Posts

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

The Butterfly iQ

Two-thirds of the world lacks life-saving access to medical imaging. However, new technology — such as portable ultrasound machines — brings modern medicine where it might not otherwise take root. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 70 percent of technology designed in developed countries does not work in still-developing nations. Fully-equipped hospitals can be hours, or days, away from villages, leaving conditions undiagnosed and untreated.

A Handheld Ultrasound Finds A Wide Variety of Uses in Africa

In recent years, multiple companies have developed portable ultrasound technology, often with these remote areas in mind. The Butterfly Network, a Connecticut-based company, is one such organization, which launched its prototype known as the Butterfly iQ in 2017. The device costs approximately $2,000 and is around the same size as a cell phone. The company’s founder, Jonathan Rothberg, has donated scanners to 13 low-income countries, partnering with organizations like the Canadian Charity Bridge to Health and Uganda-based Kihefo. The organization also has backing from USAID to help further its reach.

Portable ultrasound machines like the Butterfly iQ, are largely being used to test for and treat pneumonia, which causes 15 percent of the deaths of children under 5 years old, killing more than 800,000 children in 2017 alone. The technology has also been used to examine goiters, tumors and other conditions that were otherwise difficult, or impossible, to assess.

In 2014, portable ultrasound machines in Africa took on a new life. Bridge to Health and Kihefo worked to offer women the opportunity to see their unborn children. They brought suitcase-sized ultrasounds to clinics and pulled in six times the normal number of visitors, among them women who had only seen traditional healers before.

In addition to its uses in ruling out tuberculosis and helping to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, ultrasound technology is also an important diagnostic tool for patients with HIV.

Portable Technology Carries Back Into the Developed World

The Vscan Access from GE Healthcare was originally intended for frontline health care workers in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, the portable ultrasound machine has now found a place in developed countries such as Norway, where it offers an unobtrusive ultrasound in the maternity ward.

Compared to standard ultrasounds, which can not only be uncomfortable but also intimidating to expectant mothers, the Vscan Access is small, deterring worry. Its screen is still large enough to provide a full view of the womb, including the fetal position. Dr. Birgette Kahrs of St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway also notes how easy it is to teach midwives how to operate Vscan’s touchscreen technology.

An App Expands the Reach of the Portable Ultrasound

In 2018, Philips launched Lumify, an app-based portable ultrasound system in Kenya. The new tech was announced at the launch of Beyond Zero Medical Safari, an event hosted by Beyond Zero, an organization founded by the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya that aims at preventing child and maternal deaths.

Lumify unifies portable ultrasounds and mobile devices, creating channels for secure image exchange and processing. It is primarily designed for emergency centers and urgent care centers. The app would, through a subscription service, connect health care professionals around the world. Lumify will additionally offer support, training and IT help.

Lumify is compatible with soft and hard tissue scans. It allows for audio-visual calls, which can connect doctors to remote patients, allowing for diagnosis and treatment across the body and across the globe.

Portable ultrasound technology is still relatively new, so long-term benefits are still unmeasured. Still, portable ultrasounds in Africa, like the Butterfly IQ, already show massive potential in improving the medical status of people without access to first-world medical care. With supporters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Butterfly iQ and devices like it, are only just getting started.

Katie Hwang
Photo: Unsplash

Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

The landlocked country of Malawi has a life expectancy rate of 60.2 years for males and 64.3 years for females. While this is much lower than the global average of 69.8 years for males and 74.2 years for females, it represents an improvement from previous years. These eight facts about life expectancy in Malawi will help shed light on the reasons for the low rate as well as what the country has done, and can still do, to improve it:

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, an estimated 1 million people in Malawi were living with HIV/AIDS which places the country at 10th in the world in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there were also 13,000 deaths from the virus in the same year. Still, the government has made major strides to curb the epidemic in the last 10 years. Part of its strategy includes providing free condoms as well as educating young people. As of 2018, 78 percent of all people living with HIV in Malawi are on medication. There was also a decline in the number of new infections from 55,000 in 2010 to 38,000 in 2018.
  2. Maternal Health: In 2015, maternal mortality stood at 634 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is considerably higher than the global average of 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, it represents a significant improvement as the government along with support from USAID has been able to reduce maternal mortality by 53 percent between 1990 and 2013. Today, more expectant mothers in both rural and urban areas are now receiving prenatal care as well as skilled birth assistance.
  3. Child Health: Great improvements have also been made in terms of child health, as most children under 5 in both rural and urban areas are vaccinated. This has helped reduce deaths from communicable childhood diseases such as measles, tetanus and pneumonia. The Ministry of Health has also implemented strategies like deworming and has also distributed vitamin A supplements to deal with other major causes of childhood death.
  4. Fertility Rate: In the 1980s Malawian women had about seven children per woman. Today, that number is at 5.5 children per woman. The high fertility rate affects life expectancy in Malawi as it puts pressure on the government to provide adequate social amenities in order to improve people’s lives.
  5. Population Growth: According to a 2018 census, Malawi’s population is 17.6 million people. By 2020 this is projected to hit 20.2 million, before doubling by 2050. This rapid population growth puts a lot of pressure on the country’s land, water and forest resources and threatens life expectancy as most Malawians derive their income from agriculture. The Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) sets out a number of policies including promoting family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights as a means to slow population growth, and better managing migration and urbanization.
  6. Infectious Diseases: Malawians are at very high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include diarrheal diseases and typhoid fever. In order to deal with diarrheal deaths, Malawians are in need of nutritious food as well as an unpolluted environment. Other diseases include malaria, dengue fever and rabies from animal contact. The country has been dealing with malaria by subsidizing mosquito nets. Additionally, Malawi is one of the three African countries taking part in a malaria vaccine pilot. The pilot aims to reach 360,000 children each year across Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  7. Water and Sanitation: One in three Malawians do not have access to clean water while 9.6 million people do not have a decent toilet. This affects the life expectancy in Malawi as it leads to an increase in diarrheal diseases. With the support of UNICEF and organizations such as Water Aid, the government of Malawi has made significant progress in reducing the number of people who lack access to safe water. Additionally, the rate of open defecation has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to four percent in 2015.
  8. Education: Malawi introduced free primary education in 1994 which put a strain on the education system. This is because the infrastructure, number of teachers and number of teaching and learning materials were inadequate when compared to the number of students who enrolled. It resulted in poor performance by the students, especially in terms of literacy.  The government of Malawi has been making an effort to improve the education sector by allocating more than 20 percent of the national budget to education.  It has also partnered with bodies such as USAID and UNICEF to improve literacy levels as well as student enrollment and completion rates. An educated and skilled population will help increase Malawi’s economic growth. Educational reforms will help reduce the unemployment rate which is currently more than 20 percent.

Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of its people. It is however clear that the government is working with the support of nonprofit organizations around the world to make life better for its people.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

HIV in Ukraine
Over the past several years, Ukraine has been battling the second largest HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As of 2018, approximately estimates determined that 240,000 people were living with HIV in Ukraine out of the nearly 45 million citizens.

Causes of Ukraine’s HIV Epidemic

In origin, Ukraine’s HIV epidemic stems from transmission through the injection of drugs, predominantly among the male population. However, as of 2008, the catalytic force driving the outbreak has shifted to the transmission through sexual contact. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), up to 73.8 percent of the HIV cases in Ukraine during 2018 spread through sexual contact.

Complicating treatment initiatives is the fact that only 71 percent of the people living with HIV in Ukraine are aware of their condition and only 52 percent are receiving treatment. Further, the war in Donbass between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists has spurred the spread of the virus as national unrest grows. Both war conflict and HIV are predominant in the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Initially, the government made attempts to supply the areas with antiretrovirals for HIV treatment but security reasons and separatist control throughout the region obstructed the efforts.

Efforts to Treat and Prevent HIV

Following the report of 12,000 new HIV cases among citizens in 2018, the Ukrainian government designated $16 million to fund and expand HIV prevention methods and treatment services for the 2019-2020 year. This budget is a part of Ukraine’s plan to shift to a nationally-funded HIV response as opposed to the previously held international donor funding.

Working closely with the government, 100% Life, the largest patient-based and nonprofit organization in Ukraine for people living with HIV provides services for up to 90,000 patients. According to the Ukrainian Philanthropic Forum, the organization served as the nation’s largest philanthropist in both 2016 and 2017.

Moreover, in March 2019, Merck & Co. Inc., a pharmaceutical company, agreed to reduce the price of HIV treatment drug Raltegravir as a direct result of the organization’s advocacy. The cost per pill fell from $5.50 to $2.75, the lowest price for the drug in all of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This was not the first time that 100% Life urged the company to make treatment more accessible for HIV patients. In 2016, the price reduction of HIV drug Atripla also received confirmation as Merck & Co. Inc. agreed to forgo patent protection of the drug. Estimates allege that non-patented or generic versions of the drug should result in savings that could provide up to an additional 2,800 patients with treatment annually.

Despite the intensity and duration of Ukraine’s HIV epidemic, the nation’s government and activists are continuously working to ensure treatment and prevention initiatives for the whole population. The implementation of a domestic response budget and the availability of more cost-effective treatment commence the reinvigoration of Ukraine’s approach to HIV management and restriction.

Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Unsplash

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Technology in South Africa

One of many struggles associated with living in poverty is the inaccessibility of health care. Just as health insurance coverage and the costs of health care are common topics of debate in the United States, other nations have their own difficulties with providing medical care to their citizens living in poverty.

In South Africa, ranked by the World Bank in 2018 as one of the most economically unequal countries in the world, 40 percent of the population lived in poverty in 2015. Poverty’s impact on the population is clear; in 2014, the life expectancy at birth in South Africa was 64.1 years, with the country ranking 190 out of 223 countries. Clearly, access to health care in South Africa is lacking. Recent innovations in health care technology in South Africa are helping to provide medical care to those living in poverty.

New Health Care Technology in South Africa

  • Health Information for New Mothers: Vodafone, a phone service provider, has launched a tool called the Mum & Baby. The service provides free health information to pregnant women and new mothers. The service, which launched in 2017 and has more than 1.4 million users, provides access to articles, videos and tutorials about prenatal health and caring for a new baby. Although this service is available only to Vodafone users and thus is not accessible to mothers who do not have access to a cell phone or who use a different provider, it is still a step toward educating women about their health.
  • Drones That Transport Blood: The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) collects and provides blood for transfusions in South Africa. Although SANBS reports that less than one percent of South Africans are active blood donors, the organization’s work makes a huge difference in South African health care by providing medical treatment to people undergoing surgeries, trauma victims and those with anemia. However, blood collection can only do so much; if the blood cannot be safely and quickly transported to where it is needed, it cannot be used. This is particularly problematic in rural areas. In the past, blood has been moved from place to place by helicopter. Recently, SANBS has reported that it will begin using drones to transport blood. This will be faster and less expensive than helicopters and are designed to ensure the blood is kept safe during the journey. This technology will assist SANBS in saving lives efficiently in South Africa.
  • An App Fighting The Stigma of HIV: As of 2016, an estimated 7.2 million South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS, more than in any other country. Like in many other places, there exists a stigma around HIV/AIDS which can prevent people from getting the care they need. Zoë-Life, a local South African development organization, and Keep A Child Alive, an organization which provides support to children affected by HIV/AIDS, have launched an app together with the aim of helping health care professionals provide HIV/AIDS education to children in a way that does not stigmatize their experiences. The KidzAlive Talk Tool App recently piloted with great success, uses animations and games to help children understand HIV/AIDS in an age-appropriate way. In an interview with IT News Africa, Zoë-Life Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Thomas reported that “primary caregivers participating in the pilot study were more willing to give consent for their children to receive HIV testing and counseling.”

As large swaths of the South African population continue to live in poverty, these health care technologies are saving lives in South Africa. The South African government has laid out a plan, called the National Development Plan, with the goal of eliminating poverty in South Africa by the year 2030. The results of this plan are yet to be seen, but in the meantime, these organizations are making strides using technology to make health care in South Africa more accessible.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay

treating hiv in west and central africa
As of 2017, 1.8 million adolescents around the world are living with HIV. This accounts for five percent of total HIV cases. Approximately 1.5 million, or 85 percent, of these adolescents, live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this, 61 percent live in Eastern and Southern Africa and 24 percent live in West and Central Africa. The region with the second-highest HIV rates for adolescents in the world is West and Central Africa. Ending HIV in West and Central Africa requires strong national and international efforts to protect and treat children and adults.

One of the largest problems in the region is a lack of HIV testing. According to Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, a majority of children living with HIV are not receiving the proper care because they have never been tested and do not know they have the disease.

One way to resolve this is to ensure testing is being done at primary health facilities in communities, with a family-centered approach. It is equally important to increase testing and treatment for pregnant women. Only 47 percent of pregnant women with HIV in West and Central Africa were able to use antiretroviral medicines, which prevent transmission to the unborn child.

Gender Matters

Among adolescents, there are often gender disparities in HIV infections. In many parts of the world—including South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa—more boys than girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were newly infected in 2017. Whereas in West, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa significantly more girls than boys were infected. In West and Central Africa, 66 percent of the new were girls, while only 34 percent were boys.

Women and girls in this region are particularly at risk of HIV because of cultural, social and economic inequalities. They are less likely to attend school. Girls that are uneducated are twice as likely to become infected with HIV than girls who have attended school. Additionally, uneducated girls are at a greater risk for partner violence, increasing the risk for HIV.

Access to healthcare is also a significant issue. Women’s inability to see a healthcare provider prevents life-saving testing and treatments. Approximately 50 percent of girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are not allowed to make personal health decisions.

International Efforts

Ending HIV has long been a focus of international humanitarian organizations. Recently, with the increased focus on preventing HIV infections among adolescents, UNAIDS created ALL IN! This collaboration improves knowledge about HIV, as well as how it can be prevented and treated. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020, aiming for ending the epidemic by 2030.

UNAIDS reports that HIV has already decreased in some of the most severely affected countries due to the adoption of safer sexual practices by adolescents. Often, school is crucial to providing the necessary sex education.

Efforts to reduce HIV in West and Central Africa is not only being done by international organizations such as UNAIDS; governments and their partners are taking initiatives to better prevent and treat HIV in youth and adults.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the government made the decision to stop charging people for HIV testing and treatment services. Fees have long been a barrier for those who live in poverty. Currently, only 46 percent of those in Côte d’Ivoire living with HIV were accessing treatment. Hopefully, this initiative will begin to increase this number, helping nearly half a million people.

Treatments and Strategies

Those who are at a high risk of HIV in West and Central Africa but have not yet contracted the disease can take the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. A pilot study is taking place in Burkina Faso, focusing on providing this preventative treatment to the most vulnerable. This includes homosexual men, who often avoid medical treatment due to the stigma surrounding their sexuality.

Once the study, which began at the end of 2018, is completed the plan is to expand PrEP across the nation and, eventually, the entire region. Benjamin Sana, a participant in this pilot study, is thankful for the treatment and believes that PrEP has the potential to save lives.

In response to a new survey, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president led the development of a Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework for 2019 to 2021. Since 2010, Nigeria has tripled the number of people who receive HIV treatment and adopted an effected test and treat policy in 2016.

The new strategy aims to ensure services are being delivered to the people who need them the most, even in remote areas with less health care access. One of their primary goals is to ensure that no more children are born with HIV in Nigeria, according to the president.

These efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, as well as other countries in the region, will hopefully have a significant impact on the future of HIV in West and Central Africa, saving thousands of lives.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

ATM pharmacies in South Africa Cut Wait Times for Chronically Ill Patients
The suburb of Alexandra, South Africa, is now home to Africa’s first pharmacy dispensing unit. ATM pharmacies in South Africa are expected to have a profound effect on the wait time for patients and the efficiency of clinics.

Simple Solution to Improve Lives

The machine operates as seamlessly as an ATM that dispenses money and completes the transaction in as little as three minutes as opposed to hours. Also known as an “ATM pharmacy,” the unit comes as a convenience to citizens with chronic illnesses, while freeing up space in local clinics. Most importantly, people dependent on medication have another option in receiving repeat medication that does not compromise safety or effectiveness.

The new development comes from experts from nonprofit Right to Care, Right ePharmacy and the Gauteng Department of Health. Right to Care works to provide prevention, care and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as tuberculosis and cervical cancer.

Developers chose Alexandra as the first location because of its large population, burdened facilities, and level of need, Right ePharmacy managing director Fanie Hendriksz said.

The Need for ATM Pharmacies in South Africa

Innovations like ATM pharmacies in South Africa are a step toward higher-quality healthcare, making it easier for patients to be consistent with their medication schedules. One of the main target groups for this project was people with HIV in need of repeat antiretroviral medicine, as South Africa now has the world’s largest AIDS treatment program.

In addition to being overcrowded, some clinics are also understaffed. Nurses may be referred to other clinics to compensate for lack of staff. HIV/AIDS activist Bhekisisa Mazibuko broke into Kgabo clinic pharmacy to make a point about the outlandish wait times for chronic medications in Tshwane, a city not far from Johannesburg. Some patients start waiting in line as early as 3 a.m.

Mazibuko, who lives with HIV, used a brick to break the pharmacy door after it closed for the day at 4 p.m., not attending to patients who had been waiting for hours. He distributed medicine to hypertension, diabetes and HIV patients before being arrested.

A Way Forward

Patients whose conditions are stabilized are encouraged to use the pharmacy dispensing unit (PDU), although a referral from a doctor is necessary. The patient engages in a simple process of scanning their personal ID and entering a pin and speaking with a pharmacist via video correspondence.

Through this video chat, patients can be advised and directed on how to take the medication and its possible side effects. The patient then selects their medication which is robotically dispensed along with a receipt. The PDU has served more than 4,000 people and dispensed 18,000 prescription medications so far.

According to Right to Care chief executive Ian Sanne, the amount of time South Africans spend waiting in line at health facilities is quite extensive and is damaging to economic productivity. ATM pharmacies in South Africa is likely just the beginning of many healthcare innovations in Africa.

– Camille Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Five Things to Know About Healthcare in GhanaGhana, a country in West Africa, gained its independence in 1957 and now has a population of 28.2 million people. Though it has been considered one of the most stable countries in the region since 1992, Ghana still faces issues, one of which is the health of its population.

For men and women in Ghana, the life expectancy at birth is 64 and 66 years, respectively. These life expectancies are both below the global average, which, in 2015, was reported to be 71.4 years when considering both men and women.

Ghana faces a multitude of health issues that affect its population’s life expectancy. Below are five things to know about healthcare in Ghana.

  1. Accra, the country’s capital, is one of the centers of Ghana’s medical system. This city, which is one of the largest cities in Ghana, has a population of about 2 million people. Accra is where the Ghana Health Service is located, thus making it an important city for health in Ghana.
  2. HIV/AIDS is one of the top ten causes of death in Ghana. This virus killed 10,300 people in Ghana in 2012, which was 4.9 percent of the country’s population. At this rate, HIV/AIDS was ranked as the fifth leading cause of death in Ghana, in 2012, by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  3. In 2012, Malaria killed 8.3 percent of Ghana’s population. At this rate, Malaria ranked higher than HIV/AIDS, at number three, in the leading causes of death in Ghana, as reported by the WHO in 2012. When considering children under five, Malaria was the leading cause of death, killing 20 percent of this group in 2012.
  4. As of 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has trained 125 people in Ghana to better monitor and evaluate the spread of infectious diseases. The CDC is working with Ghana to help citizens better recognize, treat and prevent infectious diseases.
  5. The education system for medicine and health in Ghana has improved over the last few decades. Many institutions that focus on educating Ghanaians in medicine have been founded since 1976. The Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS), which was founded in 2003, trained approximately 300 residents in 2014.

Though HIV/AIDS and malaria continue to be two of the leading causes of death in Ghana, the country’s work with the CDC and its improved education in medicine have certainly made progress towards improving healthcare in Ghana.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr