Africa-HIV-map-sub-Saharan_opt
On March 3rd, doctors announced that they had “functionally cured” a Mississippi child born with HIV of the virus. A functional cure means that a patient has tested negative for the virus. In this case, the child no longer needs HIV medication, and is very unlikely to pass the virus on to others.

Doctors have already achieved a 98-99% success rate in the US in preventing the passage of HIV from pregnant mothers to their newborn children. This is accomplished through aggressive retroviral drug treatment during pregnancy, and continued treatment of the newborn after birth.

In the United States, about 0.3% of the population, or 1.1 million people, is living with HIV/AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 5% of the population is living with HIV/AIDS. That’s 22.5 million people: the combined population of Iowa and New York states.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the virus is particularly widespread among women and children. There, 387,500 children under the age of 14 were receiving anti-HIV drug treatment in 2010. The number of children who needed treatment but weren’t receiving it was estimated to be about 2 million. While African HIV infection rates have been dropping over the last decade as a result of better health care and education, the virus remains an epidemic.

What would an HIV cure mean for the world’s poor? Being able to cure babies and children of the virus, as well as stopping the spread of HIV from mothers to children, would eliminate the majority of new cases in sub-Saharan Africa. Curing newborns of HIV worldwide would mean a significant decrease in infant and child mortality, and healthier and easier lives for families. It would also eliminate the need for a lifetime of costly anti-viral drugs for those children cured.

– Kat Henrichs

Sources: Guardian, Avert, CDC
Photo:

Pope Benedict XVI
The beginning of this March is an important time for the Catholic Church, as Pope Benedict XVI resigns from the papacy. With the seat of St. Peter empty, what global issues will the new Pope face?

Catholics and non-Catholics alike realize that the Pope and his decisions have an influence in many areas throughout the world. The next Pope, whoever that will be, is going to inherit the Church in a time of crisis. While there are a myriad of problems to be dealt with within the Church, one issue related to international poverty will be at the forefront: the use of birth control.

Pope Benedict famously stirred up no small bit of controversy in the international aid community back in 2009 when he claimed that the use of condoms does nothing to prevent the spread of HIV, and that the availability of condoms actually makes the problem worse. Around the same time, the Pope offered a rare example in which the use of condoms would be acceptable in the case of a male prostitute using one. Such comments brought about different feelings about where the Church would be going with the issue; would it stay conservative or consider altering its’ stance on condoms?

The next Pope will have an opportunity to make his own statements about birth-control and perhaps his stance may be slightly more accepting than his predecessors. It would be irrational to expect the Catholic Church to reverse their position on the issue of birth control, but it is also important to remember the relationship between overpopulation and poverty. Even the smallest bit of change could make a difference for millions and hopefully, it will start to come about with the new Pope.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: The Guardian

Prince-Harry-Africa

Following in the footsteps of his mother, Princess Diana, Prince Harry has never been a stranger to charity trips to Africa. After a four and a half month tour of duty in Afghanistan, Prince Harry began his visit to South Africa and Lesotho on Wednesday. His itinerary includes dinners, fundraisers, site visits, and catching up with his charity Sentebale in Lesotho.

One of his stops early yesterday was at the Kanaelo Center for the Deaf in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. The school is one of only two schools for the deaf. Here, the Prince spent time in the classrooms learning sign language from the children and also got a chance to express his inner domestic-side in the school’s kitchen.

The Kanaelo Center is one of the many projects that is funded by Sentebale. Meaning ‘forget me not’ in the country’s native language Sesotho, the charity was founded in 2006 by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho. It focuses on health and educational assistance to the country’s half a million orphans and children who suffer with HIV/AIDS, physical and mental disabilities, and other ailments.

His next appearance was at the St. Bernadette’s Resource Center which works with blind children. Here, he simply spent time with the children, interacting with them, and getting to know the projects of his charity more directly.

A main purpose of the trip was the Sentebale Gala Dinner which took place Wednesday night in Johannesburg, South Africa. A vital aspect of running a big charity are these sometimes extravagant dinners and events which in reality are what help bring in interested people, and more importantly their wallets, to donate to the cause. All the money from this event will go specifically towards building a new home and education center, The Mamohato Center. The center will provide the services that the Mamohato Progamme did but in a more permanent setting. The Programme emphasized educating children with HIV/AIDS on not only the basics of health but also about the disease they are living with in order to spread awareness throughout their communities. The center will also provide psychological services as well as mentoring.

In the late 1990s before her death, Princess Diana was constantly in the news for her humanitarian work and immersion with impoverished communities. Aside from the celebrity aura of the royal family, the fact is that their money and status also come with an incredible amount of power. Truthfully, they create more excitement than a Hollywood starlet’s newest foreign adoption. Being third in line for the throne, it’s important for Harry to constantly remind himself of the work outside of the United Kingdom and modern work that needs to be done to increase the well being of children living in poverty; work that he has not only the power, but the passion, to do.

– Deena Dulgerian

Sources: Huffington Post,E! Online,ET

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C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon General of the United States, died yesterday at the age of 96. He is perhaps the most recognizable figure to hold that position because of his impact in raising awareness about the then-emerging disease of AIDS. He served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush for seven years, while the AIDS/HIV epidemic became a national and international epidemic.

Concerned with healthcare all over the world, he wrote the influential book “Critical Issues In Global Health”, in 2002. It became required reading for anyone wanting to understand the complex needs of providing adequate healthcare in the 21st century, and beyond. He put together experts and professionals from around the world, from different backgrounds, to compile a comprehensive look at the challenges and tools needed for improving people’s health.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director–General of the WHO, wrote the first chapter entitled “The Future of the World’s Health.” He states that “our first priority must be to decrease and eliminate the debilitating excess burden of disease among the poor.” Getting people out of poverty is what will lead to the greatest improvements, a critical component being the creation and distribution of low-cost/or free medications.

The book has great charts and statistics to show where progress has happened, and where efficiency can be improved. In China, it is reported that the average life expectancy had  increased from 35 years old in 1949 to 70 years in 2002, infant mortality declined from 31.4 per 1000 live births to 20/1000, and maternal mortality reduced from 1500 per 100,000 live births – to 61.9/1000.

In the forward by Jimmy Carter he says, “the miracles of science could and should be shared equally in the world,” emphasizing rising inequality and its role in the prevalence of disease.

Though C. Everett Koop had no legal authority to set government policy, Koop described himself as “the health conscience of the country. My only influence is through moral suasion.” He improved the health of millions worldwide.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Annals, USnews.nbcnews.com

 

 

PEPFAR_AIDS_Study
On the 10th anniversary of the American President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a new study released by a panel at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) shows that PEPFAR efforts have surpassed goals which were initially proposed to provide medical care for those who are HIV positive and suffer from AIDS. The PEPFAR program also includes prevention measures in communities affected by the disease.

Initiated in 2003 under President George W. Bush, PEPFAR’s initial goal was to provide medical care for 12 million people and to provide 6 million people with HIV antiretroviral treatments. Today, around 5 million people have received the medication through PEPFAR, and the program is providing care to over 15 million people – well surpassing the original goal. At least 4.5 million of those receiving support are children. The care of children was a high priority when the program was initiated, as many children have become orphans because of the AIDS epidemic. The report states that PEPFAR has “provided unprecedented support” for these children since it began.

A decade ago, PEPFAR began with $15 billion in funding from the U.S. government – the largest project in history aimed at tackling a single health issue. Today, funds dedicated to AIDS relief amount to over $37 billion, with an additional $7 billion donated to help eradicate tuberculosis and malaria.

The IOM report went on to praise the U.S. for its role in drastically scaling back the number of people worldwide affected  by the disease. The Obama Administration has also vowed to continue support for AIDS relief, announcing plans for an “AIDS-free generation” by putting a heavy emphasis on prevention. The study also takes the stance that prevention is a crucial component to continue exceeding goals and that “long-term success in keeping disease at bay will depend on countries making a transition,” where the mindset of healthcare systems shifts from that of an aid recipient to a medical institution that cultivates proper treatment and prevention methods.

Christina Kindlon

Source: All Africa

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations preceding the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In a recent town hall-style discussion at Yale University, reports Jim Shelton of the New Haven Register, the former UN official reflected on his tenure, during which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work in advocating on the issue of HIV/AIDS and other global issues. Annan also expressed his support for reforming the UN.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the UN Security Council, which has five permanent and ten non-permanent members, and addressing the issue of global poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals due to be re-examined in 2015.

Annan’s most recent and well-known diplomacy role has been as the UN’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the UN in addressing the issue famously led him not to renew his contract for the position of envoy in August 2012.

Annan said the U.S. and Russia must lead the way in shaping international consensus on a solution in Syria. Otherwise, a “chaotic collapse” there may lead to ethnic cleansing and ever greater global tension,” writes Shelton.

Kofi Annan’s urging towards effective diplomatic action is a rallying cry for nations to help assuage the mounting violence in Syria. With all the respect garnered through his long history of international diplomacy, we can only hope that Annan’s colleagues in the UN heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

Sources: New Haven Register, United Nations, BBC
Photo: The Elders

Most technology is limited in Mfangano, a fishing community off the Kenyan shore of Lake Victoria. The first time a car drove around the entire island was in 2007. Islanders only receive spotty coverage from cell providers due to the difficulties of building cell towers on Mfangano. Providers face difficulty constructing links from the mainland, and islands perceive key construction platforms as sacred.

Worst of all is the lack of internet access.

Chas Salmen, the director of the Organic Health Response (OHR), a small Kenyan NGO that provides HIV/AIDS-related services, noted the Islanders’ repeated desire for internet at community meetings. OHR started the meetings as a means to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and encouraged feedback in order to understand the lives of the islanders.

One of OHR’s primary difficulties was getting a substantial proportion of the community to attend the meetings. This was solved when OHR built the Ekialo Kiona Center (EK). The EK has a computer center, library and training facility. “Ekialo Kiona” means “Whole World” in the Suba language; the name refers to the OHR’s policy of allowing anyone access to the EK and the internet in exchange for maintaining a schedule of HIV tests every 6 months.

Participation in OHR’s programs has grown rapidly with the internet incentive. Now over 2,000 participants, or 10 percent of the population, use the EK and attend the regular meetings.

“The timing of the project was just perfect,” said Salmen. “It went live just before schools closed for a one-month break and we had 250 secondary students enroll right away. 75 percent of our new enrollment has been young people, under 25. They engage with us in a way that wasn’t possible before.”

The OHR also set up a network-connected radio transmitter to broadcast, which has greatly increased the amount of the population on the receiving end of their educational messages.

Salmen said, “When we broadcast we get SMS messages from a huge area, including Kisumu, 90km away. EK Radio fan pages have started appearing on Facebook without any prompting on our side. It’s a total game changer to start those conversations and have everyone listening at once.”

Broadband connectivity is not a high priority for those aiding developing communities. But, as Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Tae Yoo noted, it creates jobs, higher productivity and ultimately enables economic and social development.

The United Nations now classifies broadband as a basic human right because it helps developing communities advance economically and socially. Yet, UNESCO estimates that 90 percent of communities in developing areas are without access to broadband.

Inveneo has launched the Broadband for Good Initiative (BB4G) to speed up access to broadband throughout the developing world. BB4BG uses low-cost technologies to deliver broadband into urban and rural areas. BB4G currently provides broadband access to 20 percent of rural Haiti, and certain areas of Micronesia, Kenya, Uganda and the West Bank of Palestine.

“Mfangano is a great pilot for building sustainable broadband networks,” said Eric Blantz, senior program director for Inveneo. “The challenges we’ve seen here are not unique, but the solutions we’re finding are innovative and replicable across the developing world.”

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: The Huffington Post

Photo: Organic Health Response

Maternal Health in Nigeria

“The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has expressed commitments towards ensuring that pregnant women and [sic] People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are provided with adequate medical services,” report Vera Sam-Anyagafu and Prisca Sam-Duru of allAfrica.

The effort of providing proper medical equipment and training is part of the USAID mission to save one million lives, notes Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, during his official visit to Island Maternity in Lagos, Nigeria.

This arm of US foreign policy emphasizes the fight against AIDS and the United States’ investment in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing adequate maternal healthcare worldwide. Having proper prenatal care and enforcing proper hospital procedures and training has helped eliminate disease transmission of HIV and AIDS in Island Maternity and Dr. Shah believes that this result bodes well for the elimination of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria as a whole.

In his words, “…if Nigeria can replicate what has happened in this hospital throughout this country, it will be well out of its way to achieving its goal of saving one million lives and the United States is proud to be the primary partner to help achieve that outcome.”

– Nina Narang

Source: allAfrica
Photo: The Guardian