Posts

Eliminate AIDS

Thailand has recently launched a new national strategy, with the goal of eliminating AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The plan, devised by the Ministry of Public Health, aims to use rigorous strategy of detecting, treating and suppressing the AIDS virus within the infected population.

The first step of the plan aims to meet the global 90-90-90 goal by 2020, where the first 90 percent of people who have AIDS are informed of their infection. This 90 percent of infected people should then have access to, and begin, treatment. Then, 90 percent of people who have received treatment are fully virally suppressed. This breakdown provides realistic goals for the plan’s execution.

This plan is targeted to the key demographics among which the HIV rate is the highest. Thailand’s government is committing full efforts to providing the citizens with prevention and outreach programs in highly infectious areas to help inform and protect the uninfected populations.

One of the further goals of this plan is to eventually include hepatitis C, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases as serious public health issues to be resolved within Thailand. The U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) firmly believes in Thailand’s plan, as its pilot tests have resulted in an excellent effective rate. Because of this, UNAIDS would like to implement the plan in more nations dealing with similar situations.

The initial segment of the plan – encompassing 2015 to 2019 – is dedicated to the testing of new measures as well as setting up new two-way coordination frameworks for the execution of the rest of the plan. This segment includes a majority of pilot testing, where the results of the data collected would help to produce the next plan segment.

While Thailand is pioneering new widespread measures to eliminate AIDS, their groundbreaking work will be a stepping stone to the elimination of AIDS in the nation. With massive organizations, such as UNAIDS, working alongside them to study and develop solutions, there is a lot of promise in the eventual elimination of the global AIDS issue.

Rebekah

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in GabonGabon, a very small country in West Africa, is regarded as stable in terms of politics, but it has many other issues when it comes to its socioeconomic conditions. One third of the country lives in poverty; the population is 1.5 million, so this means that 500,000 people in Gabon are living in poverty. In addition, the unemployment rate is high, at 25 percent.

Surprisingly, then, Gabon is one of the richest countries in Africa, with a high GDP per capita. Unfortunately, however, due to the number of people living in poverty in this country, there is much improvement to be made to alleviate this. Here are some of the ways that you can help people in Gabon:

1. Donate to or Volunteer for a Nonprofit

Organizations such as UNICEF are trying to encourage people to volunteer their time or donate to UNICEF. These donations would provide the organization with the means to assist the many people living in the rainforests of Gabon who have poor access to healthcare and sanitation. You can also ask UNICEF or other nonprofits for suggestions on other ways to help people in Gabon.

HIV/AIDS is also a huge problem among people in Gabon – nine percent of the population had this disease in 2002. Organizations like UNAIDS are working on combatting this issue, which affects the population in various ways.

2. Call Your Representatives and Senators

Call your elected officials to support bilateral and trade agreements with Gabon. Contact various departments within the Executive Branch as well. Asking them to support measures or bills that would pressure the Gabonese government to focus on the wealth gap, due to its oil export profits going to the wealthiest Gabonese people.

3. Educate Yourself and Others

You can start a group at your school or university concerning issues in Gabon. There are many classes on wealth disparities in Africa as well as a lot of research on it. Get the word out about this issue because it is easy to get caught up in the positive numbers that Gabon has (such as its GDP). Study why issues like this exist in political economies such as Gabon and other countries around the world. You could even start your own nonprofit or lobby organizations and governments yourself someday. Being a global citizen is incredibly important.

While Gabon may seem to be in a great place in terms of its wealth, much of what is happening there is benefiting a small group of people – the wealthiest group, that is. Unemployment and poor healthcare are unequally affecting poor people in Gabon. That is why it is important for us to think about how we can help people in Gabon, even from abroad.

Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in GabonIn 2013, Gabon’s government began building new medical facilities to ensure that all citizens can access quality healthcare. This was an important step toward combating HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other common diseases in Gabon. However, further work is needed to continue protecting Gabon’s people from illnesses.

UNAIDS reports that 44,000 Gabonese adults (ages 15 and older) are infected with HIV. 30,000 women (ages 15 and older) are among that demographic. There are 2,600 Gabonese children (ages 0 to 14) living with HIV and 16,000 Gabonese orphans due to parents who died from AIDS.

Gabon has high incidences of malaria and other insect-transmitted diseases. While Gabon has a yearly malaria risk, the risk is especially high during and immediately after the country’s rainy seasons (October through December and February through April). The disease is mainly transmitted through Anopheles mosquitoes that feed from dusk to dawn.

In July 2017, a vaccine called RTS,S was found to have the capability of stopping malaria before it starts. The vaccine was tested in Gabon from May 2009 to early 2014. In July 2015, the European Medicines Agency gave the vaccine a “positive scientific opinion,” revealing that it could be used for Gabon’s future malaria cases.

Tuberculosis is an increasing epidemic in Gabon. In 2013, a research study observed 64 tuberculosis-infected children in a Lambaréné, Gabon hospital. The findings showed a discrepancy between the tuberculosis burden and the commitment to controlling it. Tuberculosis was found to be especially prevalent in Gabonese children.

International funding agencies have attempted to implement a “DOTS Strategy” program that could slow down and reverse the effects of tuberculosis. However, Gabon is unable to qualify for the program due to the country’s commodities and a high per capita income. As a result, the country’s national program against the disease is funded entirely by the state and tuberculosis remains one among many common diseases in Gabon.

However, efforts are still being made to combat Gabon’s disease outbreaks. In August 2017, a Regional Collaborating Centre was established as part of Africa’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The center will coordinate efforts to prevent infectious and non-communicable diseases in Gabon and other central African countries.

While common diseases in Gabon remain a problem for many residents, these efforts can help Gabonese people combat disease risks. The RTS,S vaccine could prevent many malaria cases if it continues to be used in the country. Gabonese children who are highly vulnerable to tuberculosis and other diseases will need continuing treatment as well.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

HIV in El SalvadorWhile El Salvador does not have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS by far, the struggles that this country faces regarding HIV are mostly preventable, making it almost more frustrating to face.

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the human immune system. When it breaks the immune system down enough, a person displays a set of symptoms called acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. A common misconception is that AIDS is a virus in and of itself, but it is merely a name for a set of varied symptoms.

There is not a high rate of HIV in El Salvador. However, the threat of a renewed epidemic remains, as only 36.5 percent of youth (age 15-24) in El Salvador know how to prevent it. The number of new HIV infections in this age group has been increasing since 2011. This highlights a major gap in sexual education offered in El Salvador, something UNAIDS Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Latin America and the Caribbean Alejandra Oraa seeks to correct.

While mother-to-child transmission of HIV is down to 0.5 percent of cases, the same cannot be said for the amount of cases contracted through sexual transmission. The limited access to sexual education in El Salvador stands in the way of halting the HIV epidemic.

The UNAIDS Country Director of El Salvador, Celina Miranda, said, “To end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, we cannot fail our young people and we cannot leave any of them behind. It is urgent to remove all barriers that limit their access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV services.”

Between August 9 and August 11, Oraa met with youth leaders and young people, and conducted a survey to analyze youth knowledge of HIV in El Salvador and how to prevent it. Currently, the National Network of Positive Youth, UNAIDS, the United Nations Population Fund, and the National Youth Institute all coordinate to provide outreach and awareness in public places. Between Friends (Entre Amigos) takes the face-to-face approach and offers combination prevention options.

The next step will be for the United Nations Children’s Fund and UNAIDS to use the findings of the survey to inform strategies and public policies to better prevent and reduce HIV infections among youth.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr


The Joint Programme Model was created by the U.N. to help in the fight towards ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the year 2030. To meet this goal, known as the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” it has been noted by the Global Review Panel that the program is in critical need for reform.

The Global Review Panel recently issued a report which identifies key changes that must be made within the Joint Programme Model to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS around the world. Particularly, it focuses on ways to effectively assist persons who are already infected.

It is the panel’s belief that the creation of the Joint Programme Model has thus far been one of the most instrumental and practical ways to try and eliminate the disease. However, a few suggestions within the report include targeting ways to reduce HIV-related stigmas, reducing the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDs to fewer than 500,000 and reducing infections caused by HIV to fewer than 500,000.

The report further elaborates on more detailed improvements that are critically necessary for the program’s overall success. Such improvements include making fast-track countries a priority in the allocation of financial resources, as well as maintaining a focus on the mobilization and allocation of funds. By doing so, governmental leaders can ensure that the program remains adequately financed for global ventures.

Additionally, a major concern among members of the panel rests on the need to hold individuals such as cosponsors and the Secretariat accountable for their actions with respect to the overall 2030 plan. Panel members further believe that a transparent public reporting system should be set in motion that “shows the impact of results for people living with and affected by HIV and captures the entirety of Joint Programme financing and performance.”

Awa Coll-Seck, co-chair of the review panel, has expressed her opinion in that all individuals and organizations involved in the 2030 plan to end HIV/AIDs should work together as a sort of think tank to efficiently reach resolutions in the fight towards ending the disease on a global level.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr


The coastal African country of Ghana has emerged as a force in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS across the continent. Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by raising awareness and seeking to disrupt cultural forces that have historically kept infection rates high.

UNAIDS appointed Ghana as the chair for its Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) for the year, with Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu chairing both PCB meetings and Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressing the June meeting. Ghanaian First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has also been named as a Premier Ambassador for HIV Advocacy by the group.

“We will certainly work hard to justify the confidence reposed in us. We are committed to working closely with UNAIDS to achieve our collective goal of making our world AIDS-free by 2030,” Agyeman-Manu said on the UNAIDS official website.

Ghana is home to approximately 270,000 people currently living with HIV and has made great strides over recent years in addressing the epidemic. It reduced the number of HIV infections by 57 percent since 2000 and nearly doubled the amount of HIV testing women have received since 2008. The previous lack of screening for the disease is an assumed factor in higher infection rates, especially among adolescents.

UNAIDS deputy executive director Jan Beagle recently visited the country in anticipation of the announcement to meet with the government and citizens of Ghana. “As Chair, Ghana brings experience and energy to the Programme Coordinating Board. We are looking forward to Ghana’s leadership to drive forward the implementation of the UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy and to help us make the end of AIDS a reality,” Beagle stated.

During her visit, Beagle attended a town hall-style meeting with Ghanaian women personally affected by HIV/AIDS. The rate of infections among women is particularly high in the country, almost double the rate of men, and infected women are stigmatized. Infected widows face even harsher conditions as they are often stripped of their belongings or homes due to local customs and laws.

UNAIDS is also working with women’s rights organization, the Mama Zimbi Foundation (MZF), and its Widows Alliance Network (WANE) network. This organizational collaboration is key to how Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“We need to empower women, and make sure men are also fully part of the discussion– we need to work together for a better future,” MZF founder Akumaa Mama Zimbi appealed during the meeting. The MZF’s latest project seeks to create a permanent, stable facility to provide job training and health education for daughters of displaced widows.

Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by recognizing that the disease is not just a virus, but a complex health issue overlapping socioeconomic and cultural issues. The country’s efforts may be the best chance the world has at eliminating the disease by 2030.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr


The global AIDS epidemic continues to threaten women’s health. There has been significant worldwide progress in combating this outbreak, as evidenced by a U.N. report showing a 33 percent global reduction in newly diagnosed HIV infections from 2001 to 2012. However, development has been disproportionate for women, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

As the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV and AIDS reports, adolescent girls accounted for 64 percent of new HIV infections among youth globally in 2013. In addition, sub-Saharan Africa houses 80 percent of young women with HIV worldwide. Those aged 15 to 24 are nearly twice as likely to contract AIDS compared to their male counterparts.

Such statistics have a number of causes. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV if they have experienced physical or sexual abuse, especially through relationships that involve extramarital sex or little-to-no contraceptive use. Social norms, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, also impose barriers, as men have more dominance over women in relationships.

Lack of education, specifically sex education, also plays a role in women’s disproportionate diagnosis of HIV. A report by the U.N. demonstrated that out of 32 countries, “Women who had some level of secondary education were five times more likely than non-literate women to have knowledge of HIV.”

The probable leading cause of the AIDS epidemic affecting women comes from a lack of health services. Those who have insufficient access to HIV and reproductive health care treatments and support are less likely to monitor their health and thereby reduce infection. This is the case in many African regions. Laws also introduce obstacles; for example, in 2014, nine countries reported regulations that inhibit girls from obtaining HIV-related services.

Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, confirms: “This epidemic, unfortunately, remains an epidemic of women.” Fortunately, however, a number of organizations have made motions to counter the problem, beginning with UNAIDS itself. In 2015, it introduced a global initiative of reducing HIV infections to about half a million per year by 2020. This plan involves reducing new infections among women by a factor of 75 percent.

As the Human Rights Watch notes, such can be accomplished through legal reform, the implementation of health awareness programs, mandatory education measures and assistance from international NGOs. In order to combat the AIDS epidemic and its effect on women, serious action must continue worldwide.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

The Young Heroes Foundation, founded in 2006, aims to provide financial support for the provision of basic necessities for orphans in Swaziland in addition to providing HIV testing and care programs. The nation is home to the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS globally, illustrated by a staggering number of 70,000 orphans and 15,000 households led by children as reported by Aid for Africa.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), rates of HIV among pregnant woman have reached 39.2 percent and approximately 17,000 children contract the disease every year. It is also reported that more than 120,000 Swazi children who are under 18 have lost at least one parent to AIDS, while more than 60,000 have experienced the loss of both parents to the disease.

Young Heroes has now reached more than 1,000 children in Swaziland by stabilizing households of orphans and vulnerable children, consequently improving the rates of school attendance among those receiving aid. Events such as the Swazi Cycle also help to raise monetary support for Swazi orphans by supporting the Young Heroes Foundation, where American cyclists embark on bike routes from border-to-border across the nation. In 2010 the cycling journey raised more than $100,000 for children in dire need of support in Swaziland.

In addition, citizens of Swaziland are affected by high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty and extremely unpredictable weather patterns, as cited by the World Food Programme.

Other programs such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (CHAPS) have developed voluntary public health programs such as the Male Circumcision Strategic and Operational Plan for HIV Prevention, projecting to avoid an estimated 31,000 new incidents of HIV by 2028. The initiative utilizes tools of education through mentoring, sports programs and public health outreach administered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

– Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Asia
According to UNICEF, “In 2015, more than half of all stunted children under five lived in Asia.” Further, the organization notes that the wasting rate in Southern Asia is close to being “a critical public health emergency.” In light of these concerning statistics, research has illuminated how an interdisciplinary female-focused approach to fighting hunger in Asia is the key to success for both child nutrition and the overall health of the community.

Gender inequality is more prevalent in South Asia than other parts of the continent, with a gender inequality index measuring .0536. This is on a scale from 0 being completely equal to 1 being not equal — the ratings in Singapore and The Republic of Korea are 0.088 and 0.125 respectively. Data suggests that improvements in women’s equality may hold the key to reducing South Asia’s current child undernutrition rate of 36%.

Groundbreaking research carried out in 1998 by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., showed that gender inequality plays a large role in malnutrition.

While analyzing global data, the authors Smith and Haddad showed that improvement in women’s status and improvement in women’s enrollment in secondary education was responsible for over half of the reductions in child malnutrition.

Other major factors, such as food availability and improvements in a health environment, contributed to only 26% and 19% of the malnutrition reductions, respectively.

Further publications such as the World Bank Global Monitoring Report of 2007 highlight how creating diverse opportunities for women can directly combat hunger in Asia. Education benefits child nutrition by increasing access to information for expectant and current mothers and child malnutrition decreases when women have more control of the household’s resources.

Nutrition is not only important for child growth but is also an investment in preventative health. The danger of not supporting female-focused initiatives is potent, due to the foundational importance of nutrition on well-being.

Over 5 million individuals are currently living with HIV in Asia, according to UNAIDS, with 19,000 new infections in children in 2015 alone. In malnourished patients, HIV quickly progresses toward AIDS due to the immune system’s lack of essential nutrients.

Other opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, which is present in its “latent” non-active form in one-third of the world’s population, can then thrive in the absence of a functional immune system and can threaten entire communities.

However, focused efforts are being made to improve nutrition with an interdisciplinary approach. CARE International, a U.K. based company, sponsored the Shouhardo Project in Bangladesh to fight child malnutrition through women’s empowerment.

By implementing community initiatives to confront early marriage, prevent violence against women, give more power to women in business transactions and have more political power in the local sphere, outcomes changed.

Before the project began, less than 25% of women reported being involved in decisions to buy or sell family assets, or use savings. At the end of the study period, almost 50% of women were included in such decisions. As a result, the data collected showed a 30% drop in child stunting.

More initiatives in Asia are focusing on women’s role in child well-being, such as the Every Woman Every Child movement, which recently launched a campaign to use mobile phones to educate women on nutrition for their children in India.

India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) has partnered with the Food and Agriculture organization of the U.N. to boost economic opportunities for women in rural areas, with the direct goal of fighting nutrition through such avenues.

These programs are evidence of why female leadership is so important, especially in an area where gender inequality is prominent. As such initiatives develop and are supported, communities will see unprecedented gains in the fight against hunger.

Patrick Tolosky
Photo: Flickr

Sex Education in Guatemala
Guatemala has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Latin America. By age 20, 54 to 68 percent of indigenous or uneducated women have married or become pregnant.

This number is raised by a high rate of sexual abuse that boys and girls suffer: 10,000 cases are reported every year. One of the many reasons these statistics are so alarmingly high is a lack of comprehensive sex education in Guatemala. In 2012, only two percent of schools had effective programs; but fortunately, many advocates have worked to counteract these dismal statistics over the past few years.

Comprehensive sex education is incredibly beneficial to children of all genders. The National Survey of Family Growth discovered that pregnancy rates for 15 to 19-year-olds are 50 percent lower for teens who receive comprehensive sex education than for teenagers who received less education.

Guatemalan children need to be taught about contraceptives, STIs, HIV, pregnancy and especially consent. Programs should emphasize the goals of improved gender equality as well as increasing male involvement in family planning. These alterations would allow teenagers to have more control over their reproductive health as well as counteract the dangerous culture of violence and rape.

Fortunately, new legislation has paved the way for improvement. The 2010 Preventing through Education Act calls for comprehensive sex education in Guatemala and increases teenage access to sexual health services.

Sex educator Ana Lucía Ramazzini insists that “sex education cannot be successful in Guatemala without being taught from a feminist viewpoint that addresses consent, assault and the power dynamics and social inequalities between men and women.” Two other laws have been similarly positive — hospitals are now required to report pregnancies for girls under 14, and the marrying age with parental consent has been raised from 14 to 16.

Three years after the Prevention through Education Act, a program with gender equality views was incorporated into nine regions. After the 2010 law passed in Guatemala, the rate of teen pregnancy decreased from 90 births per 1000 women ages 15-19 to 81 births in 2014. While the statistic is not overtly dramatic, the steady decline does indeed bode well for the future.

Ten Guatemalan organizations and a handful of international organizations continue to transform sex education from bill to reality. UNAIDS works to educate people about HIV and decrease the stigma surrounding the condition for the 65,000 people in Guatemala who live with the disease and require treatment. Two Guatemalan organizations in particular, Asociacion Pro-Bienestar de la Familia de Guatemala (APROFAM) and Incide Joven, have done exceptional work in this field.

APROFAM is a family planning organization that serves Guatemala with 27 permanent clinics, five mobile facilities and a large number of community distributors. Their clinics and workshops provide education for both men and women about the effectiveness of contraceptives and family planning services. Using media from comic strips and television shows, they educate the public on both sexual health as well as issues of consent and abuse.

Incide Joven is a similar organization, but its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is entirely youth-run. Like APROFAM, Incide Joven is dedicated to making sex education available for teenagers. Their advocacy was very successful in creating the valuable Gender and Cultural Diversity office as part of the Ministry of Education to oversee new sex education. APROFAM and Incide Joben share sex educator Ana Ramazzini’s ideology by encouraging both genders to take an active role in family planning.

With such high rates of abuse and teenage pregnancy, sex education in Guatemala is a tough job. Fortunately, children are growing more aware of their rights and the risks of young sex. A 10-year-old listing off information about HIV at a UNAIDS event said that “[children] are very young for sex. Ah! And that our body is only ours and no one can touch it.”

The emphasis on consent in sex education in Guatemala not only builds a better-informed public, but it also is a large step in the right direction for female empowerment and youth rights.

Jeanette Burke

Photo: Bustle