Posts

Top 5 Nonprofit Foundations
Throughout the world, millions of people face the development of disease. Many of these diseases are not yet curable, which has forced many to be fearful for their lives. Several organizations have come up with ways to fund research and provide information to those suffering from these diseases so that they can live longer and happier lives. These top 5 nonprofit foundations are among the many nonprofit organizations that have dedicated their lives to curing disease.

The March of Dimes Foundation

The March of Dimes Foundation is a U.S. nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. Formed the day before World War II, the March of Dimes Foundation, formerly the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), became very popular like its founder, Franklin D. Roosevelt. With the war in full effect, the Foundation was able to gain its rise through “radio, Hollywood and the personal appeal of the president.” The organization established the Office of Global Programs, that allowed worldwide partnerships with communities in Latin America, Europe and Asia bringing in prenatal education and care. The March of Dimes Global Network for Maternal and Infant Health has supported programs in China, Brazil, Lebanon, the Philippines, Malawi and Uganda.

United Way

United Way’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world and advancing the common good. The organization collaborated with the Shanghai Charity Foundation to provide teacher training, a place for children to learn, educational toys and other learning materials for 20 kindergarteners. In 2010, the United Way worked with the Airbus Corporate Foundation to create the Flying Challenge, which encourages at-risk middle and high school students to stay in school. So far, the challenge has allowed more than 600 students from Wichita, Kansas to Getafe and Cadiz, Spain the opportunity to receive mentorship through the Flying Challenge initiative.

The Global Fund

Among the top 5 nonprofit foundations listed, the Global Fund is the newest organization to raise, manage and invest the world’s money towards infectious diseases. Since 2002, the Global Fund has focused on three infectious diseases; AIDS, TB and malaria. The organization has invested more than $4 billion a year to support programs in more than 100 countries. Many of these programs are occurring in countries within Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific, and mainly, Sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO

The World Health Organization formed in 1948 and is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. WHO has six regional offices, including its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO regional office in Africa and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention work together to end disease outbreaks and build stronger health systems. WHO has provided technical leadership in surveillance, vaccination and case management, and has deployed 700 international experts that respond to disease outbreaks. On July 2019, the Ministry of Health reported 2,620 Ebola cases with 1,762 deaths and 737 survivors.

UNAIDS

UNAIDS is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are more likely to obtain the virus. Four in five new infections in Sub-Saharan Africa among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years are girls. More than 35 percent of women around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some time in their lives. This makes it 1.5 times more likely for them to obtain HIV than women who have not experienced this form of violence. Towards the end of 2018, UNAIDS used $19 billion towards the AIDS response in low-and middle-income countries, which was $1 billion less than the previous year. UNAIDS believes that the AIDS response in 2020 will require $26.2 billion.

These top 5 nonprofit foundations have continued to raise money to fund research for cures that impact millions of people in the world. They have made it their responsibility to ensure that patients and their families gain the necessary care to gain power over their lives.

– Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Zambia
Zambia is a tropical country in southern Africa with a population of approximately 16,445,079 people. It has a rich history of copper production and is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, HIV/AIDS has become prevalent throughout Zambia and is a large contributing factor to the country’s low life expectancy, which currently ranks second to last in a global comparison.

HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, attacks a person’s immune system by destroying white blood cells that fight disease and infection. Though there is no cure for HIV, people can control it successfully. Without proper medical care, the infection can lead to AIDS, which is the most severe phase of HIV infection.

The Current State of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Zambia

Heterosexual intercourse is what mainly drives Zambia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS particularly affects adolescent women compared to other age groups in Zambia. In fact, according to data collected by UNAIDS, one million women between the ages of 10 and 19 were living with HIV in 2017, while only 770,000 of their male counterparts had the same prognosis.

This discrepancy is due in part to the many societal issues that permeate throughout the lives of Zambian women. Younger Zambian women are more likely to have an older partner already infected with HIV. Additionally, many Zambian women are not in charge of their own reproductive health or education.

In fact, only 56 percent of Zambian women are literate. Meanwhile, the country only has a contraceptive prevalence rate of 49 percent. Both issues decrease a Zambian woman’s ability for education on the matter, as well as the ability to prevent pregnancy and the eventual exposure of HIV to a fetus in the womb.

Other marginalized Zambian groups disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS are children, sex workers and prisoners. According to UNAIDS, an estimated 8,900 children were newly infected with HIV in 2016 due to perinatal transmission. Perinatal transmission refers to when a mother passes HIV to her child during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding. Meanwhile, sex workers and prisoners had HIV prevalence rates of 56.4 percent and 27.4 percent respectively.

The Future of HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Zambia is currently taking steps towards decreasing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country. The first step has to do with prevention and education. According to the 2014 Zambia Country Report, the country’s provision of free condoms nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 19.6 million.

Additionally, according to the National AIDS Strategic Framework (NASF), comprehensive sex education will become a larger focus for adolescent Zambians within forthcoming years. Furthermore, several HIV prevention programs are active in Zambia and focus on empowering the country’s most susceptible population — young and adolescent women. Zambia is one of 10 countries that takes part in the DREAMS initiative, which strives to reduce new infections among women by addressing structural inequalities and gender norms.

Though Zambia has recently scaled up its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, it needs to do more to effect real change. Zambia’s domestic spending on HIV/AIDS only takes four percent of the overall budget, despite having risen drastically within the past few years. Even if Zambia were to spend this portion of the budget on providing ART, testing facilities and eMTCT services, a real societal change would not occur unless communication in Zambia health care systems increases. Zambia must see to the general population being educated about adhering to treatment, getting tested regularly and exercising effective prevention techniques.

There is much room for improvement when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS in Zambia. However, by increasing access to education and focusing upon marginalized groups — such as young women — the prevalence of this infection in Zambia will drastically decrease.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

El Salvador

Coming in at 114 out of all countries, El Salvador has a relatively high life expectancy rate for countries within the region. El Salvador is a smaller country situated in Central America known for both its beaches and mountainous regions. With a population of 6,187, 271 people, 32 percent of Salvadorians live below the poverty line. Below are the top 10 facts about life expectancy in El Salvador.

The Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in El Salvador

  1. As of 2018, the life expectancy for people living in El Salvador is 75 years. On average, women in El Salvador live longer than men with a life expectancy of 78.6 years. Men have an average life expectancy of 71.8 years. This is on par with the life expectancies of the different countries in Central America
  2. Gang violence has been a prevalent issue in El Salvador and is contributing to a lower life expectancy. In 2015, there were 103 homicides per 100,000 El Salvadorians. That same year, high rates of deadly attacks on women reached 1,062. Homicides, drug trafficking and the use of firearms are all directly related to conflict amongst El Salvador’s gangs.
  3. Since 1960, there has been an increased focus on the healthcare system in El Salvador, which has increased life expectancy by 23 years. As of 2014, El Salvador has spent about 6.9 percent of its gross domestic product and 17 percent of its overall public expenditure on healthcare. The Ministry of Health is the main regulator and care provider of the health system in El Salvador. The Salvadorian Social Security Institute (ISSS) provides the second highest number of care facilities in El Salvador, organizing its services into four regions.
  4. El Salvador has recognized the importance of having trained physicians in order to increase the life expectancy for its citizens. There are 11 institutions of higher education in El Salvador that are working to train health personnel in order to provide a higher quality of care to El Salvadorians and to increase the doctor-patient ratio. From 2010 to 2015, the number of physicians per 1,000 people went from 1.6 to 1.95.
  5. The World Food Programme (WFP) is working in El Salvador to increase food security, which would improve life expectancy. Its strategic outcomes include ensuring nutrition-sensitive social protection for vulnerable households, increasing sustainable production for smallholder farm, determining and increasing resilience to climate change for vulnerable communities, increasing food access for people affected by disasters to food security and strengthening the national and subnational control over nutritional resources. This plan will be enacted by 2021.
  6. As of 2017, 25,000 people in El Salvador were living with HIV/AIDS, which is 0.6 percent of the overall population in the country. Organizations like UNAIDS are working to increase education on HIV/AIDS and to provide more materials for prevention. El Salvador was one of three countries to receive a grant for $26.9 million from the Global Fund to improve access to HIV-related services and to deliver treatments. Currently, 3,000 people are receiving services from prevention clinics set up in El Salvador.
  7. There is a high risk of having a major infectious disease in El Salvador, including a high risk for food or waterborne diseases. Healthcare reform brought attention to a need for vaccinations. In 1990, immunization rates were at 76 percent, but as of 2016, that number had increased to 93 percent. The improvement in immunization rates has had a positive impact on increasing life expectancy in El Salvador.
  8. Sanitation facilities are a contributor to widespread diseases in El Salvador. Rural areas tend to have less access to improved sanitation. Sanitation services in El Salvador have been made accessible to 71 percent of the population, leaving 13 percent of urban populations and 16 percent of rural populations underserved. The National Organisation of Water and Sewer Works (ANDA) is working to ensure coordination between all ministries and government agencies to provide focus on sanitation efforts in El Salvador.
  9. El Salvador is vulnerable to many natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and flooding. From 2005 to 2013, natural disasters have displaced around 20,913 people and taken the lives of 56 people. Factors that increase life expectancy and quality of life such as access to water, sanitation and education are negatively impacted by displacement. Habitat for Humanity is working in El Salvador to rebuild and increase the resilience of homes in El Salvador. Since 1992, Habitat for Humanity has been able to help around 167,000 Salvadorians by providing housing security.
  10. Currently, the World Bank has committed $290 million in El Salvador. These funds contribute to the improvement of five different projects that protect and enhance vulnerable groups. The World Bank has allocated $50 million towards the Disaster Risk Management Program specifically for natural disasters. This funding has been able to reduce natural disaster displacement, decrease homicide rates, improve the health care system and the overall quality of life in El Salvador.

High vulnerability to natural disasters, a lack of clean water and sanitation sources, gang violence and disparities within the healthcare system have contributed to lower life expectancy rates in El Salvador. However, these 10 facts about life expectancy rates in El Salvador show that attention is now being given to places where intervention can improve living conditions for El Salvadorians. Due to these efforts, the life expectancy rate in El Salvador has been growing at an average annual rate of 0.33 percent.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Why HIV Treatment Is Becoming A Reality For People Everywhere
Just last year, it was announced that, for the first time in history, 50 percent of those infected with HIV/AIDS were receiving treatment. This landmark achievement is a massive process with different factors worldwide, but it’s all an interconnected humanitarian struggle against this life-threatening disease. 
As the year moves closer to 2019, it’s important to evaluate the measures being taken to keep the epidemic at bay and to take a closer look at the future of HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide.

A Survey of The World

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, reported in 2017 that, of the 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 19.5 million are now receiving life-saving treatment in the form of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

This trend has risen steadily since 2014 when UNAIDS announced that, if countries could meet the following goals for 2030, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic would be eliminated. Some of these goals are:

  • 90 percent of those with HIV are aware they carry the virus
  • 90 percent of the previous group begins using ARVs for treatment
  • 90 percent of those receiving treatment continue their treatment and reduce the levels of the virus in their system to levels below standard testing baselines.

These goals may seem as though it sets the bar high. However, after calculating the data from 168 countries in 2017, the world was already at 75-79-81. Several countries are doing exceedingly well: Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, Botswana, Cambodia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

These nations have managed to keep the virus in 73 percent of the carrying population suppressed. This means that, after receiving HIV/AIDS treatment, 73 percent of individuals have such low levels of the virus in their blood that the disease is no longer transferable by them to another person.

An Uncertain Future

Though the world has made tremendous progress in recent years in controlling the number of HIV patients, much of this progress has to do with aid provided by the U.S. In 2018, the Trump Administration has been proposing cuts to the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. As one of America’s major global health initiatives, PEPFAR is responsible for HIV/AIDS treatment to millions of patients around the world.

President Trump’s budget proposal would strip PEPFAR’s funding from $6 billion to $5 billionThis is significant, as this program benefits those living along east and southern Africa. This area contains the highest concentration of those living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. The $1 billion cut would result in 1.8 million deaths over the next ten years in South Africa and The Ivory Coast alone. Those currently receiving ARV treatment will not lose their access to the life-saving medications they need because of the budget cuts.

Though the outcome for the future is uncertain, currently the world has been succeeding in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS treatment is becoming a reality worldwide. If countries worldwide can stay on track in meeting UNAIDS guidelines, then the global community may see this notorious virus eliminated by 2030.

Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

HIV in the Philippines
HIV/AIDS in the Philippines continues to be a growing epidemic with an average of 68,000 individuals currently living with HIV, and fewer than half of them are being treated with antivirals. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Southeast Asia and in the world, reporting to have about 1,021 new cases of HIV/AIDS infected people in January 2018, with 17 percent of those newly infected individuals already showing signs of advanced infection. Luckily, the Philippines government is taking action to reduce HIV in the Philippines.

How the Philippines Are Addressing HIV/AIDS

In August 2018, a government organization called The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) signed a partnership with UNAIDS in order to fast track the reduction of the number of new HIV/AIDS infections within the country.

UNAIDS states that for the past seven years, annual, new HIV infections have more than doubled, reaching to about 12,000 in 2017. Because 80 percent of HIV cases are reported within 70 cities in Manila, LCP and local governments in the Philippines are taking direct action regarding this epidemic, pledging to eradicate this disease.

According to Laarni L. Cayetano, the National Chair of LCP, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is definitely an issue, stating it “‘needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in cities.'”

The Philippines are already beginning to address this issue by starting more innovative services to prevent HIV. Quezon City, for example, has continued to increase HIV funding since 2012 in order to build three clinics that now provide rapid, judgment-free HIV testing and counseling for those who are infected.

The Department of Health

The Department of Health (DOH) has launched a tri-beauty pageant, specifically a “Lhive Free Campaign,” in Quezon City in order to find ambassadors in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. With DOH’s desire to reduce HIV in the Philippines, this campaign serves as a message to the people as well as provides free, early detection methods and free medications needed for those infected.

Beauty Queen and Actress Kylie Verzosa, who was crowned Miss International in 2016 and is currently a DOH ambassador, also supports this campaign and pageant. Although Verzosa is known for her advocacy on mental health, she also shares a passion to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote its prevention. She sees HIV as a physical, emotional, and mental health concern, considering that depression and anxiety can be developed in an HIV patient struggling to live with this condition.

The DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines previously held free, anonymous HIV screenings in the workplace for more than 400 people, DOH staff members and walk-ins alike. They provided eight different stations located throughout the DOH grounds. This service not only helped to promote HIV/AIDS testing as a strategy to fight against this epidemic but it is also important, according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, for DOH staff members to know their own HIV status as they are encouraging others to seek treatment.

Other Groups Working to Prevent HIV/AIDS

Other departments and organizations are working to help decrease the HIV/AID epidemic in the Philippines. Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of the Philippines, reports that the NIH is researching and working on the molecular epidemiology of HIV viruses that appear to be drug-resistant. The NIH is also offering a variety of services for those infected in this country, such as HIV drug-resistance testing and genotyping, helping to end the further increase of the disease.

The Human Rights Watch also provided recommendations regarding the government’s approach to reduce HIV in the Philippines. The group suggests implementing further HIV prevention education within schools, providing access to condoms, destigmatizing the infection and reinitializing harm reduction programs that focus on injecting drug use.

The LCP partnership with UNAIDS serves as an opportunity and a push to help end the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. As governments vow to reduce HIV in the Philippines, improvements in the health of the people the country will increase substantially. Advocating for and addressing this issue will not only encourage citizens to seek available treatments but it can also prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines in the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV in Fiji
Fiji, a country located in the South Pacific, consists of 300 islands and has a current population of over 914,000 people. Although Fiji has one of the lowest prevalence of HIV in the world, HIV cases and the risk of HIV are consistently increasing. Luckily, young people are educating themselves in order to fight against HIV in the country. They are becoming involved in this topic and trying to achieve the United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS.

Meeting in Suva

In October 2018, according to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 24 teenagers attended the meeting in Suva, Fiji, desiring to distinguish the factors that would put young people at risk of HIV.

Fiji’s Global HIV/AIDS Progress report states that less than 1,000 people were living with HIV in 2014 in the country. Out of the age group between 15 and 49 years old, around 0.1 percent had a virus. Despite these statistics, HIV cases are beginning to increase as there were 68 new HIV cases in 2014 and 50 more in 2015.

In a hope to prevent any further new cases, especially in younger generations, teenagers who attended the meeting identified what could possibly risk the youth’s health regarding HIV.

UNAIDS states that attendees noticed and appreciated the steps Fiji has taken to reduce the risk of HIV, including policies created in order to establish a clearer access to HIV services for young people. Yet, the participants identified that Fiji needs to address the lack of access to condoms, harm reduction programs, stigma and discrimination.

Youth Knowledge on AIDS

A representative of Reproductive Family Health Association, Swastika Devi states that while many younger generations are quite aware of how HIV is prevented and transmitted “many of them are not aware that antiretroviral treatment exists.” This is why they desire to get and share access to this information as well as a program to attain it. Although about 300 people in people are receiving the antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Fiji, young people might not be aware of this.

Youth that attended this meeting suggested and agreed to not only conduct a youth advocacy network regarding sex education and reproductive health but they also desired to involve youth leaders from certain communities and areas that deal with HIV to increase advocacy and engagement in fighting against this epidemic. They have connected with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Fiji as well as Fiji’s World AIDS Day.

The UNAIDS Country Director in Fiji, Renata Ram, has also desired for youths to get involved in eradicating the HIV epidemic. She states that because this epidemic is affecting younger generations, they should be involved and lead their own communities to help those that are affected.

Inter-faith Strategy on HIV and AIDS

Fiji already had a strategy regarding the reduction of HIV prevalence called Fiji’s Inter-faith Strategy on HIV and AIDS. This strategy was active from 2013 to 2017. It involved faith-based responses to this epidemic that aimed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS but also cared for and supported those that were affected. The strategy included involving organizations that are faith-based in order to eliminate HIV infections, discrimination and AIDS-related deaths as well as creating strategies and actions to achieve all these goals.

Despite the fact that Fiji has one of the lowest HIV prevalence in the world, this is still a growing epidemic in this country and this problem cannot be ignored. Luckily, young generations have every desire to end HIV in Fiji, and they want to help those affected with this disease. Fighting against HIV in Fiji within younger generations is not only helping to better the country, but also better the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

HIV Treatment
In September of 2017, it was announced at the seventy-second U.N. General Assembly that the HIV treatment regimen TLD (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine and dolutegravir) has been made more accessible to low and middle income countries. This has been accomplished with a price agreement established through the partnership of various countries and global aid programs.

Some of the groups that collaborated on the new price agreement include UNAIDS, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), PEPFAR, USAID, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of South Africa and Kenya. Teams in many countries have begun developing plans to transition TLD into use by the end of 2019. Over 50 low or middle income countries have already introduced or are planning to introduce TLD as the favored first-line treatment for HIV.

Improvements to TLD

TLD medication is already considered a preferred method of HIV treatment in the United States. However, with the use of a generic treatment and a pricing agreement, TLD is now expected to cost health programs in low to middle income countries covered by the agreement only $75 per person per year once the treatment has been fully transitioned into use.

The newly released TLD is a generic treatment consisting of a single pill taken once a day containing a dolutegravir base. Studies have shown that the TLD regimen has fewer side effects on the patient and also has less vulnerability to the development of drug resistance that would render it ineffective. This helps because it means that fewer people would have to start new levels of treatment. TLD has also been shown to provide a more rapid repression of viral load.

Effects of New HIV Treatment

Three countries that began using the TLD treatment by the end of 2017 include Brazil, Botswana and Kenya. Within three months of treatment, studies show that 81 percent of patients using TLD in Brazil had an undetectable viral load, as compared to another HIV treatment regimen with an EFV (efavirenz) base, which had 61 percent presenting with an undetectable viral load after three months of treatment. Botswana and Kenya have shown similar success, with 90 percent of those using the treatment reaching full viral suppression in 2018.

In 2016, only 53 percent of people infected with the HIV virus were receiving treatment. Under the licensing agreement that sets a maximum price on the dolutegravir-based medication, 92 low to middle income countries will be able to provide the treatment to their citizens. These countries represent 90 percent of the people living with HIV in low to middle income countries. The TLD pricing agreement will not only be able to reduce the cost of treatment for the people in these countries but will increase availability so that more people can be treated.

A Brighter, Healthier Future

The launch of this new TLD treatment is another step forward in the treatment of people suffering globally from HIV and AIDS. People who did not originally have access to the dolutegravir treatment due to cost and availability will now be able to use this treatment. TLD provides a more reliable treatment regimen that will improve many people’s lives and ultimately bring the world a little further in the fight against HIV.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDS: Efforts to End HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa
UNAIDS is the international movement working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide by 2030, which aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Its fight against HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa has seen encouraging results.

In 2016, UNAIDS created the 90-90-90 targets for 2020, aiming to have 90 percent of all people with HIV know they are HIV positive, 90 percent of those who know their status receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently and 90 percent of those receiving treatment show viral suppression (having no symptoms of HIV/AIDS).

HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa a Main Target of UNAIDS

East and Southern Africa is the region of the world most impacted by HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS estimates that 19.4 million people in that region have HIV/AIDS. However, since the creation of the 90-90-90 targets and the subsequent implementation of more rigorous prevention and treatment programs, tremendous progress has been made towards curbing the transmission of and deaths from HIV/AIDS.

These statistics show how East and Southern Africa are faring in each of the 90-90-90 categories:

  1. Knowing Status
    According to a UNAIDS Special Analysis from 2017, in 2016, 14.7 million of an estimated 19.4 million people with HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa knew their status. That is 76 percent, up from 72 percent the previous year.
  2. Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy
    Seven million people with HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa are on ART. This means that 60 percent of all people with HIV (up from 53 percent in 2015)—or 79 percent of those who know their status—are receiving treatment.
  3. Showing Viral Suppression
    Seven million people on ART in this region show suppressed viral loads. Thus, 50 percent of people with HIV in East and Southern Africa (up from 45 percent in 2015)—which is equivalent to 83 percent of those receiving ART—show viral suppression.

Both the infection rate and death rate from HIV/AIDS are improving. Infection rates peaked between 1995 and 1998, when UNAIDS estimates that 1.7 million people in East and Southern Africa were newly infected each year. The decline began in 1990 and has continued. In 2016, UNAIDS estimated that 790,000 people contracted HIV/AIDS, down from 850,000 a year before.

Deaths from HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa peaked about a decade later than infection rates did, with approximately one million people dying annually between 2004 and 2006. In 2010, 720,000 people died from HIV/AIDS. By 2016, that number had dropped by nearly 50 percent to 420,000 deaths. As UNAIDS notes, it is extraordinary to see a death rate cut nearly in half in just six years.

Much of this recent success must be attributed to the work of UNAIDS, which is working to make testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS available to everyone. Its programs specifically target young women, pregnant mothers-to-be and males who, because of the stigma around HIV/AIDS, are often the least likely to receive proper treatment.

Multi-Pronged Efforts Reach Most Vulnerable Populations

Efforts aimed at young females including getting comprehensive sex education into all primary and secondary schools in East and Southern Africa, encouraging girls to stay in school (and away from dangerous sex work), and providing easily accessible female and reproductive healthcare.

UNAIDS is also helping to equip maternity clinics with what they need to ensure that all pregnant women will be aware of their HIV status and are able to get the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy.

Along with working to end the stigma around HIV/AIDS and providing accessible places to receive testing and treatment, UNAIDS aims to distribute 30 male condoms to every man living in the region each year. It also offers voluntary male circumcision programs, which can help prevent female to male HIV transmission.

East and Southern Africa may be the region most affected by HIV/AIDS, but UNAIDS is doing tremendous work towards achieving its 90-90-90 goals by 2020 and its goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. Continuing to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and making testing and treatment increasingly available will ensure that these successes continue.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

HIVAIDS in Kenya
In 2016, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) calculated that there are approximately 120,000 children living with HIV in Kenya. Even more shocking is that around 840,000 children between ages 0-17 were orphaned due to AIDS. Amidst this pandemic, the Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI) provides a glimmer of hope for orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

About COGRI

COGRI is a nonprofit organization that provides care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who are infected with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS; this group also aids the elderly and families impacted by this pandemic.

USAID supports this organization through funding received from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and helps it deliver quality and impactful HIV care. This organization operates through four different programs based around some of Nairobi’s poorest settlements.

The first program is called Lea Toto and its purpose is to decrease the risk of HIV transmission through the use of home-based care packages and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS. The Nyumbani Home is where children are given outstanding medical, nutritional and academic care with the hopes of becoming graduates and members of Kenyan society.

The organization’s third program, the Nyumbani Village, is a bio-friendly and self-sustaining community that cares for the young and old who have lost family members as a result of the pandemic. And finally, the Nyumbani Lab was opened in 2011 and is an internationally accredited laboratory working to find effective treatments and diagnostics for people with HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

A Holistic Approach to HIV/AIDS

Part of COGRI’s success is due to its holistic approach to the problem. The OVC receive the most support and care including treatment, counseling and testing, education, nutrition, shelter, child protection, case management, psychosocial support and household economic strengthening. Caregivers and communities receive secondary support as these programs impact children and their future income levels.

Healthcare is a huge focus of this organization. To support these children, COGRI provides access to medical care and supplies antiretroviral drugs. Another important part of treatment and protection includes providing sufficient amounts of food and combating malnutrition.

Evidence shows that higher rates of malnutrition contribute to greater deaths in people with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and this occurrence has caused food security to become a bigger focus within the organization. They would like to guarantee age-appropriate feeding, infant, young child and elderly nutrition and food security for all clients and patients. Beyond physical health, the organization provides services to help with grief and the challenges presented by HIV. 

Glimmers of Hope

The holistic approach combined with hope and advocacy make COGRI an effective organization. According to USAID, staff are passionate about advocating for children’s medical treatment and hope that in the future, no children in Kenya will get HIV in utero or during breastfeeding. Additionally, 73 percent of 377 children receiving HIV treatment at one of COGRI’s facilities achieved viral suppression due to correctly following a treatment regimen. This is relevant as Kenya’s overall viral suppression rate in children is only 65 percent.

USAID tells the story of a young man taken to Lea Toto who at age 12 was in poor health from untreated HIV. He received treatment immediately, and that combined with psychosocial support, helped him become a confident and healthier man. He is now 23 with a certificate in graphic and web design and has his own shoe business.

Examples like these show how COGRI’s holistic and passionate approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is changing the lives of children in Kenya and providing hope for a healthy future. 

– Alexandra Eppenauer

Photo: Flickr

90-90-90: A Bold New Goal in the Fight Against AIDSWhen the U.N. met its goal to provide 15 million HIV-affected people with treatment by 2015, it did not pause to celebrate its victory. Two years prior, in 2013, the organization had already crafted a new goal in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By 2020, UNAIDS hopes to see a world that has accomplished something miraculous: 90-90-90.

90-90-90 is a target comprised of three interconnected objectives:

  1. By 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their diagnosis.
  2. By 2020, 90 percent of all HIV-positive individuals who have been diagnosed will receive antiretroviral therapy.
  3. By 2020, 90 percent of all HIV-positive individuals undergoing treatment will achieve viral suppression.

While the plan is straightforward and succinct, UNAIDS has self-awarely deemed it a “bold new target,” which may seem impossible to achieve to some. However, many countries around the globe are well on their way to achieving the elusive 90-90-90.

Most of the nations closest to 90-90-90 are part of the developed world, including Australia, Denmark and the UK. Unfortunately, poverty and weak healthcare systems make developing regions particularly vulnerable to the transmission of HIV. In fact, HIV is the second leading cause of death in developing countries.

HIV is more prevalent in Africa than in any other continent. Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, African countries such as Zimbabwe, Uganda and Botswana have exhibited average life expectancies up to 20 years lower than the rest of the world.

Despite HIV’s lethal presence in the developing world, there are methods that can be implemented to decrease HIV transmission and facilitate treatment in all nations.

In order to increase the amount of HIV-positive people who know their status, HIV testing must become more proactive. Some individuals infected with the HIV virus may not present symptoms and, therefore, will not be tested for the disease and never learn their status. Health campaigns in Uganda have increased their coverage of HIV status by 72 percent, simply by incorporating HIV tests in routine healthcare visits.

In many countries, HIV treatment is flawed due to its reliance on CD4 cell count. CD4 T-cells are the immune cells destroyed by the HIV virus. Ordinarily, HIV treatment is only given to people whose CD4 levels are low enough to put them at risk of developing AIDS. However, without treatment, anyone with HIV can pass on the virus, regardless of CD4 levels.

In 2002, Botswana began offering antiretroviral treatment to anyone infected with HIV. Botswana is now closer to 90-90-90 than almost any other country in Africa.

HIV treatment must be sustained in order to reach viral suppression – the final objective. In the Caribbean, 66 percent of individuals receiving treatment attain viral suppression. The ability to ascertain viral suppression status is reliant on viral load testing, which analyzes the amount of the HIV virus in the blood. Unfortunately, the medical technology required for viral load testing is not easily accessible throughout the globe. Recent data shows that the ability to perform these tests will likely inhibit viral suppression in the developing world. However, the work of the Diagnostics Access Initiative, which creates sustainable medical labs, has successfully decreased the global price of viral load tests by 40 percent, which will make them more accessible in impoverished regions.

While 90-90-90 may seem like an ambitious or overly optimistic dream, the methodology of efficiently diagnosing and treating HIV has proven successful in many countries. If strategically implemented on a global scale, these methods could feasibly eradicate HIV/AIDS and eventually heal the world of this epidemic.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr