Tim  Costello
Tim Costello, who serves as Chair of the Community Council of Australia and as the Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, recently spoke about Australia’s successful foreign aid. Costello is a prominent figure in Australia, recognized for his unrelenting efforts to raise global poverty awareness and place poverty issues on the Australian national agenda. On Boxing Day of 2004 when the tsunami hit Asia, Costello was able to raise more than $100 million from the Australian public for tsunami relief. Recently, Costello asserted that when it comes to children’s lives and education, Australia’s foreign aid has been “spectacularly successful.”

Overseas development assistance has led to the inhibition of many HIV infections and has treated millions with AIDS. Australian development assistance has also dispensed “insecticide-treated bed nets against malaria,” which globally decreased death rates by half. Thus, Australian foreign aid is deemed quite necessary yielding many successes. The good news is that, for the past two elections, the Gillard government has wanted to lift aid directed overseas by 0.5% of Gross National Income. The U.N. had set up a goal of 0.7% of G.N.I. and so this lift is a step closer to that goal. It also presents the greatest potential of changing many people’s lives and saving people.

Leen Abdallah
Sources: World Vision, The Australian
Photo:The Sydney Morning Herald

The Garifuna people of Honduras have an HIV infection rate of 4.5 percent – higher than any nation in the Western hemisphere, and five times higher than Honduras as a whole. Those affected by the virus are finding new and creative ways to fight HIV/AIDS in Honduras.

According to an NPR report funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Garifuna are using traditional music and theater to raise awareness of HIV, and to combat stigmas surrounding the disease. Musician and singers perform traditional celebratory Garifuna songs to draw listeners, and then enact a play in which actors put HIV on trial.

Many Hondurans who are HIV-positive are reluctant to seek help, even though HIV clinics provide medical care and antiretroviral medication to patients at almost no cost. They deny having the problem because they fear judgment or ostracization, and for good reason. Lack of education has been a major contributor to high infection rates. Women infected with the virus report being rejected by family and unable to find work.

Widespread poverty and migration also contribute to new infections. In some areas it is socially acceptable to have multiple sexual partners. Testing facilities are not widely used, and communication between sexual partners is nonexistent in some cases.

Participants in the Garifuna theater group believe that theater, music, and other community activities are more engaging than books or pamphlets around such complex social and medical issues. Fighting HIV/AIDS in Honduras, especially among rural populations, is a challenge. But the creative approach is working well so far.

USAID and the Honduran government are funding theater groups like the Garifuna’s. A USAID official reported a decline in the rate of HIV infection among program beneficiaries: the 30 members of the theater group are living safer lives, and encouraging others to do so. The problem of HIV/AIDS in Honduras is not yet resolved, but community engagement through the arts is a step in the right direction.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: NPR

Over the last decade, Malawi has reduced its rate of HIV/AIDS infections by 72 percent, more than any other African country. US agencies that combat the virus hope to build on these successes with a five-year effort to improve HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. The effort is coordinated with Malawi’s government and will target seven districts across the country.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an NGO that focuses its anti-HIV work on mothers and children, is spearheading the effort. Funding is provided by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Centers for US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of the biggest successes to date for HIV/AIDS care in Malawi has been the prevention of virus transmission to at least 7,000 babies. This has been accomplished through lifelong anti-retroviral treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women who are HIV-positive. The Foundation’s efforts continue to focus on pediatric preventive care. Its goal to achieve less than a five percent transmission rate from mother to child is well within reach.

Over the next five years, US organizations plan to provide other health care services in addition to HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. One million Malawians will receive counseling, 50,000 adult men and 400,000 pregnant women will receive HIV testing, and lifelong treatment will be provided to at least 25,000 women expected to test positive for the virus.

Despite gains over the last decade, AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Malawi, with about 100 deaths and 30 new infant infections each day. The Malawian minister of health, Catherine Hara, expressed hope that the seven targeted districts will serve as a model for widespread improvements in HIV/AIDS care in Malawi.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: Relief Web
Photo: News@Jama

Emily Oster
Emily Oster, a University of Chicago economist, uses the dismal science to rethink conventional wisdom, from her Harvard doctoral thesis that took on famed economist Amartya Sen to her recent work debunking assumptions on HIV prevalence in Africa.

Emily Oster re-examines the stats on AIDS in Africa from an economic perspective and reaches a stunning conclusion: Everything we know about the spread of HIV on the continent is wrong.

She brought up an opinion that more exports means more AIDS and that effect is really big, by testing new data and information about prevalence over time. The data that Emily Oster offers suggests that if you double export volume, it will lead to a quadrupling of the new HIV infection. And this has important implications both for forecasting and for policy. From a forecasting perspective, if we know where trade is likely to change, we can actually think about which areas are likely to be heavily infected with HIV and we can go and try to deploy pre-emptive preventive measures there. Likewise, as we are developing policies to try to encourage exports, if we know there is this externality, we can think about what the right kinds of policies are.
But it also tells us that even though poverty is linked to AIDS in the sense that Africa is poor and they have a lot of AIDS, it is not necessarily the case that impoving poverty in the very short run is going to lead a decline in HIV prevalence.

And she also questioned the HIV prevention case in Uganda, the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa with successful prevention. It is true that there was a decline in prevalence in Uganda in 1990s and they had an education campaign for it. But there was actually something else that happened in Uganda in that period. Their exports went down a lot in the early 1990s and actually that decline lines up really closely to HIV infections at that time, according to Emily Oster.

– Caiqing Jin (Kelly)

Source:Ted Talk

What Would an HIV Cure Mean for the World's Poor?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

Prince Harry on African Charity Tour

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 from 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.

The 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 Program 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

US AID Helping Eliminate HIV and AIDS 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