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Red iPhone 7
Recently, Apple released a special edition of its iPhone 7 in collaboration with Product Red, a licensed brand owned by (RED). The red iPhone 7 fights AIDS, as each purchase contributes to the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS programs and contributes to the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

The device’s bold finish was created in recognition of more than 10 years of partnership between Apple and (RED). “Since we began working with (RED) 10 years ago, our customers have made a significant impact in fighting the spread of AIDS through the purchase of our products, from the original iPod nano Product Red Special Edition all the way to today’s lineup of Beats products and accessories for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Made available to order online worldwide and in stores March 24, the red iPhone 7 fights AIDS through its ties with the Global Fund. Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership organization between governments, civil society and the private sector to the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics. Apple is the world’s largest corporate donor to the Global Fund and has contributed more than $130 million through its partnership with (RED). The distribution of the Product Red iPhone achieves a global reach of the world’s most loved smartphone, while providing access to life-saving medication in disadvantaged countries, allowing customers the unique opportunity to make a difference through a single purchase.

The various (RED) HIV/AIDS programs are centered mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than two-thirds of the world’s HIV-positive population. Since (RED)’s launch, it has generated $465 million to support the Global Fund and impacted 90 million people through HIV/AIDS grants in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia. One hundred percent of all money raised by (RED) goes directly to Global Fund HIV/AIDS grants that provide testing, counseling, treatment, and prevention programs with a specific focus on eliminating transmission of the virus from mothers to their babies.

While the latest release of the familiar Apple product might seem like yet another technological addition, the greater cause behind it is certainly worth significant attention. The red iPhone 7 fights AIDS by delivering tangible forms of aid and treatment for individuals affected, emphasizing how even a pocket-sized object can have an immense impact on those in need.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

 Diseases in the Bahamas
The top diseases in the Bahamas are hypertensive disease, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. These diseases account for the high mortality rates in the country and affect the overall health of Bahamians.

  1. Hypertension was the leading cause of death for Bahamians in 2011 resulting in 215 deaths, which is a decrease in the number of deaths from 2008, which stood at 993. Hypertension preventative measures have been implemented in the Bahamas and a national campaign was launched in 2013 promoting good habits for controlling blood pressure.
  2. Ischemic heart disease, or coronary heart disease, has been considered one of the top diseases in the Bahamas and resulted in 180 deaths in 2011. The country’s department of statistics has reported that more than 24 percent of all deaths in the Bahamas are directly related to heart disease.

  3. Cerebrovascular diseases accounted for 130 deaths and have been another of the top diseases in the Bahamas, especially among women. Cerebrovascular diseases are considered more life-threatening, even though hypertensive diseases are the number one cause of death.

  4. HIV/AIDS has been prevalent in the Bahamas and ranks fifth on the list of top diseases in the Bahamas with a mortality of 121 deaths, according to a 2011 report by the Bahamas government. This is considered an epidemic, and there is currently no cure. The Bahamas, along with its AIDS Secretariat, is working vigorously to promote preventative measures and proper health measures for those living with this disease. Recently, the Linkages Project in conjunction with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun the groundwork of linking across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV project. This project is aimed at accelerating the ability of partner governments, key population-led civil society organizations and private-sector providers to plan, deliver and optimize comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services to reduce HIV transmission among key populations and help those living with the disease to live longer.

  5. Diabetes, another top disease in the Bahamas, affects 34,900 Bahamians and can lead to death, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The mortality of this disease in 2011 was 86 deaths per year. Diabetes can lead to other complications and result in similar symptoms to the other top diseases in the Bahamas.

These diseases all have a major impact on the health of the Bahamian people, and health providers continue to promote healthy lifestyles and to lobby for affordable, all-inclusive national health plans to combat their impact.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Product (RED)Since its discovery in 1981, 35 million people have died from AIDS or AIDS-related diseases. The early years of the disease presented challenges for the medical community. However, as more people learned about the disease, another challenge emerged: how to best educate the public about the dangers of the disease without creating a stigma. This challenge still persists today.

The worldwide impact of AIDS is prolific. In 2015, 36.7 million people were living with HIV. Every day approximately 5,753 people contract HIV — about 240 every hour. In 2015, 1.1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 78 million people have contracted HIV and 35 million have died of AIDS-related causes.

In 2006, Bono, lead singer of the Irish band U2, and Bobby Shriver, an activist and attorney, created Product (RED) to advocate for better awareness of AIDS. The two men believed that if they combined the efforts of NGOs, governments, the medical community, global business brands and celebrities, they could create a powerful force to foster understanding of the disease. The influential allies also provided funding for research to eradicate the disease.

Product (RED) business partnerships include Apple, Gap, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola. By creating products specifically for Product (RED), the partnership allows consumers to use purchasing power to fund AIDS treatment and awareness around the globe. (RED) partners contribute a portion of their (RED) product profits to fight AIDS, and up to 50 percent of the profits go directly to fighting AIDS.

Over the past decade, Product (RED) raised $365 million to support the Global Fund. Product (RED) has become a global brand; the combination of awareness and research is powerful. The money raised by Product (RED) provides life-saving medicine for those living with AIDS in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.

When Product (RED) began, only 2.1 million people had access to medication. Through their efforts, the organization raised money to fund medication for more than 18 million people. They have also increased the access to medication; in rural areas of Africa, filling a prescription is not easily accomplished. However, Product (RED) and its partnership with the Global Fund help create a pathway for the medication, by making sure the medicine reaches the people that need it most, the system is more efficient and life-saving.

AIDS is a worldwide epidemic, but the decade of Product (RED) illustrates the power of the combination of global alliances and knowledgeable consumers as a force for change.

Jennifer Graham

Photo: Flickr

PEPFAR Progresses Toward AIDS-Free GenerationDecember 1 marked World AIDS Day, which this year brought hopeful news about the 35-year-old epidemic. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) shared new data demonstrating significant progress in HIV reduction in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The announcement revitalized PEPFAR’s resolve to yield an AIDS-free generation by 2030.

In the press release, three countries represented the progress-at-large toward AIDS eradication due to the astonishing prevalence of the disease there. Respectively, Zimbabwe globally ranks fifth in most HIV cases among adults, followed by Zambia at seventh and Malawi at ninth.

Even so, reductions of the disease in these nations is appreciable. The incidence of HIV in adults since 2003 have decreased by 76 percent in Malawi, 51 percent in Zambia, and 67 percent in Zimbabwe. Across the three countries, the community viral load suppression among HIV-positive adults averages 65 percent, indicating HIV transmission is nearly under control. These shocking results are inspiring broader action and reinvigorating the AIDS-free dream.

Surpassing President Obama’s 2015 targets of global AIDS reduction, PEPFAR now provides about 11.5 million people with antiretroviral treatments, has performed 11.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions, and has facilitated 2 million HIV-free births.

The momentum is gaining. Along with their World AIDS Day press release, PEPFAR announced their $4 million, two-year partnership with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). The project will enhance HIV service delivery to men in the Mulanje District of Malawi through mobile clinics and door-to-door household level testing. According to the project’s success, it will serve as a community-based-treatment model for other areas that are difficult to service, improving health care opportunities for hard-to-reach places around the world.

While there is still a long road ahead, PEPFAR’s announcements last week served as reminders that an AIDS-free world is not only possible but well within sight. Now is the time to redouble global efforts to prevent and treat HIV so that a new generation can live completely AIDS-free.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

eradication of AIDS
Recently, the United Nations unveiled its plan to combat global health concerns. If earnestly implemented, the international community could see the eradication of AIDS by 2030. The plan is a part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which identified 17 developmental goals and 169 sub-targets.

The SDGs were constructed on the successes of the recently concluded Millennium Development Goals, which addressed global development issues through “time-bound and quantified targets.” The eight U.N.-brokered goals have become synonymous with the “the most successful global anti-poverty push in history” as it has reduced HIV infections by 33% since 2001.

Despite the unprecedented developmental success, the United Nations General Assembly wanted to pursue a refined and more robust approach to the eradication of AIDS. Therefore, in 2015 as the Millennium Goal expired, the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development announced a program aimed at eradicating AIDS, particularly through United Nations General Assembly Resolutions.

Notably, Resolution A/69/856 identifies that the eradication of AIDS and prevention must go beyond providing sufficient doses of anti-retroviral treatments. In addition to medicine, it is necessary for governments alike, the international community and civil society to advocate for safe-sex practices.

The task of implementing treatments towards pursuing a world free of global health concerns should not disproportionately fall on the United Nations, however. Moreover, other actors have provided significantly to health movements such as the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a bipartisan policy that supports HIV testing and counseling for more than 14.2 million pregnant women; HIV testing and counseling for more than 56.7 million people as well as training for more than 140,000 health care workers.

Other efforts are being made by NGOs and nonprofits such as The Global Fund, which has given $22.9 billion to over 1,000 initiatives in 151 countries.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

fast-track approach to ending AIDS
From June 8 to 10, the UN General Assembly held the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in New York City to draft a new Political Declaration on Ending AIDS and to introduce the Fast-Track approach to ending AIDS.

The Fast-Track approach to ending AIDS plans to increase and front-load investments in fighting the AIDS epidemic. This would be done in combination with scaled up coverage of HIV services in order to reduce the rate of new infections and AIDS-related deaths.

Greater investment in human rights, advocacy, civil society and community-based services are also essential to the Fast-Track approach, according to meeting documents.

The ultimate goals of the Fast-Track approach to ending AIDs are to ensure that fewer than 500,000 people are newly infected with HIV, to ensure that fewer than 500,000 people die from AIDS-related illnesses and to eliminate HIV-related discrimination.

UNAIDS, the branch of the UN working towards “zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths” as part of the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, said in a press statement that it wanted to hear from both individuals living with HIV and NGOs helping people on the ground during the meeting.

One such group is AIDS Outreach, an NGO located in Montana. Executive Director Bob Cruz said in an interview that most of his time is spent testing for HIV. His next biggest challenge is ensuring that those who test positive for HIV find an insurance package they can afford.

“Treatment is out there, but to get [people living with HIV] on it we need to know what insurance options are available,” Cruz said. “There are many, but they don’t know it.” According to Cruz, treatment for HIV can cost $3,000 to $4,000 per month.

In Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report, “On the fast track to ending the AIDS epidemic,” he noted that he has spoken with individuals about their difficulties obtaining the retroviral medicine they need.

Although past successful policies have extended access to retroviral treatment, the UN General Assembly’s zero draft political declaration states that people living with HIV “in low- and middle-income countries still remain without treatment.”

The declaration goes on to say that “a substantial proportion of people on antiretroviral therapy face social and structural barriers to good health, including lack of social protection, care and support and as a result struggle to adhere to their treatment.”

Until a recent funding cut, AIDS Outreach had offered support groups for people living with HIV and for men who have sex with men, a key population affected by HIV. Before the cut, Cruz said the groups gave people a sign of visible support. Their purpose was “to offer someone a space to talk about what is on their mind,” free of judgment.

If Cruz had more resources, he would restart AIDS Outreach’s support groups and put more time into educating people in schools and prisons. He would also want to ensure that people knew more about recent advancements in treatment, helping to reduce the fear and stigma of living with HIV.

According to Cruz, new treatments such as PrEP, a drug that people at very high risk for HIV take daily to lower their chances of getting infected, allow people to live without the constant fear of their immune system becoming compromised.

At the High Meeting, the zero draft political statement said that health needs must be addressed in a more holistic manner. The UN will not only work to ensure the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV, but also “health security, universal health coverage and health system strengthening and preparedness.”

As part of the greater investment in HIV prevention and treatment, and to provide more holistic treatment, key areas are in need of more resources.

According to meeting documents, community mobilization needs to rise to three percent of total HIV investment by 2020—three times the current amount. Investment in social enablers, such as advocacy, law and policy reform and stigma reduction, needs to rise to eight percent of total investment by that time.

In 2014, there was $19 billion available that had been invested in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Meeting documents stated that this needs to increase to $26 billion available annually by 2020.

It is hoped that this increased investment, along with better service coverage and a more efficient use of resources, will lead to the success of the fast-track approach to ending AIDS, resulting in declining annual resource needs after 2020.

Anastazia Vanisko

Photo: Flickr

 

What Causes Famine in Africa
What causes famine in Africa? Over 40 million African lives are threatened by famine and food crisis. A number of factors contribute to widespread and stubborn famine, such as extreme weather, weakening currencies and a failure to mobilize resources.

Although international aid is an imperative aspect of a country’s ability to cope, food aid alone will never solve the reoccurring problem.

“Food aid is focused on short-term emergencies and doesn’t address the causes of the crisis,” according to Poverties, an organization that provides social and economic research. “That’s why even if it’s badly needed in emergencies, a long-term plan is also vital.”

Programs such as The Purchase for Progress and World Food Program seek to develop local farming industries. Investing in agriculture prevents future food shortages and supports a local economy rather than only relieving famine in the short-term.

For international aid to be most effective, it is crucial that it arrives in a timely fashion in predictable amounts and is properly targeted. An earlier response to a crisis builds resilience in a community and is more cost-effective than waiting to treat seriously malnourished people. According to Mail and Guardian Africa, the continent needs at least $4.5 billion for emergency relief.

Across the Horn of Africa and South Sudan, a combination of war and severe drought create food insecurity.

“In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon,” according to World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger. “Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields are often mined and water wells contaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land.”

Continuous fighting hinders food aid; the areas that need it the most are the areas hardest to reach due to the security situation. Ethnic discrimination is a factor as well as the region being hit hard by AIDS. The disease causes those weakened by starvation to be unable to fight for survival.

Instability in the market causes food prices to fluctuate, making it difficult for the poor to have access to nutritious food consistently. These spikes in price hit children and the elderly the hardest.

With unrestricted access and thorough planning, international aid can drastically relieve food crisis. Providing resources and assistance to Africans can foster sustainable development strategies specific to the region and its weather as well as boost economic development, preventing famine in the future.

Emily Ednoff

Sources: Poverties, Mail & Guardian Africa, Deutsche Welle, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDSUNAIDS and United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) collaborated with faith-based organizations (FBOs) in East Africa to launch a two-year initiative to strengthen their capacity to respond to HIV.

On Sep. 15, 2015, in the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, it was revealed that the five focus areas of the U.S. $4 million program are: collecting, analyzing and disseminating data; challenging stigma and discrimination; increasing demand for HIV services and retaining people in care; improving HIV-related service provision; and strengthening leadership and advocacy.

This new program is the result of suggestions made by faith leaders at a deliberation in April 2015. The conference hosted over 50 faith leaders from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The faith leaders called for more access to data, heightened accountability and better collaboration between FBOs and international partners.

The report, Building on Firm Foundations, which was released by the United Nations General Assembly, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and Emory University last month, highlights the impact of faith-based responses to epidemics in the four East African countries.

FBOs provided a majority of health services and sustained collaborative communities which maintain a disease-free environment for future generations.

PEPFAR’s partnership with FBOs has allowed them to reach 7.7 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and treat 14.2 million pregnant women, thus decreasing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The recently launched PEPFAR 3.0 – Controlling the Epidemic: Delivering on the Promise of an AIDS-free Generation set the ambitious goal of 90-90-90.

By 2020, PEPFAR aims to achieve: 90% of people living with HIV who know their status, 90 percent of people who know their status and are receiving treatment and 90% of people on HIV treatment who have a suppressed viral load.

Thus it is important to strengthen partnerships with FBOs, as they are primary health providers for many communities, and allow UNAIDS and PEPFAR to expand their impact.

Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, stated that “Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: UNAIDS, PEPFAR Report
Photo: Flickr

AIDS and TBIn an August 11th press release, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced a $41 million financial injection to Sudan to advance its response to the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) epidemic.

Sudan is an African Country in the Nile Valley of North Africa bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest.

Although recent years have seen improvements in the response to HIV/AIDS and TB, the illnesses maintain their death grip on the population.

The UNDP, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, has created two new partnership agreements totaling $41 million for the country to continue fighting the deadly diseases.

The funding is broken into two grants. The first grant worth $20.4 million will be used to manage and track the decrease in TB cases from now until 2017, as well as to commit to identifying more new cases.

By identifying more cases of TB, the disease can be better controlled and spread less. The grant will also go toward improving treatment for 90 percent of newly infected patients as well as for 75 percent of those undergoing a relapse.

The second grant amounting to $20.8 million will go toward halting the spread of HIV among communities most at risk between now and 2017. The grant will also work at keeping the HIV prevalence rate below 2.5 percent among key populations and below 0.3 percent among the general population.

The UNDP, since 2005, has been a key organization assisting Sudan with its ongoing health care challenges. It’s played an important role in decreasing the transmission and morbidity rate of HIV and TB plaguing the Sudanese.

In the past few years, the UNDP has assisted the government with containing the epidemic, increasing service coverage and strengthening the national health system.

The UNDP website reported that the number of people accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 14,000 in 2007 to more than 250,000 in 2014. In the same period, the number of health facilities providing antiretroviral treatment increased from 21 to 36.

Also, as of 2014, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased to 3,937 from only 319 back in 2007.

UNDP Sudan Country Director Mr. Selva Ramachandran was quoted in the press release to say, “UNDP’s goal is to strengthen the response at the national, state and local level by supporting the development of local expertise and backstopping program performance.

To get TB under control, the authorities are planning to provide social support to patients and develop a national campaign to fight the stigma and discrimination that severely hinders TB efforts. Regarding HIV, testing is essential to bend the curve of the epidemic and we remain committed to supporting the provision of HIV testing, counseling and treatment to those in need.”

In nations like Sudan, poverty grips the population and health care can be almost nonexistent. With the help of the UNDP and the extra funding given, the fight to help the poor in Sudan has again gained momentum, and another dent in ridding these ugly diseases has been made.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: United Nations Development Programme, The Global Fund,
Photo: Flickr

The Latest in AIDS Research from UNC Chapel Hill
There’s good news and bad news for those who suffer from AIDS in the developing world.

On July 20, researchers, public health institutions, international policymakers and numerous others gathered in Vancouver, Canada for the eighth International AIDS Society Conference. Myron Cohen of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Disease had an interesting announcement. This announcement was the result of a huge, cross-sectional study on AIDS called HPTN 052 that he conducted on over 1,700 couples worldwide.

It wasn’t the first time that a major breakthrough had come out of Vancouver. At the same conference in 1996, AIDS research showed that it was possible to effectively treat AIDS, when contracting the disease previously would almost always lead to an early death.

First, the good news. According to Cohen, a particularly potent cocktail of AIDS medications can effectively render the disease incommunicable, as long as medicines are taken consistently. In the study, the treatment was shown to cut the risk of infection by 96 percent. This type of preventative treatment is known as antiretroviral therapy. If patients stop taking these antiretroviral drugs, the infection will reemerge.

While the study was almost entirely confined to heterosexual couples, Cohen said that, “Observational studies show it should work in men who have sex with men and we’re doing a study now looking at intravenous drug users.”

This means that if the current generation of those who suffer from AIDS can adhere to a strict regimen, they can avoid passing on the disease to successive generations. If treatment is widespread enough, this could eventually eradicate the disease.

However, there is a downside. The combination of antiretroviral drugs that can cripple the disease is quite expensive, making them all but inaccessible to the poor.

This hasn’t stopped the World Health Organization (WHO) from enthusiastically recommending that anyone who tests positive for HIV be immediately given antiretroviral treatment. WHO had previously recommended antiretroviral therapy for certain demographics, such as pregnant women and children, but has since expanded their recommendation based on the results of the study. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of WHO’s HIV/AIDS division, has noted that reaching currently untreated populations around the world would require an extra $30 billion in funding.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who funded Cohen’s study, has said that, “For a long time there was the tension between whether you should focus on preventing HIV infection or treating HIV infection, [but] HPTN 052 showed that treatment is prevention.” However, given that antiretroviral treatment is so expensive, prevention strategies such as the use of condoms should still probably remain a prominent feature of global health policies.

Fortunately, there is cause to be optimistic about the capacity of global institutions and aid contributors to address the AIDS epidemic. Michel Sidibe, executive director of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, points out that the world has reached its target of treating 15 million of the 35 million people infected with the virus worldwide by 2015. Perhaps in another 15 years, the remaining 20 million people who suffer from AIDS will have access to treatment as well.

Derek Marion

Sources: Charlotte Observer,, Nature, Ahram
Photo: Instinct Magazine