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

HIV in the Philippines
HIV/AIDS in the Philippines continues to be a growing epidemic with an average of 68,000 individuals currently living with HIV, and fewer than half of them are being treated with antivirals. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Southeast Asia and in the world, reporting to have about 1,021 new cases of HIV/AIDS infected people in January 2018, with 17 percent of those newly infected individuals already showing signs of advanced infection. Luckily, the Philippines government is taking action to reduce HIV in the Philippines.

How the Philippines Are Addressing HIV/AIDS

In August 2018, a government organization called The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) signed a partnership with UNAIDS in order to fast track the reduction of the number of new HIV/AIDS infections within the country.

UNAIDS states that for the past seven years, annual, new HIV infections have more than doubled, reaching to about 12,000 in 2017. Because 80 percent of HIV cases are reported within 70 cities in Manila, LCP and local governments in the Philippines are taking direct action regarding this epidemic, pledging to eradicate this disease.

According to Laarni L. Cayetano, the National Chair of LCP, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is definitely an issue, stating it “‘needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in cities.'”

The Philippines are already beginning to address this issue by starting more innovative services to prevent HIV. Quezon City, for example, has continued to increase HIV funding since 2012 in order to build three clinics that now provide rapid, judgment-free HIV testing and counseling for those who are infected.

The Department of Health

The Department of Health (DOH) has launched a tri-beauty pageant, specifically a “Lhive Free Campaign,” in Quezon City in order to find ambassadors in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. With DOH’s desire to reduce HIV in the Philippines, this campaign serves as a message to the people as well as provides free, early detection methods and free medications needed for those infected.

Beauty Queen and Actress Kylie Verzosa, who was crowned Miss International in 2016 and is currently a DOH ambassador, also supports this campaign and pageant. Although Verzosa is known for her advocacy on mental health, she also shares a passion to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote its prevention. She sees HIV as a physical, emotional, and mental health concern, considering that depression and anxiety can be developed in an HIV patient struggling to live with this condition.

The DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines previously held free, anonymous HIV screenings in the workplace for more than 400 people, DOH staff members and walk-ins alike. They provided eight different stations located throughout the DOH grounds. This service not only helped to promote HIV/AIDS testing as a strategy to fight against this epidemic but it is also important, according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, for DOH staff members to know their own HIV status as they are encouraging others to seek treatment.

Other Groups Working to Prevent HIV/AIDS

Other departments and organizations are working to help decrease the HIV/AID epidemic in the Philippines. Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of the Philippines, reports that the NIH is researching and working on the molecular epidemiology of HIV viruses that appear to be drug-resistant. The NIH is also offering a variety of services for those infected in this country, such as HIV drug-resistance testing and genotyping, helping to end the further increase of the disease.

The Human Rights Watch also provided recommendations regarding the government’s approach to reduce HIV in the Philippines. The group suggests implementing further HIV prevention education within schools, providing access to condoms, destigmatizing the infection and reinitializing harm reduction programs that focus on injecting drug use.

The LCP partnership with UNAIDS serves as an opportunity and a push to help end the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. As governments vow to reduce HIV in the Philippines, improvements in the health of the people the country will increase substantially. Advocating for and addressing this issue will not only encourage citizens to seek available treatments but it can also prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines in the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV in Fiji
Fiji, a country located in the South Pacific, consists of 300 islands and has a current population of over 914,000 people. Although Fiji has one of the lowest prevalence of HIV in the world, HIV cases and the risk of HIV are consistently increasing. Luckily, young people are educating themselves in order to fight against HIV in the country. They are becoming involved in this topic and trying to achieve the United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS.

Meeting in Suva

In October 2018, according to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 24 teenagers attended the meeting in Suva, Fiji, desiring to distinguish the factors that would put young people at risk of HIV.

Fiji’s Global HIV/AIDS Progress report states that less than 1,000 people were living with HIV in 2014 in the country. Out of the age group between 15 and 49 years old, around 0.1 percent had a virus. Despite these statistics, HIV cases are beginning to increase as there were 68 new HIV cases in 2014 and 50 more in 2015.

In a hope to prevent any further new cases, especially in younger generations, teenagers who attended the meeting identified what could possibly risk the youth’s health regarding HIV.

UNAIDS states that attendees noticed and appreciated the steps Fiji has taken to reduce the risk of HIV, including policies created in order to establish a clearer access to HIV services for young people. Yet, the participants identified that Fiji needs to address the lack of access to condoms, harm reduction programs, stigma and discrimination.

Youth Knowledge on AIDS

A representative of Reproductive Family Health Association, Swastika Devi states that while many younger generations are quite aware of how HIV is prevented and transmitted “many of them are not aware that antiretroviral treatment exists.” This is why they desire to get and share access to this information as well as a program to attain it. Although about 300 people in people are receiving the antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Fiji, young people might not be aware of this.

Youth that attended this meeting suggested and agreed to not only conduct a youth advocacy network regarding sex education and reproductive health but they also desired to involve youth leaders from certain communities and areas that deal with HIV to increase advocacy and engagement in fighting against this epidemic. They have connected with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Fiji as well as Fiji’s World AIDS Day.

The UNAIDS Country Director in Fiji, Renata Ram, has also desired for youths to get involved in eradicating the HIV epidemic. She states that because this epidemic is affecting younger generations, they should be involved and lead their own communities to help those that are affected.

Inter-faith Strategy on HIV and AIDS

Fiji already had a strategy regarding the reduction of HIV prevalence called Fiji’s Inter-faith Strategy on HIV and AIDS. This strategy was active from 2013 to 2017. It involved faith-based responses to this epidemic that aimed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS but also cared for and supported those that were affected. The strategy included involving organizations that are faith-based in order to eliminate HIV infections, discrimination and AIDS-related deaths as well as creating strategies and actions to achieve all these goals.

Despite the fact that Fiji has one of the lowest HIV prevalence in the world, this is still a growing epidemic in this country and this problem cannot be ignored. Luckily, young generations have every desire to end HIV in Fiji, and they want to help those affected with this disease. Fighting against HIV in Fiji within younger generations is not only helping to better the country, but also better the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

Is it Possible to Eradicate HIV in Malaysia?In Malaysia, 31.6 million people live below the national poverty line, meaning they live on less than $1.90 a day. In 2014, World Bank reported that 0.6 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line.

While this statistic may seem optimistic, Malaysia still has big problems in trying to reduce HIV for the country’s poorest. Malaysia is ranked seventh highest in the prevalence of HIV in the adult population amongst all Asian countries. 

Current Situation

The Malaysia AIDS Council reported in 2016 that there were 3,397 new cases of the HIV infection. This number contributed to the overall population of people living with HIV in Malaysia, which is reportedly 93,089 people. Additionally, there were 911 AIDS-related deaths that same year. 

After failing to meet their Millennium Development Goal in reducing HIV/AIDS amongst the population, the government responded by introducing a variety of harm reduction programs. These programs predominately aim to reduce the amount of drug injection users in the country, since they are particularly vulnerable to HIV contraction.

Reduction Programs

World Bank reports that HIV harm reduction programs are the “most cost-effective” programs in terms of future savings. The projection of long-term benefits from 2006 to 2050 indicated savings of around $22 million. 

These types of programs have significantly reduced the number of new HIV cases amongst drug injection users. World Bank reports that in 2005 there were around 4,000 new cases of HIV within the Malaysian population. In 2017, the statistic dropped to merely 115 new cases. The prevalence of HIV in Malaysia amongst drug injection users reduced between 2009 and 2017, from 22 percent to 13.4 percent.

The Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme

Created in 2006, The Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme (NSEP) was introduced by the Ministry of Health and the Malaysian AIDS Council. It was a community-based health care service, primarily for people who inject drugs. As of 2012, they reached more than 24,000 registered people.

The activities of the NSEP in Malaysia include exchanging used needles for sterile ones, disposing of needles in a safe manner, educating, providing rehabilitation and encouraging safer sex practices through condom distribution. The service also provides Drop-In Centers that allow patients to receive counseling, light treatment, meals and a place to rest.

Patients receiving aid from NSEP are typically aged from 25 to 50. People under 18 cannot visit the Drop-In centers and are referred to other services. There are currently 17 Outreach Sites associated with the program in all states within Malaysia- excluding Sabah and Sarawak.

Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT)

Methadone Maintenance Therapy is a form of drug replacement therapy. It functions by incrementally decreasing the amount of the drug injected into the user, slowly weaning them off the substance. The amounts are so low that users do not feel high when using it, and the process helps reduce the desire to inject altogether. This type of therapy reduces drug-related crimes and allows users to recover and return to work.

It became apparent after implementation of harm reduction therapy that many drug injection users were fishermen from the city ports on the east coast peninsula of Malaysia.

Successes

In 2011, the collective programs have reached approximately 35,000 injecting drug users. The latest National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS hoped to expand its reach to 136,000 drug users by 2015, which would equate to about 80 percent of the injecting drug user population in Malaysia.

Although not entirely fulfilled, the amount of the drug user population that began receiving Opiate Substitution Therapy, similar to Methadone Maintenance Therapy, was 50.4 percent by 2015. This was based on an estimate of the overall number of drug injection users in the country, which was 170,000 people.

The numbers show a drastic drop from the pandemic’s original scope. In 2002, there were 6,978 new cases of HIV, while in 2016 there were only 3,397 reported. This is a 60 percent drop in new cases of HIV in Malaysia. Out of all the new cases, 2,984 were sexually transmitted, while 377 were transmitted via drug use, which proves the success of implemented programs.

In 2015, the Global AIDS Response Report showed that there were almost 900 facilities throughout the country, both governmental and private, aimed at rehabilitation and therapy for HIV patients. This is a tremendous increase from the previous number in 2006, that was less than 100 facilities.

The projection of HIV cases in Malaysia shows a steady decline from its original peak in 2002. There are clear advancements in eradicating the disease amongst the population. More work needs to be done, yet the progress thus far is very promising.

– Taylor Jennings

Photo: Flickr

How the European Union Fights HIV/AIDS
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political coalition of 28 European nations; countless individuals chosen by the state represent his or her nation within the alliance. The governmental body addresses public health, human rights, development, climate action along with numerous other subjects. The European Union is well-known economically, yet they should also be renown for their work to research, inform and prevent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The European Union fights HIV/AIDS through surveillance, data and prevention programs.

Surveillance

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) work together to collect data on HIV/AIDS in 31 European states. The surveillance programs allow the EU to monitor groups who are at higher risks to contract the disease, to improve responses to those affected and to learn more about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The European Union utilizes their monitoring techniques to better its “evidence-based action;” for example, if one European country reported lower diagnoses than another nation, they would then be able to statistically analyze which system worked. The country resulting in fewer cases would, therefore, have the more effective approach to decrease HIV/AIDS.

Surveillance programs help the EU understand trends so they are better able to understand the disease and the efficacy of their treatment programs.

Data

Recent data collected by surveillance programs show an overall decline in HIV/AIDS within Europe. Additionally, AIDS-related deaths have substantially decreased since 1990.

In 2016, 29,444 people were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 31 countries; this number is relatively lower than the predicted 30,000 diagnoses. The prevalence rate currently stands at 5.9 per 100,000 individuals, which is also drastically less than other places such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rate among men is higher than that of women; men are currently at 8.9 cases while women are at 2.6 cases per 100,000. These numbers are significantly lower than those of the past; therefore, the surveillance and prevention programs have proven effective.

Prevention Programs

Due to the high rate of late diagnoses, the EU recognized that there are issues with “access to, and uptake of, HIV testing and counseling in many countries.” The ECDC, which is a partner of the EU, developed the “European Test Finder” to help with locating the closest testing facility.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS now by allowing quick and easy access to testing. The EU realizes that an early diagnosis can save a life, and locating a testing site is vital in helping those who have HIV.

The EU has also allowed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is an antiretroviral medication that tries to prevent or reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. France is the only nation that has used this prevention program, and it has proven successful. The EU is trying to make the drug more available across the union.

The “ART regimen” is one of the most efficient ways to prevent HIV/AIDS, and it works to extend the lifespan of someone with the disease. It is also an antiretroviral medication; yet, it is given when someone is HIV positive. This medication could lead to viral suppression, which means that one cannot transmit the disease to someone else.

A United Front

Another way the European Union fights HIV/AIDS is by using Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms have been very effective as boosting awareness is crucial to HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The ECDC offers a helpful, digital guide to prevent STI/HIV.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS by combining surveillance, data and prevention techniques. Although each state may have a different approach to preventing HIV/AIDS, the EU acts as an overarching body that researches and implements the best means to end the disease. The EU unites each country so they can eliminate the disease together.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to LesothoSituated wholly within the country of South Africa, the small country of Lesotho is a member of a very rare group of countries which exist completely within the borders of a separate state. Lesotho’s population is roughly 2 million, and its geography is mainly highland. At its $1,160 GDP per capita, it is classified as a lower- and middle-income country by the World Bank. While it may seem as though this African monarchy should not demand the foreign aid of large developed countries, due to its relatively small size (about the size of Maryland) and population, quite the opposite is true. Here is a look into how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho.

Economic

The U.S. is Lesotho’s largest trading partner with Lesotho sending 43.9 percent of its total exports to U.S. shores. Lesotho’s exports are mainly constituted of clothing (40 percent) and diamonds (22 percent).  Provided that these commodities are valued in the U.S., the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho because it will continue receiving exports at the current rate, which will likely grow given increasing development. Furthermore, Lesotho also gets 93 percent of its imports from South Africa. As Lesotho benefits from foreign aid, the market for South African goods increases. So investing in this small country could potentially benefit a much broader population in South Africa. With the U.S. being South Africa’s third largest import source, this could potentially increase as the prosperity of Lesotho grows.

Regional Security

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has made global political stability a priority in its foreign policy. Like many decolonized nations, Lesotho has had much violence in its short existence. In 1966, Britain released its colonial rule on Lesotho, and the country was founded as a monarchy. However, in 1970, the country’s first Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan suspended the constitution, exiled the king and ushered in a 23-year-period of authoritarian rule, complete with multiple coups and political repression. In the last five years, there have been armed clashes between the police force and the military. Unrest in Lesotho has involved South Africa in the past, and if Lesotho were to receive foreign aid, the benefits in political stability would also permeate South Africa.

Health

In Lesotho, 24.6 percent of the adult population (15-49 years old) is infected with HIV/AIDS, compared to an estimated 18 percent of adults in South Africa. This staggering percentage, nearly a quarter of the population, is the second highest prevalence of the disease in the world. Young people make up a sizeable portion of this population, along with 13 percent of young women and 6 percent of young men in the country being HIV positive.  The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho by achieving its goals for HIV/AIDS reduction and the improvement of global health. Lesotho is a key benefactor of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is a U.S. governmental global initiative for the reduction of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. PEPFAR would surely benefit by an increase in foreign aid funding.

Despite Lesotho’s small and landlocked status, it represents an area in which U.S. foreign aid can be utilized to help Lesotho’s people and benefit the economic, political and medical goals and interests of the United States.

– William Menchaca
Photo: Flickr