HIV/AIDS Stigma in Mexico
As of 2018, approximately 230,000 people in Mexico were living with HIV. About 75 percent of people with HIV in Mexico were aware of their status and about 70 percent were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART). While ART does not cure HIV, it is a combination of drugs that is able to suppress the virus and significantly reduce transmission rates. HIV is highly prevalent in certain populations in Mexico including sex workers (specifically in the Tijuana red light zone), prisoners, gay men and the transgender community. As a result, there is a significant HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico.

Since 2003, The Universal Access to ART Program has guaranteed access to ART in Mexico through the national health system. Additionally, this policy ensures the availability of HIV tests for individuals without social security. These governmental actions are significant steps towards reducing HIV prevalence, but 30 percent of individuals living with HIV in Mexico are still not accessing treatment. This is in part due to stigma and fear surrounding the social implications of receiving testing or treatment.

Implications of the Stigma Surrounding HIV

The social stigma around HIV and discrimination based on sexual orientation in Mexico is one of the issues that discourage many people from getting tested. Tradition and religion, especially in rural and poorer areas, are major obstacles to destigmatizing HIV. At the root of this issue are the “machismo” culture and anti-gay beliefs.

As a result of this stigma, people have associated getting tested for HIV with being gay or promiscuous. Consequently, many people are unaware of their HIV status and are not receiving treatment out of fear of discrimination. About 20 percent of patients who are undergoing treatment for HIV do not keep up with their treatment plans or their follow-ups which is also in part due to stigma and discrimination.

Mexico should prioritize the addressing of HIV/AIDS stigma. There is no point in putting resources into treatments and facilities without first ensuring that people obtaining testing or complying with their treatment plans. The quality of the treatment and health care is crucial but will not matter without patient cooperation.

Recent Progress

UNAIDS set forth the 90-90-90 goal for HIV treatment in 2015. This target mobilized efforts globally to test 90 percent of people living with HIV, to provide 90 percent of those people with HIV treatment, and to achieve viral suppression for 90 percent of those by 2020. Mexico has made significant progress towards this goal but has yet to achieve it.

Recent policies have addressed the HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico, such as the code of conduct from the ministry of health, which includes training to prevent discriminatory behavior and promote respect and patient confidentiality for HIV cases. This code of conduct aims to reduce stigma and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in health centers throughout Mexico.

A study in 2016 that examined the prevalence of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Tijuana, Mexico concluded that there is an urgent need for new testing methods. These interventions include non-stigmatizing, confidential testing for younger and less educated MSM, as well as timely referral to HIV treatment. Confidential HIV testing will not necessarily reduce stigma, but it has the potential to increase the number of people who are willing to obtain testing and have access to ARTs. In addition to these testing methods, Mexico could implement community-based HIV awareness programs that educate and destigmatize HIV to target HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico and encourage testing.

Overall, Mexico has made significant progress to decrease the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mexico. The country has been making great strides to overcome various obstacles, including socioeconomic inequality and HIV/AIDS stigma in order to increase the number of people receiving testing and treatment.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: Pixabay

Health Care Progress
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced various issues surrounding health care in the past several decades and some have amounted to significant setbacks for the nation. However, the country has seen health care progress in the DRC in recent years and international organizations are looking forward to the future.

Improving Vaccines for Citizens

International partners have been able to pair with the government in the DRC to initiate this health care progress, and the country has been polio-free for four years as a result. The lack of infrastructure and geographical size of the DRC makes it particularly difficult to reach milestones in health care progress. The United States Agency for International Development has been a vital component of health care progress in the DRC serving over 12 million people spanning a multitude of different provinces. The organization has additionally remained committed to providing HIV/AIDS support in 21 concentrated zones. These focused zones are crucial for health care progress in this region.

In addition to the international organizations doing their part to help health care progress in the DRC, the country’s Ministry of Health has been working diligently in recent years to improve vaccines and their means of storage. Keeping vaccines in the appropriate cooling storage containers and fridges has proved especially difficult due to the DRC’s tropical climate. In a 2018 plan, the Ministry of Health aimed to provide immunizations to almost 220,000 children and improve vaccine storage conditions. Partnerships with outside organizations have helped to deliver 5,000 solar-powered fridges specifically intended for vaccine storage and they will distribute more later on.

Progress in Hospital Conditions

One of the first dependable and reliably functional hospitals opened in Kavumu through an initiative called First Light. This hospital garnered a brand new electronic medical records system to make keeping track of patient history astronomically easier than before. The hospital staff received tablets to mobilize the system and expedite the process of patient diagnosis and care. With this technology, the hospital is able to treat nearly three times more patients than it was able to without these resources – originally, doctors were only able to see approximately six or seven patients per week.

The hospital also implemented a motorcycle ambulance program so patients no longer have to walk or have others carry them to emergency care in order to tackle the issue of having no ambulance access in the city. This program utilizes motorcycle sidecars specifically to transport patients, which was a successful method that people originally used in South Africa.

The Future of Health Care in the DRC

The World Health Organization (WHO) has continuously been an important player in the health care progress of the DRC. It has partnered with non-governmental organizations to deliver medicines and various other resources to hospitals and clinics in areas where people have limited health care access. In the interest of continuing the progression of the country and establishing a functional health care system, WHO also remains dedicated to analyzing and quantifying statistics within the country that gives organizations clues on what they need to do next. These statistics are able to pinpoint issues in specific areas, therefore making it easier for government and international organizations to act, provide aid and implement programs for improvement. The continuation of this data collection will hopefully allow for more health care progress in the future.

There is still a lot to do in the DRC when it comes to health care. There are organizations and efforts dedicated to treating all of the diseases and epidemics that threaten the country’s current health care progress like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and more. Some organizations involved in the nation even specifically focus on the care of mothers and children or improving sanitation conditions.

It will be small, incremental changes over time that will lead to continued health care progress within the region. The country cannot fix everything at once, but the collective efforts and partnerships of international organizations and governmental entities have already dragged the country out of its most difficult struggles with health care and access to health resources. The continuation of these practices will ensure the building and sustainment of a functional and reliable health care system, therefore alleviating the worries of so many citizens within the DRC.

For now, health care progress in the DRC is on track and only time will tell how these small initiatives eventually reform and reshape the country’s health care system entirely.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

CDC Intervention in Haiti
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with a UNDP national poverty index ranking of 68th. The country is also home to one of the world’s most populated cities without a centralized sewage system –  Port-Au-Prince. Although the developing country is vibrant, Haiti is still struggling. Since the initial destruction that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 brought, cholera and HIV have ravaged the nation. However, as a direct result of the CDC intervention in Haiti, the nation has not fallen. The CDC has provided financial and technical assistance to the Government of Haiti (GOH) since 2002. In the 2010 earthquake’s aftermath, the CDC refocused on both immediate health necessities and public health systems within days of the U.N.’s arrival. CDC intervention in Haiti assisted the GOH in developing disease surveillance systems and establishing a competent public health force aimed to aid Haiti in developing a proper disease outbreak response.

This past decade, Haiti has not seen much progress due to reform efforts growing stagnant. Subsequently, the changes the country has seen thus far have turned out to be unsustainable and/or have been ill-fitted solutions to Haiti’s unique predicament. Fortunately, CDC intervention in Haiti has been critical to the continued survival of many, and the number of people saved will hopefully continue to grow.

Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic and the CDC

The GOH and the CDC have also been collaborating to devise a longterm plan to eliminate cholera. CDC intervention in Haiti has increased patient case surveillance, laboratory capacity, oral cholera vaccine (OCV) administration and clean water and sanitation access in efforts to curb cholera’s spread

One of these efforts includes the Haitian Ministry of Health (MOH) building the National Cholera Surveillance System (NCSS) in conjunction with the CDC support. The platform is a rapid identifier of concentrated outbreaks, providing critical guidance to further prevent future outbreaks. Thanks to these efforts, along with others, incidence rates dropped from 112 cases per every 100,000 in 2017 to 25.5 cases for every 100,000 in 2018.

The CDC’s “Foot-Soldiers” in the Battle Against Cholera

Through the design of training programs, protocols and supplemental assistance, the CDC has created an entirely new workforce titled TEPACs or officially the Techniciens en Eau Potable et Assainissement pour les Communes. Having been key in Haiti’s disease prevention, these “foot-soldiers” ensure the safety of water sources, improve sanitation standards and routinely assess communal water systems and sources for free chlorine. They also performed Haiti’s first inventory of those sources; inventory of resources provide valuable information to donation/volunteering groups. Alongside the efforts of the CDC, TEPACs has launched the WASH initiative – coordinated work in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene – in a supplemental effort to eradicate cholera from Haiti.

CDC Impact On the AIDS Crisis

It is estimated that 150,000 people living in Haiti have HIV/AIDS. CDC intervention in Haiti is achieving more control over the AIDS epidemic. Outlining the concern of the epidemic and the impact of CDC support, 98 percent of all pregnant women and 100 percent of TB patients that CDC clinics saw received tests for HIV. Further, all TB patients that tested positive for HIV also received antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2018. 

The CDC and the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have sought to better medical treatment, fortify health care systems, improve laboratory information networks and cover medical fees. The development of information-sharing systems to track data of HIV patients has saved countless lives.

CDC Provides Household Water Treatment and Storage

The CDC also implemented household water treatment and storage (HWTS) to support adequate sanitary conditions for Haitians. HWTS has the potential to provide safe drinking water in primarily rural households. CDC intervention in Haiti has offered HWTS product certification developmental protocols and a national strategy for HWTS programs and product evaluation. The Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement (DINEPA) intends these programs to support disease prevention and treatment in Haiti.

A Solution to the Underlying Sanitation Problem

While recovery has been slow, CDC intervention in Haiti has been an immensely influential factor in public health. One aspect of public sanitation the CDC does not have a direct influence on is the waste that litters Haiti.

Today, the capital, Port-Au-Prince, is still without central sewage. With every rainfall, a potentially lethal flood of human fecal matter, urine and other harmful substances accompany the water. 

The country is in dire need of infrastructure reforms specifically for the needs of Haiti and its people. The CDC has dedicated itself to controlling and minimizing epidemics, but it has yet to address flooding latrines and a lack of proper sewage disposal systems despite their inflammatory influence on disease.

Flaure Dubois has a potential solution to Haiti’s flood problem. Dubois proposes the Haitian government hire those working to clean latrines, called Bayakous, to create jobs for Haitian citizens. Officializing the Bayakou occupation would bring a wage increase and higher public esteem. If the GOH and the CDC work in conjunction with Bayakous to educate citizens about the dangers of raw sewage, people might be more willing to pay for Bayakou services. Further, it would encourage the sewage shipment to treatment plants, rather than it going into canals. A larger influx of latrine waste enables Haiti’s one functional plant to operate at peak performance and support economic growth in the sanitation sector.

Government-funded Bayakous provide a basis to expand Haiti’s waste-management industry, eventually increasing aptitudes for efficient waste treatment/disposal methods. Expansion of this industry could result in a higher degree of sanitation and a lower rate of disease transmission.

The GOH or the CDC’s involvement in waste management would lead to superior safety and higher circulation of information for Haitian citizens and workers in the sanitation industry. Employing Bayakous has the potential to sponsor the country’s most important pillar in ensuring safe water sources and sanitation. By offering better equipment, methods and working conditions CDC intervention in Haiti can support sustaining health improvements. Haiti needs a sustainable solution to the root of its sanitation problem before it can begin to have lasting-recovery.

– Hana Burson
Photo: Pixabay

10 Biggest Problems in the World 
There is no better time to focus on the biggest problems in the world. The everlasting tightened world economy, war threats and lingering diseases all ubiquitously affect human lives in every corner of the world. The United Nations (U.N.) has compiled a list of the current 10 biggest problems in the world.

 10 Biggest Problems in the World

  1. Peace and Security: Civil conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, Russian aggression over Ukraine and its neighbors and tensions in the South China Sea are some global peace and security threats that are in existence today. These threats cost many lives due to terrorist acts and population displacement. The U.N. has 16 peacekeeping operations currently underway with nine in Africa, three in the Middle East, two in Europe and one in the Americas. With a peacekeeping budget of approximately $8.2 million, it keeps over 125,000 military personnel, police and civilians grounded and armed. The U.N. has made some progress with success stories coming from Burundi and Sierra Leone. U.N. forces eliminated more than 42,000 weapons and 1.2 million rounds of ammunition. It also demilitarized 75,000 fighters, including children, in Sierra Leone.
  2. AIDS: Among these 10 biggest problems in the world, AIDS is still a global health issue with 37.9 million people living with HIV. HIV newly infected around 1.7 million people and 770,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2018. Many global initiatives have emerged to lower the number of HIV cases including the GMT Initiative and TREAT Asia. The Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR, lowers the number of AIDS cases with its GMT Initiative by supporting HIV organizations in developing countries to provide better education about HIV, expand prevention services and advocate for more HIV treatment and prevention funding. The TREAT Asia initiative links a network of clinics, hospitals and research institutions to perform research on HIV and AIDS treatments within the Asia-Pacific region. Many people (23.3 million) living with HIV in 2018 were undergoing antiretroviral therapy. New HIV infections have fallen by 16 percent since 2010 and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 55 percent since the peak in 2004.
  3. Children in Poverty: Children around the world regularly do not have a fair chance for health, education and protection due to armed conflicts, violence and poverty. Millions of young children in 2019 did not have basic health care and proper nutrition resulting in stunted growth. The Millennium Development Goals have been in place for the past 15 years to help address the above issues affecting children. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been working with governments, the U.N., other NGOs and the private sector to broaden the impact on addressing child poverty with a particular focus on child malnutrition.
  4. Climate and Agriculture: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report stated that human activities cause climate change and that the impacts are adverse. Climate change ties to world poverty by negatively impacting agriculture with increasing energy use, decreasing food production and increasing food prices. Many say that more water is necessary to grow crops due to high temperatures and drought, downpour rain in other areas causes sea level rises and that people require more lands with favorable climates. Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had low yield on their crops in the summer of 2010 due to excessive heat that led to very high food prices, starvation, malnutrition and poverty. Some agricultural areas around the world have made improvements to their agricultural practices such as scaling sowing time, using different cultivation techniques and testing different cultivars.
  5. Democracy: Countries around the world often experience democracy deficit, weak institutions and poor governance. The U.N. is working to bring democracy to countries around the world by working with each country’s government to promote fair and exemplary governing practices, facilitate transparency and accountability and advise on new constitutions. The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) is funding projects that promote human rights, civil society and democratic inclusion. UNDEF is funding projects to include youths in elections in Cote d’Ivoire, promote gender equality in Palestine and support citizens in elections in Brazil.
  6. Poverty: The United Nations poverty facts and figures show that approximately 8 percent of the world’s workforce and their families live off of less than $1.90 daily. High poverty rates exist in small and deserted regions with armed conflicts, and approximately 55 percent of the world’s population has no social protection such as cash or food benefits. The condition of those living in poverty is improving following the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In fact, the percentage of the world’s population living off of $1.90 or less per day in 2015 is down to 10 percent from 16 percent in 2010.
  7. Hunger: Statistics have identified that 821 million people around the world suffered undernourishment in 2017, 149 million children had stunted growth and 49 million children under 5 years old experienced wasting due to malnourishment. The World Food Programme, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are working together toward the Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger, maintain food security, improve nutrition and promote excellent agricultural practices. The World Bank Group is working with partners to promote farming practices, improve land use, grow high-yield and nutritious crops and instruct on storage and chain supply to prevent food loss.
  8. Gender Equality: Women in more than 60 countries cannot get citizenship. Sixty percent of people lacking basic literacy skills are women and one-third of women experience sexual violence, according to U.N. Women. The United Population Fund supports the protection of women’s rights through the law. They helped fight for women’s access to reproductive health care in Ecuador and Guatemala. The United Population Fund also helps to build shelters for trafficked women in Moldova and girls fleeing mutilation in Tanzania.
  9. Health: Half of the 7.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to adequate health services, according to the world health statistics of 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading the efforts in addressing world health issues which include malaria, women’s health and tuberculosis. For the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, WHO deployed experts, medical equipment and medical teams to set up and run mobile laboratories and treatment clinics.
  10. Water: In 2019, 2.2 billion people did not have access to safe drinking water and 297,000 children under 5 years old died from diarrheal diseases. Eighty percent of wastewater went back into the ecosystem without prior treatment in 2017. The U.N. is promoting agreements among countries to ensure better usage of water. The 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda includes policies and measures that incorporate finance, technology, innovation, trade, debt and data to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals including water sanitation and water usage.

These 10 biggest problems in the world may bring uncertainty and worry, however, many organizations are planning and implementing initiatives to solve these issues. People can provide support to these organizations either financially or through direct involvement to aid in eliminating these challenges.

Hung Minh Le
Photo: Pixabay

 

 

HIV in the United Arab Emirates
HIV infection is a critical global health threat and a prevailing issue in the Middle East, which had the second fastest-growing HIV epidemic in 2016. Although some identify the HIV/AIDS situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as low-prevalence, there are some substantial concerns that people should not neglect. The recent shift in attitude towards HIV in the UAE contributes to addressing the existing concerns and issues.

HIV Data

The UAE ranks as number one in the world for the lowest prevalence of HIV (per percentage of the adult population). However, it is crucial to keep several factors in mind; the country only includes the local population in the available data as anyone who applies for a residence/work permit in the UAE must take a medical examination identifying HIV-negative results. In addition, the UAE may deport those already living in the UAE who test HIV-positive.

The first cases of HIV in the UAE emerged in reports in the 1980s and reached a cumulative total of 780 cases among UAE national citizens by the end of 2012. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new HIV cases per year increased from 25 in 2010 to 49 in 2016, which, despite the increase, remains significantly low. Due to the lack of available recent data on HIV seroprevalence in the UAE, increases in the number of cases are neither precise or updated. Indeed, the reported number of cases only represent the people who had officially registered themselves during screenings of blood donations, premarital testing, pregnancies and patients with tuberculosis. Accordingly, the available data may underrepresent or exclude groups with the highest risk exposure including people who have sexual relations and those who inject drugs.

Current Issues

HIV/ AIDS remains a sensitive and taboo topic in the UAE due to the lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the issue as well as strong beliefs that people can only transmit HIV through religiously forbidden sexual relations. Indeed, a study from 2016 identified 48 percent of students as having low knowledge on the topic and misconceptions, contributing to the stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV.  

As Human Rights Watch reported, prisoners with HIV in the UAE suffer segregation and isolation from others in the prison, thus facing systemic stigma and discrimination. Moreover, non-national detainees with HIV encounter considerable risks while in Emirati prisons, as reports determined that the prisons denied some lifesaving HIV treatments. Indeed, prison authorities have sometimes delayed or interrupted critical medical treatment for several months, thus increasing the feasibility of health deterioration for non-nationals. Moreover, Human Rights Watch emphasizes the obligation the UAE has to provide appropriate health care to all prisoners without discriminating against non-nationals and reiterates that denying or interrupting medical treatment is a violation of the right to health and possibly the right to life.

Response and Progress

The UAE is shifting its approach regarding the topic of HIV/AIDS and making efforts to strengthen its fight against the virus. The UAE’s National Aids Programme is increasing its transparency and working with the United Nations on reports shedding light on the prevalence of HIV in the UAE. Furthermore, the UAE has aligned its national agenda to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as both a member of the United Nations and a major international donor. UAE’s Vision 2021 strengthens the importance of improving its health care system and preventing diseases. An essential health-related target in the SDG agenda involves ending the epidemics of AIDS and communicable diseases (Target 3.3), which the UAE specifically addresses in its 2021 national agenda targets.

Dismantling the barrier of HIV/AIDS as a taboo topic in the United Arab Emirates is, nevertheless, crucial for the country to achieve its upcoming targets and reinforce its aspirations for the future. Despite the prevailing issues regarding HIV in the United Arab Emirates, the seven Emirates have demonstrated some progress and willingness to improve the situation by working with international institutions such as the United Nations.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Borgen Project Initiatives
In the fight against extreme poverty, people often think about ways to donate and how to make their concerns known to politicians. As a global issue, poverty is gaining support from all over the world in various fashions, revealing how celebrities are a huge asset to the discussion of global poverty.  Below are a few celebrities who are working in unique ways to support the fight against poverty and The Borgen Project initiatives they would most likely support.

Oprah: Keeping Girls in the Classroom

People know Oprah Winfrey for the charitable donations she has given to a variety of causes for decades. Winfrey donated $1 million to the N Street Village project. This project provides resources to women who are either homeless or have low-income to help stabilize them and promote their quality of living, such as assisting with employment, health care and various other recovery initiatives. Winfrey has also donated to causes that target young girls, such as providing about $140 million to pay for girls attending the Oprah Winfrey Leader Academy since its founding in 2007. Given the initiatives Winfrey has supported in the past, one can assume that Winfrey would support The Borgen Project’s initiative The Keeping Girls in School Act, as it works to expand the educational opportunities for young girls.

Elton John: Fighting the Spread of Disease

People know Elton John mostly for his musical abilities; however, for nearly half of his musical career, John has advocated for awareness of HIV/AIDS and continues to indirectly support legislation changes for poverty. In 1992, Elton John was motivated by the loss of friends like Freddie Mercury to HIV/AIDS and he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The Foundation has raised over $125 million, fought discrimination of those diagnosed and has worked in over 50 countries. If one considers John’s dedication to preventing and treating severe diseases, one can assume that he would support The Borgen Project’s initiative the End Neglected Tropical Disease Act, as it serves to support U.S. foreign policy that advocates for conditions that people often overlook but occur at rates worth congressional attention.

IU: Reaching Out to Children

IU is a South Korean singer known for her charitable donations to numerous causes over the years, both social and environmental. Following the breakout of a wildfire in South Korea, the star donated nearly $100,000 to ChildFund Korea. ChildFund Korea provides relief in Korea and across the world in areas including education, child protection and health. When IU made her donation, she did not specify it to an isolated situation, but rather to the whole organization and allowed it to decide how to use it. A Borgen Project initiative that reflects IU’s passions might be the Reaching Every Mother and Child Act as this policy addresses the health risk related to the health care of expectant mothers and their infant children.

Trevor Noah: Closing the Education Gap

Trevor Noah is a comedian and TV host. Noah founded the Trevor Noah Foundation in early 2018 in his home country, South Africa. Noah’s Foundation focuses on education and emphasizes closing the gap between those who have access to education and those who do not. It especially highlights how, as different communities face economic disparities, the progression of education sometimes outpaces those who have varying amounts of financial flexibility. Noah financed the Foundation in its first year, but just before 2019 began, he announced that he would match the donations of others. Noah’s form of philanthropy is unique because his goals come from his personal experiences. For this reason, Noah is likely to support The Borgen Project initiatives that strive to close the digital gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, especially in developing countries.

Each of these celebrities has a different reason for supporting various initiatives to fight global poverty and, depending on how they have chosen to fight against poverty, they reflect an initiative, act or bill that The Borgen Project is pushing U.S. foreign policy to support. Whether timing, location or experience influences these celebrities, they each made a personal decision to make a difference that can inspire everyone.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Egypt
Egypt is a country located in the northernmost corner of Africa. A rather religious country, people often push issues surrounding HIV/AIDS under the rug and view the disease as a non-issue. The reasons for this are not hard to understand considering that the estimated population of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Egypt in 2018 was a relatively small 22,000 people out of its 97.5 million inhabitants. Egypt has long been a low HIV-prevalent country with only specific groups of people being susceptible to the disease. These groups include prisoners, migrants and street children. Although there have been no studies conducted to prove this, professionals have hypothesized these are the most susceptible groups.

An Increase in HIV/AIDS

Despite the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Egypt, the country has seen an increase in the disease in the past years. In fact, Egypt has the fastest-growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa. There was a 76 percent increase in the number of cases between 2010 and 2016 alone. There has also been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. In fact, the numbers have increased by up to 30 percent every year. While the number of people with HIV/AIDS was 11,000 in 2016, the number doubled in only two years.

The issue must be addressed soon, not only because of the observed increase but also because of several factors within Egyptian society that leaves the country at risk for developing more cases of HIV/AIDS and the threat of an epidemic. Besides the previously mentioned groups, others susceptible to the disease include sex workers, homosexual males and drug users. Because of their hidden nature in a culturally conservative country and the stigma surrounding them, they perform unsafe behaviors and are unwilling to talk about their issues.

Talking About and Treating HIV/AIDS

Despite the cultural stigma, people are coming out with their stories and advocating in and out of the country. Magid is one example. After finding out that he had been living with HIV/AIDS through military testing, he decided to become a voice for other people in the country facing the same problem but too ashamed to speak out in fear of societal repercussions. Magid joined the organization Friends for Life which aims to help people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Magid also addressed a session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and became the first Arabic person to speak publicly about their life with HIV/AIDS.

Along with locals making an effort, UNICEF is working toward recognizing and stopping any further growth of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. One outcome resulting from the work of UNICEF and its partner organizations is in its support of the procurement and supply management of anti-retroviral treatments. Through its efforts, 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are able to receive high-quality medicines and treatment on a monthly basis. These people include pregnant women, infants and adolescents. It also treats people of refugee status in addition to those of Egyptian nationality.

While Egypt might be a low HIV/AIDS-prevalent country now, there have been recent trends showing that there needs to be some change. Organizations and people are coming out and working toward recognizing the issue of the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Through this, there is already an increasing amount of attention and funding going toward the issue.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

HIV AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa has the world’s largest HIV/AIDs epidemic. The government has issued numerous HIV prevention programs in an effort to educate the public, reduce the annual number of new infections, and, eventually, eliminate the disease.

History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa’s first reported cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, emerged in 1982 among homosexual men amidst Apartheid. Due to the political upheaval and repression by the government during Apartheid, HIV was ignored, thus allowing the virus to spread rapidly throughout the homosexual community among men. HIV was almost exclusively diagnosed in gay men until 1987 when there was a sudden increase in women being infected with the virus. The opportunistic microbial infection was credited with being spread as a result of poverty, limited primary health care, lack of education, and sexual exploitation and violence against women. It was not until the early 2000’s that the government recognized HIV/AIDs as a major issue after HIV rates with pregnant women soared from 1 percent in 1990 to over 30 percent by the beginning of the next decade.

Prevalence of HIV/AIDs Epidemic in South Africa

In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease, with 240,000 new diagnoses, and 71,000 AIDS-related illnesses. The disease is most prevalent among marginalized groups: sex workers account for 57.7 percent of HIV cases, gay men at 26.8 percent, and drug addicts at 1.3 percent. Additionally, there is an estimate of 280,000 children who have contracted the disease from their mothers; HIV prevalence is four times greater in women and young girls due to gender-based violence and transgender women are twice as likely to be infected by the virus than gay men.

Solutions to the Epidemic

Despite the initial negligence to the HIV/AIDs epidemic of South Africa from the government, South Africa aims to reduce the number of new infections to under 100,000 by 2022. The government has made great efforts to resolve the issue by executing awareness campaigns, encouraging HIV testing, distributing condoms, and implementing HIV prevention programs. In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease. There have been large improvements in the choice of antiretroviral medicines and the widespread accessibility of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, or PMTCT, program. As of 2016, mother-to-child transmission rates have fallen from 3.6 percent to 1.5 percent between 2011 to 2015, meaning the country is on track to completely eliminating MTCT.

Due to the 2010 national HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC), campaign and the 2013 HTC Revitalisation Strategy—which focused on encouraging people from the private sector, rural areas, and higher education to test—more than 10 million people in South Africa get tested for HIV every year.

As of 2016, only 5 percent of South African schools provided sex education, but the government has committed to increasing this number to over 50 percent by 2022—especially in high-risk areas. The government has adopted UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy: By 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. Thus far, 90 percent of South African’s know their HIV status, 68 percent are on treatment, and 87 percent are virally suppressed. Factually, South Africa has made significant progress in reducing HIV amongst the population, and they are on track to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

– Arielle Pugh
Photo: Wikimedia

Eliminating HIV In Kenya

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa affects adolescent girls more than any other group within the population. As a public health response, a new approach for the elimination of HIV in Kenya emerged which addresses the gender and economic inequality that aid in spreading the disease. This new approach is related to female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya with new effective methods.

Health Care System in Kenya

Kenya is home to the world’s third-largest HIV epidemic. Kenya’s diverse population of 39 million encompasses an estimate of 42 ethnic tribes, with most people living in urban areas. Research shows that about 1.5 million, or 7.1 percent of Kenya’s population live with HIV. The first reported cases of the disease in Kenya were reported by the World Health Organization between 1983 to 1985. During that time, many global health organizations increased their efforts to spread awareness about prevention methods for the disease and gave antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those who were already infected with the disease. In the 1990s, the rise of the HIV infected population in Kenya had risen to 100,000 which led to the development of the National AIDS Control Council. The elimination of HIV in Kenya then became a priority for every global health organization.

The health care system in Kenya is a referral system of hospitals, health clinics, and dispensaries that extends from Nairobi to rural areas. There are only about 7,000 physicians in total that work within the public and private sector of Kenya’s health care system. As the population increases and the HIV epidemic intensifies, it creates more strenuous conditions for most of the population in Kenya to get the healthcare they desperately need. It is estimated that more than 53 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya are uninformed of their HIV status.

In addition, HIV disproportionately affects women and young people. After an initiative implemented by UNAIDS in 2013 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through increased access to sex education and contraceptives, significantly fewer children are born with HIV. Today, 61 percent of children with HIV are receiving treatment. However, the young women (ages 15-24) in Kenya are still twice as likely to be infected with HIV as men their age. Overall HIV rates are continuing to decrease for other groups within the population, but studies show that 74 percent of new HIV cases in Kenya continue to be adolescent girls.

Female Empowerment Eliminating HIV in Kenya

Women’s empowerment is an overarching theme for the reasons that HIV is heavily impacting the young women in Kenya. A woman’s security in the idea that she is able to dictate personal choices for herself has the ability to hinder or help her well-being.
Female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya uses these four common conditions to eliminate HIV:

  1. Health Information – Many girls in Kenya lack adequate information and services about sexual and reproductive health. Some health services even require an age of consent, which only perpetuates the stigma towards sexual rights. Also, the few health services available are out of reach for poor girls in urban areas.
  2. Education – A lack of secondary education for young women and girls in Kenya often means that they are unaware of modern contraceptives. A girl that does not receive a secondary education is twice as likely to get HIV. To ensure that adolescent girls have access to sexuality education, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa guaranteed that African leaders will commit to these specific needs for young people.
  3. Intimate partner violence –  Countless young women and girls have reported domestic and sexual violence that led to them contracting HIV. Something as simple as trying to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners often prompts a violent response. There has been an increased effort to erase the social acceptability of violence in many Kenyan communities. An organization called, The Raising Voices of SASA! consists of over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that work to prevent violence against women and HIV.
  4. Societal norms – Some communities in Kenya still practice the tradition of arranged marriages, and often at very young ages for girls. The marriages usually result in early pregnancy and without proper sex education, women and babies are being infected with HIV at a higher rate. In 2014, the African Union Commission accelerated the end to child marriages by setting up a 2-year campaign in 10 African Countries to advocate for Law against child marriages. Research suggests that eliminating child marriages would decrease HIV cases, along with domestic violence, premature pregnancies by over 50 percent.

Young women in Kenya face various obstacles in order to live a healthy life, and poverty acts as a comprehensive factor. Studies show that a lack of limited job opportunities leads to an increase in high-risk behavior. Transactional sex becomes increasingly common for women under these conditions, while they also become more at risk for sexual violence. An estimated 29.3 percent of female sex workers in Kenya live with HIV.

Solution

The most practical solution to tackling the elimination of HIV in Kenya combines HIV prevention with economic empowerment for young girls. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an organization that has worked hard at implementing strategies, and interventions across Africa that highlight women’s access to job opportunities and education. In 10 different countries in Africa (including Kenya), young women can attend interventions in which they learn about small business loans, vocational training and entrepreneurship training. One way that more women in Kenya are able to gain control over their financial resources is by receiving village saving loans. To participate in village saving loans it requires a group of 20-30 to make deposits into a group fund each week. Women within these groups can access small loans, which enables them to increase their financial skills while gaining economic independence. The Global Fund to fight AIDS has cultivated a space for numerous empowerment groups for young women out of school called the RISE Young Women Club. The young women in these clubs often live in poverty and receive HIV testing as well as sexual health education.

Overall, the global health programs that aid in the elimination of HIV in Kenya are continuously improving their strategies by including young women in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya steadily sees progress thanks to the collective efforts of programs that empower young women.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality Globally
People have made significant progress in improving child survival rates globally. According to UNICEF, “one in 26 children died before reaching age five in 2018, compared to one in 11 in 1990.” However, far too many children who live in poor and vulnerable regions continue to die prematurely from preventable illnesses every day. Keep reading to learn the top five causes of child mortality globally.

Top 5 Causes of Child Mortality Globally

  1. Tuberculosis (TB) – Tuberculosis is currently one of the biggest causes of child mortality globally. A bacteria called mycobacterium causes TB. It mostly attacks the lungs but can affect other parts of the body as well. People can transmit the illness through the air when coughing, sneezing or talking. More than 600 children under the age of 15 die every day as a result of TB and around 80 percent of these deaths occur in children under the age of 5. Currently, only 96 percent of those children do not receive adequate treatment and as a result, die from the disease. UNICEF has created an agenda for action on childhood TB to help prevent children from dying on a global scale as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. To accomplish this objective, UNICEF needs funding support and investment from global and national decision-makers, governments and researchers.
  2. MeaslesMeasles is an infectious disease that a virus causes and people can contract it through the air, sneezes or coughs. It causes severe complications that can lead to death and is an extremely contagious disease killing children globally. It can last in the air up to two hours and if it affects one person, there is a 90 percent chance that those around them will contract it too. The measles caused 110,000 deaths among children globally in 2017 and most of these deaths were in children under the age of 5. From 2000 to 2017, people developed many preventative measures to stop measles and one of these measures was a vaccine. The vaccine was a major factor in reducing measles deaths among children. It prevented 21.1 million deaths between 2000 and 2017. To continue to prevent measles from taking more young lives, children should receive the vaccine routinely. In 2017, 85 percent of children around the world obtained the vaccine in one dosage. Two doses are ideal to protect children from contracting the disease. The World Health Organization played a huge role in distributing the vaccine. The WHO’s Assembly backed the Global Vaccine Action Plan by endorsing it in 2012. With this endorsement, WHO hopes to eradicate measles in five regions by 2020.
  3. HIV/AIDS – With a compromised immune system, AIDS can develop after contracting HIV. It can transmit to children from mothers through childbirth as well. HIV/AIDS greatly affects adolescent children, especially young women ages 15 to 19. Worldwide, two out of three adolescent girls of key populations have HIV. They are at the highest risk of contracting the disease and most likely do not have access to treatment. Without investment in HIV treatment and prevention programs, projections determine that 270,000 adolescents will contract HIV and 56,000 will die by 2030. Children are dying globally and reports in 2017 stated that the virus infected 430,000 children and killed 130,000 from complications. UNICEF plans to help stop the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child, close the HIV treatment gap and prevent the rise of HIV in adolescent children. UNICEF will do this by supporting governments and communities that fight to reduce inequities in HIV treatment. The organization also provides governments with technical assistance that strengthens their HIV services which include, treatment, prevention, programs and testing.
  4. Neonatal Deaths – Neonatal death refers to the death of a baby within the first 28 days of its life. It is a global phenomenon because children are at their most vulnerable during this time. Neonatal deaths account for 47 percent of deaths under the age of 5. Most neonatal deaths happen in the first day or week after birth. This averages out to about 1 million dying within the first day and close to a million dying within the first 6 days. Prevention of these deaths is important because there is an increasing rate of deaths under the age of 5. Although people cannot prevent most neonatal deaths, they can prevent some. Prevention methods include improving medical management by managing premature labor that can harm by the fetus and monitoring the heart rate of the fetus. Other preventative methods include neonatal intensive care referrals and monitoring possible respiratory complications during pregnancy.
  5. MeningitisMeningitis is an infection of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Viral infections can cause it, but other causes include bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections. Meningitis symptoms can also spread quite quickly. Fifteen percent of children who have developed meningitis become unconscious once the virus spreads. In newborns, the symptoms can be vomiting, rash, very high temperature or inactivity. Around 25 percent of newborns who have meningitis develop increased fluid around the brain that can last up to one or two days and can cause them to be near death within 24 hours. If left untreated 50 percent of patients suffering from meningitis die within 24 to 48 hours. Even with the right treatment, about 5 to 10 percent of patients still die, resulting in many children dying globally. Prevention of this disease begins with getting routinely vaccinated to lower the chances of contracting it. All young children must receive the vaccination in the hopes of preventing the disease from taking their lives.

There are many diseases that cause child mortality globally every day. The world needs to work together to end the epidemic of preventable diseases that are taking the lives of children everywhere. Investing in treatment for preventable diseases in countries that may not have access to it is the first step.

  Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr