can help enhance education and personal development.

ASTEP has also partnered with Teach for India. Teach for India is an organization that employs the brightest of India’s students to teach in the low-income areas of the country. ASTEP Teaching Artists partnered with Teach for India to create Maya the Musical as a way for low-income children in India to gain the opportunity to participate in musical activities. The Maya Musical helps children discover their true values and potential and the storyline helps them find courage and compassion. ASTEP hopes that the Maya Musical will be able to reach Teach for India’s 32,000 children as well as many more outside the program.

Going Forward

Although Artists Striving to End Poverty is still a very young organization, its commitment is enduring. Based in New York, the organization hopes to expand its platform in order to reach children both in the United States and around the world. ASTEP is looking for teachers to contribute to its cause, with the determination to use the fine arts to help break the cycle of childhood poverty.

– Saanvi Mevada
Photo: Flickr

women in sub-Saharan AfricaEducation has long been an uphill battle for women in sub-Saharan Africa who disproportionately lack the opportunity to go to school. The U.N.’s Education Plus Initiative aims to empower adolescent girls and young women, particularly in regard to HIV/AIDS prevention, through secondary education. A recent UNAIDS study suggests a correlation between HIV education and completing school, which also leads to a better socioeconomic future.

Education and Disease Among Young Women

Sub-Saharan Africa has become a hot spot of population growth. With more than 60% of the region’s population aged 25 and younger, a new generation of African citizens waits to meet the world on a global scale. But, educational attainment has long presented a hurdle for many sub-Saharan countries.

Relatively few African children receive higher education, with young women being the least likely. According to a recent study from the United Nations, more than 80% of the world’s women (aged 15-24) with HIV/AIDS are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Such health issues create a barrier to pursuing further education. A 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report shows a strong correlation between disease and missed educational opportunities, reporting that more than 33 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school, with 56% being girls.

The Millennium Declaration, a set of goals adopted by world leaders to reignite education and fight disease, says that incorporating education into young women’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa promotes poverty reduction, improves mental health and decreases rates of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS and HIV in Africa

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has ravaged entire countries in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 50 girls die from AIDS-related women’s illnesses every day worldwide and more than 90% of adolescent HIV/AIDS deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2019 study from UNAIDS, young women in Africa generally lack sufficient sex education. Thus, young women in sub-Saharan Africa face disproportionate exposure to many diseases. This includes two of the most threatening in terms of both education and life expectancy: HIV and AIDS.

HIV/AIDS has become prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa because of arranged child marriages and early pregnancies. A recent study from UNESCO found that nearly 52% of Sudanese girls older than 18 were already married, numbers that are mirrored throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Empowerment at the legal level decreases women’s chances of forced marriages and pregnancies, thus reducing rates of HIV and AIDS.

Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, stated, “When girls can’t uphold their human rights — especially their sexual and reproductive health and rights — efforts to get to zero exclusion, zero discrimination, zero violence and zero stigma are undermined.”

More than 79% of new HIV infections occur among girls aged 10-19, according to a 2019 UNAIDS research study. Young women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa need educational and health support. Fortunately, several organizations are working to empower them.

The Education Plus Initiative

UNICEF, in collaboration with UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA and U.N. Women, has created a new initiative in sub-Saharan Africa called Education Plus. Education Plus focuses on empowering young women and girls and achieving gender equality through secondary education. According to UNAIDS, sexual education has helped empower tens of millions of young women throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Education Plus aims to revolutionize policies related to women’s sexual education in order to improve their quality of life. Education Plus will begin in 2021 and run through 2025. It plans to create policies that add sexual education to young women’s school lessons, launch tech-based publicity programs to promote women’s rights and expand upon HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and recovery, among other initiatives.

A UNICEF study revealed just how important education is to empower young women in sub-Saharan Africa. When young girls finish secondary school, they are six times less likely to marry young. The study also found that if a child’s mother can read, the child has a 50% better chance of survival.

Moving Forward

Education Plus is set to run for five years to help women and girls achieve social, educational and economic success. UNICEF, UNAIDS and several other organizations have come together to make supporting young women in Africa a priority.

Moving forward, empowering young women in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s highest poverty areas, requires an array of solutions. Organizations like UNAIDS hope the area can one day flourish as an oasis for young women and girls, who will, in turn, have the educational and social resources to create a more stable Africa.

Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

Africa Outreach ProjectOn June 26, 2021, actress Charlize Theron held a gathering at Universal Studios during the first showing of the “F9” movie. The event was to promote the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. The occasion featured an outdoor party where celebrities auctioned donations for the foundation. There was also a question and answer session with the actors and producers of the new “Fast and Furious” movie, including Charlize Theron, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, and the film director, Justin Lin. The gala was just one of the ways Theron utilizes her celebrity platform to aid South Africans suffering from HIV.

The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Theron created the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project in 2007. The project prevents the spread of HIV by aiding in the healthcare and education of young people. The project’s primary goal is to allow young Africans to have promising futures free from disease and give them an equal chance at life. To further this commitment, the initiative assists other African firms in helping address societal needs by providing university grants to young Africans.

Many solutions exist in the fight against the spread of HIV in South Africa, including education. South African women are less probable to get HIV if they complete university. In this way, providing young people with access to quality education intertwines with the fight against HIV. Accordingly, Theron’s gala directed the donations to helping South Africans receive the necessary education to remain healthy and live productive and fulfilling lives.

The Need for Aid

According to the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, 67% of people infected with HIV reside in South Africa. The organization projects that 26 million people in the area currently live with HIV. In addition, almost 4,600 South Africans are diagnosed with HIV per week. Moreover, South Africa “represents less than 1% of the world’s population” but constitutes 20% of those infected with HIV worldwide.

The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project also states that education in South Africa is plagued with challenges such as school abandonment and limited accessibility to school supplies. As a result, citizens have a tough time finishing school. In fact, nearly 50% of South Africans who begin college leave prior to finishing their studies.

Furthermore, many young students experience the burdens of absent teachers, substance abuse, sexual abuse and early pregnancy on top of being impoverished. Consequently, less than half of students who start the first grade end up graduating from 12th grade. In addition, a lower percentage of these young students are eligible for college. As such, the youth cannot contribute to the region’s economic development, which keeps the region impoverished.

Theron’s 2020 Fundraiser

In August 2020, Theron held a fundraising party similar to this year’s June 2021 gala. The 2020 fundraiser featured a drive-in screening of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Once again, the proceeds went toward the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. Theron held the event in the parking lot of the Grove Mall in Los Angeles. However, the party only allowed 90 vehicles due to COVID-19 guidelines and cost $1,000 for two individuals. Attendants remained in their cars and listened in to “the night’s audio” by tuning into 89.1 FM.

Theron has used her celebrity platform to raise awareness about successful approaches to stop the spread of HIV and safeguard those already infected with it. The star’s strategy to encourage donations is very creative and garners much-needed support in the fight against HIV. Through more galas or other creative fundraising avenues, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project will be able to sustain the valuable aid it provides to young Africans by improving access to education and decreasing the risk of HIV.

Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr