Cervical Cancer RatesCervical cancer is defined as a malignant tumor in the lowermost part of a woman’s uterus. Many cancers do not have prevention tactics. However, cervical cancer is one of the few that does. Doctors can fend off this cancer by putting a stop to the human papillomavirus virus (HPV), the pathogen that causes the disease. The treatment is a simple vaccine most preteens receive around the age of 11 or 12, as well as screenings using Papanicolaou (Pap) smears. However, treatments are not as easy for women in the developing world to receive, causing cervical cancer rates in these areas to surpass those in higher-income countries. 

The Stats

According to the National Library of Medicine, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, with 80% of cases located in the developing world. Approximately 190,000 women in low-and-middle-income countries die from this illness each year. Poorer countries lack access to information and awareness about the risks and development of cervical cancer. Women can also encounter major cost barriers that block them from getting proper screenings. For example, in Zambia, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in the country, with 65.5 cases per 100,000 women. It accounts for 23% of all cancer cases. Another example of this phenomenon is in Tanzania. In 2020, 9,770 cervical cancer cases were reported for every 100,000 women. Of these cases, 6,695 were fatal.

Not only do many underdeveloped countries lack knowledge and screenings for cervical cancer, some do not have access to the HPV vaccine. Places such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba have yet to implement this vital inoculation process because of cost restrictions.

Missions to Help

Several organizations work with underdeveloped countries to find ways to diminish the barriers that create high cervical cancer rates. In 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) came together to create a new plan for reducing cervical cancer numbers in impoverished places. The project’s goal is to heighten national support and awareness to mobilize and expand resources for prevention, research, diagnosis and treatments. 

Also in 2020, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) created a three-pillar plan to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem by the end of 2099. PAHO strives to make every country reach the following targets by 2030: 90% of girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by age 15, 70% of women having two high-precision screenings between ages 35 and 45 and 90% of diagnosed women receiving treatment.

How Everyone Can Help

According to the World Health Organization’s 2020 Cervical Cancer Elimination Modeling Consortium, cervical cancer rates are presumed to decrease by one-third of the current rate by 2030 through proper execution and continuous commitment to helping poorer countries fight against the disease. Findings show that if girls in low-and-middle-income countries receive HPV vaccinations at a young age, as well as screenings for cancer twice in their lifetime, cervical cancer rates will decrease by 89% in those areas. 

Fortunately, there are non-governmental organizations that help women suffering from cervical cancer, particularly in African countries. One example of this charity is the Elekta Foundation. Created in January of 2022, its main purpose is to educate and train professionals to build clinical capabilities in radiotherapy, develop tools to increase cancer care and create awareness and prevention tactics through local governments for African countries. Since the organization is fairly new, directors are still in the piloting process of their fundraising efforts in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. However, from the knowledge gained through this phase, the charity will be able to expand and give access to screenings, diagnostics and treatments all throughout Africa.

Ultimately, staying up to date with cancer-related news in developing countries can be potentially effective in amplifying their voices and addressing their challenges. Educating others about the situations in impoverished regions can also drive increased donations and potentially save lives. Therefore, advocating for the importance of cervical cancer prevention and raising awareness about ways to support the cause appears to be essential steps to actively participate in the cancer prevention movement.

– Nina Donlin
Photo: Unsplash

HIV/AIDS in SomaliaSomalia, a large country nestled in the Horn of Africa, is one of many developing countries affected by the AIDS epidemic, though not to the extent of other areas within sub-Saharan Africa. Though Somalia notes a relatively low prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS at 0.10% in 2022, organizations are working on further progress in the area of HIV/AIDS in Somalia.

HIV/AIDS in Somalia in Numbers

When the epidemic began in Somalia in 1990, an estimated 2,500 Somali people lived with HIV. This number reached a peak of 15,000 in 2005. However, since then, incidents of  HIV/AIDS in Somalia have steadily reduced. In 2021, an estimated 7,700 people lived with HIV/AIDS in Somalia, according to data from UNAIDS. In terms of gender, HIV/AIDS impacts more women than men. In 2021, women accounted for 52% of people 15 and older living with the condition in Somalia. Young women are more likely than men to contract a new HIV infection as they are more likely to face gender-based violence and are more harshly impacted by poverty and inequality. However, Somalia notes an equal split in the number of AIDS-related deaths according to gender.

The Impact of Poverty and Stigma

Close to 70% of Somali people are living below the poverty line, according to 2022 statistics. The decades-long war and severe weather conditions have contributed to both poverty and food insecurity. Living in poverty can be a catalyst for contracting HIV. Similarly, contracting HIV can deepen already existing poverty.

Conditions of poverty can lead to risky behaviors such as participating in transactional sex for food or shelter. Poverty is also a risk factor for developing unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, which lowers the chance of taking precautionary measures to protect against HIV. Improper drug use, such as the reusing of contaminated needles, can also cause HIV.

Additionally, the health care system in Somalia is poor. As of 2020, the existing health care system within Somalia is largely privatized. This means that impoverished Somalis, especially those living in rural areas, do not have access to affordable health care. In fact, estimates indicate that less than 30% of Somali people have access to health care.

The stigma and shame surrounding HIV/AIDS serve as a barrier to testing, diagnosis and treatment. People living with HIV experience discrimination and alienation not just from society but also from health care workers. For this reason, people are reluctant to utilize HIV services and visit clinics/hospitals. Oftentimes, people living with HIV “…only [became] aware of their HIV-positive status” when their partner received a positive diagnosis or “when the individual fell ill and all other attempts at healing them did not work,” according to a research study by Abdulwahab M. Salad and others published online in 2022.

Solutions to Addressing HIV/AIDS in Somalia

Within Somalia, the World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on addressing the epidemic by ensuring greater access to ART drugs, HIV testing and counseling. The WHO states that “Somalia is holding its own in comparison with immediate neighbors and other countries in the region” and that by the end of December 2022, 4,100 patients across Somalia were receiving antiretroviral therapy with the help of the WHO.

The WHO works in Somalia alongside the Global Fund. The Global Fund provided an investment of $18.6 million for the period of 2021 to 2023 to strengthen the HIV response in Somalia. This investment aims to “support Somalia in its goals of accelerating progress toward 95-95-95 HIV testing and treatment targets, reducing new HIV cases, mortality and morbidity by 30% and significantly reducing HIV-related discrimination in health care settings,” the Global Fund website says.

Visible Progress

Indeed, progress is visible as the Somali HIV National Strategic Plan states “…projected rates of new HIV infections dropped significantly from year 2000 to 2010 with numbers plateauing from 2012 to date. The early decline of new infections could be attributed to the strong cultural drive as well as heightened prevention interventions.”

Due to Somalia’s progression in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate from more than 1% in 2013 to 0.10% in 2022, Somalia maintains its status as “a low-level HIV epidemic country” as classified in 2014. Overall, Somalia is making significant progress as AIDS-related deaths are steadily declining and ART coverage rates are increasing, UNAIDS data shows.

But, it is imperative to continue advocating in other areas, such as poverty and stigma reduction, education, safe sex and drug use harm reduction for these numbers to continue dropping and to fully eradicate HIV/AIDS within Somalia.

– Chloe Jenkins
Photo: Flickr

March PrinciplesOn March 8, 2023, the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) with UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched a new set of expert jurists’ principles called the 8 March Principles to guide the implementation of international human rights law.

Upholding International Human Rights Law

International human rights law enacts commitment from states to respect, protect and fulfill basic human rights. When states become parties to international human rights treaties, the countries agree to not interfere with the “enjoyment of human rights” and “to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses” while “[taking] positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that the United Nations General Assembly adopted on December 10, 1948, first codified international human rights law. Today, the UDHR is widely recognized as the fundamental global standard for human rights. It establishes civil, social, cultural, political and economic rights that every human must receive and that all individuals and societies have a duty to uphold.

The UDHR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) together form the International Bill of Human Rights. Adopted in 1966, the ICCPR and ICESCR strengthened international human rights law by further outlining the rights that every individual is entitled to.

According to OHCHR, states must adopt and implement international human rights law at both the national and international levels to ensure effectiveness. Alongside international treaties, guidelines and principles, most states adopt national constitutions and other laws, which sometimes reflect regionally-specific concerns, aimed at protecting basic human rights.

The 8 March Principles

Introduced on International Women’s Day 2023, the 8 March Principles address overcriminalization in matters pertaining to sexual activity, gender identity and expression, HIV, drug use, homelessness and poverty. The principles apply international human rights law to correct the injustices of criminal laws that allow governments to prosecute individuals and groups on such bases.

The principles are the outcome of a 2018 workshop that UNAIDS, OHCHR and ICJ held to discuss the harmful human rights impact of criminal laws. The meeting clarified the need for a set of jurists’ principles that would guide courts, legislatures, advocates and prosecutors in addressing the detrimental human rights impact that criminal laws can have. Finalized in 2022, the principles took more than five years to develop.

Despite their name, the 8 March Principles include 21 principles divided into three categories: general part one, general part two and special part three. The first two categories apply general principles of criminal law and international human rights law “to proscribe certain conduct in a non-discriminatory way, respecting the rule of law.” Special part three applies these principles to specifically address the criminalization of conduct related to sex and sex work, drug use and possession, HIV, homelessness and poverty.

Implementation and Progress

According to ICJ’s policy director Ian Seiderman, “Criminal law is among the harshest of tools” that states can use “to exert control over individuals,”  and therefore, should be “a measure of last resort.” Yet, across the world, an increasing “trend toward overcriminalization” is notable.

Currently, for instance, more than 130 countries criminalize HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission, according to UNAIDS. The 8 March Principles aim to end discrimination and denial of basic human rights on such bases.

While many states are rapidly implementing the principles, those that are not parties to international human rights treaties have yet to adopt them. The constant push to implement the 8 March Principles at both the national and international levels is integral to global progress. The principles will ensure that no individual or group experiences discrimination regarding these matters and will uphold the basic rights and protections of every human being.

Brianna Green
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in GhanaThe Ghana AIDS Commission reports that 346,120 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana. The HIV prevalence rate stood at 1.7% among people aged 15-49 in 2021, the World Bank says, marking a steady decrease since 2000. However, infections among females are almost double the rate of infections among males. Organizations are committed to reducing the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Ghana.

HIV/AIDS and Poverty

HIV and poverty have a two-way connection. Conditions of poverty increase the risk of contracting HIV and HIV contributes to the condition of living in poverty. According to the International Labour Office, “Poverty also drives girls and women to exchange sex for food and to resort to sex work for survival when they are excluded from formal sector employment and all other work options are too low-paying to cover their basic needs.”

HIV/AIDS can also push people into poverty due to the expense of medical care/treatment. “HIV/AIDS causes impoverishment when working-age adults in poor households become ill and need treatment and care because income is lost when the earners are no longer able to work,” the ILO explains. Losses of human capital and reductions in the labor force also slow a country’s economic growth.

The far-reaching impacts of HIV/AIDS show that the epidemic stands as a significant obstacle to poverty reduction and progress toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the poorest countries.

Ghana’s Progress

In 2020, UNAIDS announced a new set of targets for countries to strive toward in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The goals, with a target date of 2025, aim for “95% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression.”

According to the Ghana Aids Commission, currently, 71% of individuals living with HIV are aware of their status, 99% of HIV-positive individuals are on sustained antiretroviral treatment and 79% of those individuals have achieved viral suppression. With just two years to go, significant action is necessary to ensure that Ghana meets these goals.

A Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) Approach

According to the World Health Organization, Ghana is working toward these UNAIDS goals with the use of a Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) approach. This person-centered approach adapts health services for people with HIV/AIDS so that service delivery is improved and the health care system does not become overburdened.

For example, a “multi-month dispensing approach” can allow virally suppressed patients to receive their medications for multiple months at a time. This lowers the workload of health workers as patients need to visit less frequently and also saves patients from making multiple trips to the clinic.

The implementation of the DSD approach has seen positive results. For example, Kpone Polyclinic in Ghana has increased its success rate of providing ART from 85% to 99% in just one year as of March 2023.

PEPFAR’s Efforts

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has worked in Ghana for 20 years. Over the last 14 years, PEPFAR has invested $140 million in efforts to address HIV/AIDS in Ghana. PEPFAR Ghana supports community organizations in dissolving stigmas surrounding the disease, encouraging people to undergo HIV testing and for infected individuals to begin a treatment program promptly.

Looking Forward

Ghana aims to achieve universal health care. Its vision for 2030 is for all of the country’s people to have “timely access to high-quality health services irrespective of their ability to pay at the point of use.” Although conditions in Ghana are improving, large gaps are still present in the control of HIV/AIDS in Ghana. With the continued assistance from supporting countries and ongoing work in Ghana, incidents of HIV/AIDS in Ghana can reduce along with poverty.

– Leah Smith
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS IN NIGERIAHIV/AIDS is a prevalent health problem in Nigeria, with 1.3% of the adult population living with the disease as of 2021. Prevention, detection and treatment have improved in recent years, but considerable progress is necessary to move closer to ending HIV/AIDS in Nigeria by the end of the decade.

Key Statistics

Approximately 1.9 million Nigerians lived with HIV/AIDS in 2021 and the country noted 74,000 new infections in the same year alongside 51,000 AIDS-related mortalities. The country’s large population of around 213 million people means that, despite a relatively low prevalence rate, Nigeria has suffered the most significant HIV epidemic in West and Central Africa.

Women in Nigeria are at higher risk of contracting HIV than men, with an infection rate of 1.6% compared to 1% for men. This gender imbalance is even more pronounced in those aged 15-24, the age group which accounts for 40% of HIV/AIDS cases in the country. Many children suffer, too. Nigerian children make up 14% of the global total of childhood HIV/AIDS cases, with 260,000 new cases recorded in children aged up to 14 in 2015 alone.

Nigeria has not yet met the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets for 2025 concerning testing and treatment with only 90% of Nigerians knowing their status as of 2021.

Barriers to Elimination

Barriers posing difficulties in addressing HIV/AIDS in Nigeria range from difficulties in accessing treatment, particularly for children and those living in rural areas, to the widespread stigma around the disease which discourages people from seeking life-saving treatment. Late diagnosis is a key issue, with around a third of people only receiving a diagnosis after HIV has already progressed to AIDS. Progress in reducing mother-to-child transmission has been slow too. The prevalence of this form of transmission only dropped by 15% between 2010 and 2020, compared with a reduction rate of up to 70% in other countries, such as Uganda.

Moreover, the Nigerian government has not, thus far, dedicated a significant portion of its budget to the HIV/AIDS response. The majority of funding for programs dedicated to tackling prevention, care and treatment comes from international organizations and donors.

Solutions and Progress

In recent years, significant progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Since 2017, the number of people receiving treatment has almost doubled and 98 more treatment centers have developed. Of the 1.9 million Nigerians living with the disease, approximately 1.62 million are on antiretroviral treatment.

HIV/AIDS prevention in Nigeria takes many forms. This includes the introduction of medications like PEP and PrEP, targeted services for girls and young women in areas with a high prevalence of the disease and the dispersal of barrier methods of contraception such as condoms.

Testing is available in a multitude of venues, including community spaces, homes, workplaces and after-hours clinics that serve communities most at risk. New infections are falling, with the number of recorded cases dropping by more than 10,000 between 2019 and 2021.

The work of organizations plays a critical role. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, for example, conducted the first countrywide survey to assess the state of HIV/AIDS, health care and drug reliance in Nigerian prisons, and as part of this, provided HIV-related training for health workers in Nigerian prisons.

A Look Ahead

Efforts toward tackling HIV/AIDS in Nigeria have greatly reduced the number of Nigerians living with the disease. For those who are infected, health programs have improved both their prognoses and quality of life. More work is necessary for the country to realize its target of eliminating the disease by 2030. The importance of foreign aid to support these efforts is especially important, considering the lack of funding from the country’s own government. The international community can do more to ensure an HIV/AIDS-free future for Nigeria.

Martha Probert
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Ecuador
Ecuador, a South American country, is a middle-income country. Of its 18 million population, an estimated 9.8% lived on $3.20 per day in 2019. Nevertheless, it has a reputable health care system, scoring 13th in the world according to Bloomberg’s 2014 Most Efficient Heath Care Rankings. Ecuador’s proficient health care system has been effective in combatting the global epidemic known as HIV/AIDS. The first reported case of HIV in Ecuador was in 1983. Below is an assessment of the status of HIV/AIDS in Ecuador.

Current Rates of HIV/AIDS

Globally, there are an estimated 38.4 million people living with HIV, as of 2021. Of these, 1.7 million are children and the remaining 36.7 million are adults. In Ecuador, an estimated 35,000 people are living with HIV. This means that HIV prevalence per 1,000 adults is roughly 0.19% in Ecuador. A 2017 Open Forum Infectious Diseases study revealed that more than 60% of HIV patients are on antiretroviral therapy and most cases are not yet in the AIDS stage.

Government Measures

On December 8, 2016, the Mayor of Quito, Ecuador’s capital and home to 25% of its HIV cases, signed the Paris Declaration Fast Track, a piece of legislation that aims to end the AIDS epidemic once and for all. By signing the Declaration, Mayor Mauricio Rodas has committed to reaching certain targets of HIV awareness and rates of treatment. The high standards set by the Declaration require that 90% of people with HIV are aware of their HIV status; that 90% of people who know their status are receiving antiretroviral treatment; and finally, that 90% of people on treatment are suppressing the viral load. The signing of this Paris Declaration signified a clear determination of the nation’s legislators to eradicate HIV/AIDS in Ecuador.

Looking Ahead

In 2018, an NGO called Diálogo Diverso began its journey in Quito. The organization is the first in Ecuador to work for human rights, including the rights of LGBTI migrants and refugees. Its “Hablemos Positivo” (Let’s Talk Positively) initiative receives support from the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Now active in three other locations across Ecuador, including the HIV hotspot, Guayaquil, Diálogo Diverso is spreading the message of tolerance and inclusivity further than ever.

As a result, Ecuador is becoming a safe space for those with HIV from all over South America. This is incredibly encouraging as an important contributor to eradicating the virus is to increase awareness of the real causes of transmission and the many options available for further prevention of transmissions. Furthermore, one activist working with Diálogo Diverso stated that “HIV is one of the reasons why LGBTI people leave the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, given the difficulties in accessing antiretrovirals on a permanent basis, the invisibility of their rights and, on other occasions, hate crimes.” With the continuation of the good work of Diálogo Diverso and continued funding of Ecuador’s health care system, the potential for eradicating HIV/AIDS in Ecuador looks promising.

– Max Edmund
Photo: Unsplash

HIV/AIDS in South Sudan
The Republic of South Sudan is located in Eastern Africa. Many know it for its newly-gained independence from Sudan and its status of being the youngest nation in the world. However, South Sudan is also one of the poorest nations in the world and is listed as 185 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). Due to ongoing conflict in the region, such as the recent civil wars, South Sudan has seen a spike in issues related to the country’s health system and many of its citizens are impacted by HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, international and domestic institutions are taking major steps in combating the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region.

The Reality of HIV/Aids in South Sudan

One can characterize the issue of HIV/AIDS in South Sudan as being more concentrated in certain social groups and geographical areas. For example, HIV and AIDS are more prevalent in the southern regions of the nation and even more prevalent among female sex workers within those regions.

The transmission of HIV is a topic that is studied at length to combat the spread of the virus. According to the South Sudan Mode of Transmission Report (MoT), a study that occurred in 2014 regarding forms of transmitting HIV, the majority of the newest cases came from heterosexual sexual relations and mothers transmitting to their newborn children. Mother-to-child transmission often happened in cases of birthing, breastfeeding and pregnancy.

Another statistic that researchers often analyze when discerning the severity of the issue within a certain region is the percentage of the general population that has the virus. The U.N. Progress Report for monitoring HIV/AIDS in South Sudan states that around 2.5% of adults (ages 15-49) are living with HIV. This number, however, is improving due to help from institutions such as the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the U.N. These institutions are working on new ways of preventing the spread of HIV and treating those who have already been affected.

Something else that institutions take into consideration when attempting to combat viruses such as HIV is the general public’s knowledge of that virus. According to a survey on the attitudes and knowledge of HIV in Nimule, most adolescents had “fair” knowledge of HIV with 82% of the surveyed youth being aware that HIV can spread through sexual intercourse and 98% being aware that it can spread through blood. While the researchers concluded that there were some misconceptions surrounding the virus, it is commendable that most adolescents in the survey had a basic knowledge of the subject.

How Institutions are Battling HIV/AIDS in the Region

According to an article that the U.N. published, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Sudan – and Africa as a whole –  is declining rather quickly. This is due to international institutions such as UNAIDS and the governments of Africa funneling money into their health programs. However, this article also stresses the need for continued monetary support to help these countries become healthier and safer.

One way that UNAIDS and African governments are helping combat this virus is through HIV testing. According to the MoH, there were around 32 facilities in South Sudan that provided HIV-related assistance, like testing. The South Sudanese government has also made it its mission to “Test and Treat all.” These testing efforts have made it a lot easier for institutions to pinpoint certain concentrations of affected individuals and allocate their resources accordingly. These measures to “test all” have been successful. The total number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment increased by around 20,300 between March 2013 and March 2018.

Another way in which institutions are helping the cause is by amping up anti-retroviral therapy (ART). This is an HIV treatment that helps to contain HIV replication. This therapy greatly reduces the mortality rate of HIV and even allows some patients to live completely normal lives. The “test all treat all” initiative has certain guidelines, one of which includes a minimum amount of time one can wait to receive treatment after testing positive for HIV (one week). Guidelines like these make it easier for governments and other institutions to manage the spread and treatment of the virus.

The Road Ahead

Although HIV/AIDS in South Sudan continues to be an issue, it is critical to note that governments and organizations are working to combat it. With the help of both international and domestic institutions, the cases of HIV continue to decrease year after year. However, it is still crucial to take into account that the issue has not reached its end, and continued support for South Sudan is of utmost importance.

– Tim Ginter
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Tanzania’s Investment in Secondary Schools
HIV prevalence in Tanzania accounted for 4.8% among people aged 15-49 in 2019. HIV/AIDS’s consequences in a developing country can be devastating, leading to more deaths, slowed economic growth and further misery. HIV and poverty share a critical connection, both acting as the cause and the outcome of one another. The virus poses a more lethal and dangerous threat to the economically vulnerable part of the population that might not always have access to food, medicines and proper health care services. Tanzania has invested in an initiative called Education Plus to eliminate HIV in the country. Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools should fight HIV by ensuring education for girls and young women.

HIV and Education

Sub-Saharan Africa is considered the epicenter of the disease, with 69% of the HIV-positive world’s population living in the region. Another critical characteristic of the epidemic is its relationship with education, where less educated groups tend to be more vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools to fight HIV is a plan that will further develop through the country’s commitment to Education Plus. The initiative is the result of the combined efforts of UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNICEF, U.N. Women and others to fight and prevent HIV through the empowerment of adolescent girls and women in sub-Saharan African countries. Their strategy aims to achieve gender equality with secondary education as a central focus. Tanzania became the 13th African country to join Education Plus.

The Background

In Tanzania, over the last 12 years, the number of HIV infections dropped by almost half and the number of deaths decreased from 52,000 to 27,000 in 2019. Nevertheless, in 2019 the country has seen the number of HIV-positive individuals amount to 1.7 million. Evidence shows a considerable vulnerability in women to develop the infection.

Younger groups between the age of 15 and 24 represent one of the most prominent groups of new infections, making up 30% of the newly infected population, UNAIDS reported. According to UNICEF, the disease does not exist equally across the country, with a prevalence mainly in the southern areas.

The mainly affected population are people injecting drugs, men who entertain sexual relationships with other men, female sex workers, transgender individuals and prisoners. Studies show that crucial contributors to virus transmission are younger age, lack of education, alcohol use and the number of sexual partners.

Socio-economic Backgrounds

Tanzania’s poverty rate was 26.4% in 2018 and HIV is a disease that tends largely affects those coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

According to a report from the National Education Profile in 2018, 61% of females aged 14-19 in Tanzania were out of school compared to 51% of males from the same age group. According to UNAIDS, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of child marriage and teenage pregnancy. Such aspects are definitive in keeping young women out of education and about 27% of girls aged between 15 and 19 in Tanzania are either pregnant or already have a child. As of 2019, adolescents and young women constituted 24% of new cases worldwide in sub-Saharan Africa.

Before joining the UNAIDS initiative, Tanzania was already making progress in tackling the issue with the revision of the HIV and AIDS Act, which now permits self-made HIV testing and has lowered the age of consent to take the test.

Education Plus

Research shows that secondary education has a significant role in the reduction of the risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Access to education leads young women to pay more attention to matters of sexual and reproductive health and it allows them to become economically independent later in life and ensure higher incomes for the future. It also decreases the risk of them becoming child brides and teenage mothers.

The initiative Education Plus began with the focus of helping achieve gender equality, ensuring free and good secondary education for all women by 2025 in sub-Saharan African countries. The plan consists of encouraging decision-makers to raise and expand investments and efforts on instructions and teachings for girls and young women. Such measures aim to prevent HIV and offer major social and economic benefits, including to those who already have contracted the virus, UNAIDS reported on its website.

Not only does the initiative give young women the opportunity to complete secondary education, but it also offers “universal access to comprehensive sexuality education, fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, freedom from gender-based and sexual violence, school-to-work transition and economic security and empowerment,” according to UNAIDS website.

The project relies on the help of influential U.N. leaders and partners and their role as advocates for the education of young girls to encourage further action and investment in the cause. Education Plus is the ideal approach to facilitate Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools to fight HIV.

The country’s high secondary school dropout rate is a risk factor in the development and spread of an epidemic that needs significant attention and intervention.

The Relationship Between Poverty and HIV

The socioeconomic status of people infected with HIV has a significant role in their living conditions. Many of the situations associated with the risk of contracting the virus are the consequences of coming from a disadvantaged background, such as a lack of access to decent food, housing, safety and the need to exchange sex for basic necessities.

HIV also has a negative impact on the socioeconomic state of a population. Poor health conditions can impact an individual’s ability to work and function independently, and according to research, the unemployment rate of those living with HIV/AIDS goes from 45% to 65%, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Looking Ahead

Despite the country still being a lower-middle income economy, Tanzania’s financial status is growing and has been so for the last decade. One of the key battles to win in order to ensure the economic reprise of Tanzania is through a strategy that allows for its population to have good health and work at their full potential.

Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools to fight HIV is not only an investment to fight and defeat a fatal disease responsible for 32,000 deaths in 2020, but also to build a country characterized where gender equality and strong economic performance are a reality.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in Children
In August 2022, numerous intergovernmental agencies, civil society movements and a dozen countries congregated in Montreal, Canada to establish the Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030. Recognizing that only 52% of children with HIV access treatment, the newly created alliance strives to guarantee that all children living with HIV can access treatment by the end of the decade. Specifically, by closing the treatment gap between children and adults living with HIV, the alliance aims to ensure that all youth deserve the chance to progress into adulthood unimpeded by HIV.

Tackling HIV Treatment Disparities

According to the U.N., one of the most significant issues affecting AIDS response is the disparity between treatment provided to adults versus children. While 76% of adults received anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in 2021—treatment designed to control HIV infection—only 52% of individuals ages 0-14 years accessed ART. Furthermore, only 55% of children ages 15-19 in 21 sub-Saharan countries were on treatment in 2021. Despite technological advancements in HIV testing, “800,000 children and adolescents living with HIV (0-14 years) are untreated,” and “another estimated 400,000 adolescents (15-19 years) many of whom were likely recently infected are not receiving treatment.”

In recognition of these devastating figures, the U.N. believes that the low prioritization of HIV treatment on a national scale is the root of this problem. Specifically, inadequate investment in treatment strategies and national plans to mitigate societal inequalities has exacerbated the discrimination targeting those living with HIV. Although numerous similar plans have been implemented in recent decades—such as the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections Among Children by 2015 and the Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free Partnership—previous movements primarily focused on raising awareness and fostering engagement among leaders.

The Formation of a Global Alliance

Hoping to expand HIV treatment to millions of youths across the world, the alliance prioritizes creating a sustainable framework for HIV prevention in the next 8 years. UNAIDS, UNICEF and WHO are primarily leading the Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030. Beyond U.N. agencies, the alliance consists of “civil society movements…national governments in the most affected countries, and international partners.” The 12 countries involved in the alliance include Angola, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The alliance’s mission is four-fold:

  1. “Close the treatment gap among breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with HIV and optimize the continuity of treatment.
  2. Prevent and detect new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women.
  3. Promote accessible testing, optimized treatment, and comprehensive care for infants, children, and adolescents exposed to and living with HIV.
  4. Address gender equality, and the social and structural barriers that hinder access to services.”

The Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 seeks to foster a sense of unity within the international community. The alliance stresses how collaboration is the key to eradicating HIV; only by pooling resources, committing to global mobilization, and creating holistic solutions can the world prevent AIDS in children by the end of this decade.

A Promising Future

Going forward, the alliance will ensure that there is accessible treatment and care for children and adolescents living with HIV for at least the next eight years. According to a report published by UNAIDS, the alliance will promote leadership to execute plans on a national level, advance previous programs hoping to end AIDS, collaborate with global organizations to promote advocacy, ensure that governments have access to financing and advance accountability by fostering a sense of collective responsibility. As the Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 continues to expand HIV treatment to millions of deprived children, the world will inevitably see a new generation devoid of stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV—a promising future that allows children to prosper as they venture into adulthood.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

African Governments Combating HIV/AIDS
The threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is still a major problem today. A variety of problems continue to affect the globe, such as poverty and HIV/AIDS, the latter of which has severely affected Africa for years. Globally, estimates indicated that HIV infected 33.9 to 43.8 million people by the end of 2021 and nearly two-thirds of those infected were Africans. However, the situation is far from hopeless as African governments are combating HIV/AIDS and some progress is occurring on that front.

The Current Situation in Africa

According to reports by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), new HIV infections have declined by 14% between 2010 and 2015 in Eastern and Southern Africa. Similarly, there was an 8% decline in West and Central Africa. Despite the small percentages, progress is obvious. In 2000, only 11,000 people were getting antiretroviral treatment (ARV) for HIV. Now, more than 12 million people today are receiving the treatment. African governments that are combating HIV/AIDS have also expanded prevention methods to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Some of the prevention methods are voluntary medical male circumcision and tests for pregnant women to see if they are HIV positive. Those who are positive receive medicine in order to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS to their unborn babies. Hence, there has been a decrease in infections throughout the region.

Despite the progress, the epidemic still severely affects African countries. Poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic only further exacerbate this issue. HIV/AIDS affects the region socially and economically. There are still a large number of people who are not receiving the treatment they need and the cure has yet to emerge. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers the most as it is the world’s epicenter of HIV/AIDS, accounting for two-thirds of the global total of new HIV infections. Progress continues to be slow and multiple challenges remain.

Response and Progress to End HIV/AIDS

Currently, African governments are aiming to put an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide by 2030. They have partnered with multiple organizations such as UNAIDS, PEPFAR and other global health organizations to realize this goal. Together, they are working tirelessly to respond and accelerate progress in the continent. Access to condoms and lubricants for men is increasing, programs encouraging changes to sexual behavior are undergoing implementation and affordable methods to prevent infections are spreading.

The United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy, Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong launched “Reimagining PEPFAR’s Strategic Direction, Fulfilling America’s Promise to End the HIV/AIDS Pandemic by 2030.” According to UNAIDS, it focuses on key priority areas that include addressing health equity for children, adolescent girls, young women and other key populations. It also focuses on maintaining long-term sustainability, enhancing global health security, nurturing transformative partnerships and leading with science. UNAIDS has reported considerable success in many sub-Saharan African countries. The number of deaths that HIV/AIDS has caused in Sub-Saharan Africa has declined by 35% in recent years.

The Global Mission to End HIV/AIDS

Global efforts addressing the epidemic have shown promising signs. People in resource-poor countries like Africa that are receiving HIV treatment have increased dramatically over the past decade. PEPFAR has provided HIV testing services for more than 50 million people as of 2021. Additionally, 2.8 million babies were born HIV-free from parents living with it. The battle continues as African governments combating HIV/AIDS continue to work around the clock. They are strengthening public health systems and local capacity for preparedness and response to other diseases. Progress may be slow but efforts put forth by various organizations continue to provide promising results. Research is also progressing as many around the globe work to prevent further HIV infection and find a cure someday. So long as Africa and its people continue to fight the good fight, the goal to end the pandemic by 2030 may just be achievable.

– Aaron Luangkham
Photo: Flickr