DREAMS in Namibia
At one point, Namibia had the highest HIV prevalence rates globally. In the country, HIV disproportionately impacts young women, with their incidence rates being several times higher than those for men. However, the Namibian government and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) wanted to change the narrative for the country. To help, PEPFAR funded Namibia with $50 million for treatments and resources.

New HIV infections have decreased by 50% since 2004. Namibia now has an estimated 85.4% of viral suppression and 8.3% HIV prevalence, according to a Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) report. Through the partnership, the Namibian government and PEPFAR were able to give people DREAMS in Namibia.

DREAMS Project

DREAMS (the acronym for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) first launched on World AIDS Day 2014 with private sector partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson and ViiV Healthcare. The DREAMS Project works to address leading factors for increased vulnerability in adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) with HIV. The project has created change in 15 countries including Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. By doing so, it has pushed partner governments to renew their commitments to gender equality and the impact on adolescent health and development.

The U.S. Department of State mentioned on World AIDS Day 2020, data showed new HIV diagnoses among AGYW declined in countries implementing DREAMS, with 96% of which had a decline of more than 25% and almost 62% of which decreased by more than 40%.

Of the 15 countries, DREAMS in Namibia officially launched in October 2017. The U.S. Embassy noted the project is focusing on three regions: Khomas, Oshikoto and Zambezi. While the primary target of DREAMS in Namibia are AGYW ages 9-24, orphans and vulnerable children, the male sexual partners aged 20-49 are a part of the targeted population.

DREAMS and Project Hope

The DREAMS project is also partnering with Project HOPE Namibia. Project HOPE similarly works to mitigate the impact of HIV by safeguarding access to quality health care for vulnerable populations. Through the partnership, more than 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children with household services, loans and startup kits for their caregivers.

In partnership with DREAMS in Namibia, Project HOPE empowered more than 20,000 AGYW across Namibia with education on HIV, job skills and financial literacy. Project HOPE also offers clinical support for survivors.

On February 23, First Lady Jill Biden visited Hope Initiative Southern Africa to listen in on the testimonials of those that DREAMS in Namibia increasingly impacted. Among the testimonials, the common theme was that these young women’s voices grew and obtained more opportunities to kick-start their businesses.

Looking Ahead

Namibia is still fighting against the HIV epidemic. However, DREAMS in Namibia continues to reach the masses of those who are HIV infected by changing one life at a time. The project allows those infected to pursue their dreams.

Brianna Green
Photo: Flickr

Improve U.S. Foreign AidThe U.S. is currently ranked seventh in the list of “best countries,” according to US News. Further, the nation is known worldwide for its dominant economy and strong military power. Given its global influence, the U.S. has the power to impact the lives of citizens in developing countries. Over the years, the U.S. has provided substantial aid to help reduce famine and poverty rates in some of the world’s poorest countries. To continue assisting vulnerable areas in the future, Congress holds the power to pass certain bills that improve U.S. foreign aid policies. Every year, lawmakers introduce several bills to improve U.S. involvement in developing countries. Here are 5 pending bills designed to improve U.S. foreign aid:

5 New Bills to Improve US Foreign Aid

  1. H.Res. 517. New York Representative, Eliot Engel, introduced this bill in July 2019. It aims to support the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and its Sixth Replenishment. It urges donor countries to help decrease the damage caused by these diseases, as well as to contribute donations. The bill also encourages recipient countries to keep their promises of utilizing the support to demonstrate progress in ending the AIDS, TB and malaria epidemics.
  2. H.Con.Res. 78. California Representative, Barbra Lee, introduced this bill in December 2019. This measure strives to promote the ideas and goals of World AIDS Day. It also supports continued funding for PEPFAR and the Global Fund to fight illnesses such as AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, it provides HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment in low and middle-income countries. Finally, this proposal supports efforts that contribute to decreased HIV rates worldwide and acknowledges the root causes of this disease in developing countries.
  3. S.Res. 169. Junior Senator for Oregon, Jeff Merkley, introduced this bill in April 2019. This measure presents a resolution to the statement under section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Concerning violations of human rights by the Government of Saudi Arabia: it states that the U.S. government should call on Saudi Arabia to release all innocent human rights activists currently imprisoned. This includes journalists and religious minorities as well. Furthermore, the bill requests that the Saudi Arabian government reverse its human rights violations.
  4. FY21. Newly introduced in response to the global crises of 2020, this bill includes $65.87 billion in foreign aid funding an increase of nearly $8.5 billion from the fiscal year 2020 budget. The bill designates $10 billion for funding global COVID-19 responses and for the World Health Organization. Also, this bill allocates $25 million to global maternal and child health, as well as $750 million for global family planning. Moreover, several million dollars contribute to various Global Health and Disease Programs.
  5. H.Res. 527. California Representative, Alan Lowenthal, introduced this bill on July 25, 2019. The goal of this bill is to promote human rights worldwide. It recognizes the violation and erosion of human rights in several countries and urges all U.N. members to promote human rights. Also, H. Res. 527 encourages the U.S. to develop programs that promote the recognition of justice for all. For example, the creation of the national holiday “Human Rights Day.”

Making an Impact

With more power and financing than many other countries, the U.S. is in a unique position to influence the economies and governments of developing nations. Through passing these bills to improve U.S. foreign aid and support, the nation can leave a lasting, positive impact on people living in poverty around the world.

– Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. The country has been one of the center points of the Yugoslavian Wars that tore across the area in the 1990s. It was the location of countless atrocities, such as the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995. The impact of these events still exists across the country today, despite 25 years of improvements and advancements. Part of this impact was the reduction in life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around 77 years. This is more than most of the other countries in the Balkans, surpassed only by Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. However, in the European Union, life expectancy is the average of 81 or the Balkan average of 77. All of the Balkan countries are above the world average of 72 years despite genocide and war afflicting them.
  2. Instability: The country’s average life expectancy was on a linear growth before the wars and peaked at 71.6 in 1987. However, the loss of life and general prosperity from the instability of late Yugoslavia followed by the violence of the wars and genocide caused a massive dip in this figure. In fact, its life expectancy did not return to prewar figures until 1995.
  3. Reduced Life Expectancy: Before the war, the population peaked at 4.5 million people in 1989. In contrast, up to an estimated 300,000 fatalities massively dented this figure. By 1996, a quarter of the pre-war population displaced while around 1.2 million fled the country in a mass migration. Additionally, high-income families generally have a higher life expectancy which links to the reason behind the life expectancy loss.
  4. Life Expectancy Growth: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown by 6.6 percent from 1996 until 2017. This is slower than the world growth of 8.7 percent in the same time frame. This is likely due to poor economic growth and countless health issues.
  5. Air Pollution: Large amounts of air pollution result in many premature deaths. It also reduces general life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina by at least 1.1 years overall. Poor control over energy generation pollution output has cost the people of the country 130,000 years of life overall in the last 10 years. This is due to poorer respiratory health and increased incidences of lung cancers. To combat this, cities and decisionmakers within the country are coordinating with an organization like the U.N. Environment. They will switch energy production from polluting sources such as old coal generators to renewables. For example, the project District Heating in Cities Initiative is attempting to replace the heating oil system of the city Banja Luka to biomass generators. This will cut emissions by 90 percent.
  6. Life Expectancy Disparities Between Genders: The differences in life expectancy between genders are significant. As men live an average of 74.6 years, while women live five years more on average at 79.5 years. This is likely caused by various social conditions such as the expectation for men to take on more dangerous jobs. In addition, suicide rates are disparately high in men compared to women.
  7. Death Rate: Bosnia has a very high death rate. It is the 39th highest in the world at 10 deaths for every 1,000 people. This is due to air pollution, destroyed infrastructure from the war and water shortages. Also, many areas of the country have poorly rebuilt electric networks and poor train lines or road systems. Due to this, reactive health care has suffered in many areas, making it impossible for people to get to hospitals. However, with investments and concentrated efforts, this has been changing for the better. As the country rebuilds train lines and improves roads, motorway fatalities have gone from dozens a year to simply two in 2014.
  8. The Poverty Rate: The poverty rate in the country is 2.2 percent, but lack of health does not contribute greatly to its poverty rate. This means many of those in poverty do not struggle with health care issues. This is due to the fact that the government provides health insurance to even the unemployed, reducing out-of-pocket costs for the country’s poor on these issues.
  9. Health Care Spending: The majority of health care spending in the country is government spending. Around 71 percent of all health care spending is public funding. Of the 29 percent private expenditures, nearly all of it is purchases of household health materials such as bandages and medicine. Meanwhile, the country spends 1 percent on other expenses, indicating that these private expenses are less likely to be costly affairs that may serve to hurt the financial stature of citizens.
  10. Preventative Care: Preventative care is minimal in the country as programs like education and advising programs, immunization programs, epidemiological monitoring and disease risk control and disaster response programs only make up 1.8 percent of total health care funding. This likely plays a large part in the death rate as preventative care is extremely important in ensuring long lifespans. However, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union have been working in tandem with NGO projects to boost immunizations in the country including World TB Day, Immunization Week, Anti-TB Week and World AIDS Day. Additionally, the aim is to build trust in vaccines amongst the general populace.

These 10 facts show how damaging the war has been on the general health and lifespan of the population. While the years since have seen improvements, they have not been enough to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina to par with the rest of the world. Damaged public infrastructure, lack of focus on preventative care and deteriorating environmental conditions are some of the primary reasons behind the slow increase of the country’s life expectancy.

– Neil Singh
Photo: Flickr


With a new campaign called My Health, My Right, UNAIDS will celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2017. The campaign aims to bring awareness to the universal right to health, and also to shed light on the hardships people face globally in obtaining these rights.

My Health, My Right is meant to remind people that a human’s right to health is not only about accessing the necessary services and medicines, but also about quality living and working conditions that are sanitary and safe with access to basic needs. When these rights are not being met, preventative measures against disease decrease and illnesses increase, including HIV. This campaign allows for open conversation to begin regarding thoughts and concerns about rights to health, the importance of health equality and justice for people worldwide.

The campaign will occur mostly on twitter, with downloadable posters available to hang throughout communities and informational brochures equipped with messages about the rights to proper health care. The right to health for all people is crucial in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, as one of the goals includes ending the AIDS epidemic by the year 2030.

As of August 2017, 36.7 million people are living with HIV/AIDS throughout the world. 30 percent of these people don’t know the status of their disease. The majority of those infected with AIDS live in low- and middle-income countries; 25.5 million of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa. Although there has been significant progress in ending the AIDS epidemic, experts say it is not being done fast enough to meet the global targets.

World AIDS Day aims to pay respects to those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. The day was originally founded in 1988, as the first-ever global health day. A day to recognize the virus is extremely important for the eradication of the disease, as many of those infected do not know how to protect themselves and the others around them. It also helps demolish the discrimination and stigma associated with people living with the condition. AIDS has not disappeared, and there is a crucial need for funds, resources, increased awareness and improved education regarding the disease.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

World AIDS Day 2016: Past Ten Years Reveal a Bright Future
Smiles and cameras alike flashed in Barbados’ capital city during the December 1 anniversary of World AIDS Day. Prince Harry and Rihanna, both in the country for the 50th anniversary of its independence, took part in quick HIV tests while cameras rolled, in an effort to de-stigmatize the idea of getting screened and emphasize its importance.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first published reports of the AIDS virus, a disease that has since averaged a million deaths a year worldwide. Once considered a death sentence, the diagnosis of the virus is now more manageable than ever.

This year, World AIDS Day 2016 sports the theme “Hands Up for #HIVPREVENTION,” addressing the many different stages of life for those with the virus, particularly demographics who have historically not been the focal point of HIV and AIDS research.

The World Health Organization’s  2015 review, published on December 1, bears encouraging news for the control of the virus, boasting the lowest initial infection rate since 1991, and the fewest deaths attributed to the disease in 20 years.

On World AIDS Day 2016, there are many reasons to celebrate, as revealed by the data collected. Studies showed that due to the spread of antiretroviral therapy, the last ten years saw a decrease of more than 45 percent in deaths associated with HIV.

There are currently  36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, and their disease cultivates unique challenges for researchers due to its ability to mutate between individuals. Not to be dissuaded, researchers have only gone on to create unique solutions to these problems, with treatments ranging from aggressive HIV testing to vaginal rings that help prevent the spread of the virus.

The future looks bright as well, with the National Institutes of Health revealing that it is currently exploring a treatment that could neutralize up to 98 percent of HIV variants, a project that could take up to ten years to complete. While that may seem like a long time, that’s ten more years of ongoing effective treatment and use of life-saving prophylactics.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a long-time champion for the eradication of the disease, spoke out on World AIDS Day 2016 to address the need to alleviate the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and the need to normalize the practice of rigorous testing and treatment. “Tolerance and awareness stop AIDS. Speaking out protects life.”

The goal remains to treat 30 million people by 2030, and while that may have once seemed insurmountable, the past ten years has proven it possible. The truth is, people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives than ever, and that is more than enough reason to celebrate.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

President of Kenya Launches Campaign to Address HIV-Related Stigma
The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, launched a new HIV-related stigma campaign at State House, in Nairobi, in order to raise awareness and mobilize young people to be HIV tested, treated and cared for in case of a positive diagnosis.

The national initiative called “Kick out HIV stigma” occurs during the Kenyan Maisha County Football League. The Maisha County Football League is a nationwide 30-week project that aims to diminish HIV infections among young people by using the power of sports in order to terminate HIV.

HIV is considered to be the most crucial and severe health threat dominating people in Kenya. Specifically, it is estimated that during 2015, there have been 35,776 HIV infections and 3,853 deaths among young people aged 15 to 24.

Stigma that is related to HIV remains one of the most vital barriers and concerns for young people who are diagnosed. The HIV-related stigma campaign is a collaboration among the Football Kenya Federation, the government, the U.N., the civil society and finally the Kuza Biashara, a company that focuses on innovative digital technology.

The campaign’s strategy focuses on developing 1,426 football matches in which young people participate from 47 countries and 200,000 people will be worldwide reached every week. By the end of the program, on Dec. 1, the Maisha County League Awards will arise in which both regional and international football winners will be announced by Kenya’s president as part of a celebration of the World AIDS Day.

Eliza Karampetian-Nikotian

Photo: Flickr

In celebration of World AIDS Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced that 17 countries and territories have likely eliminated the vertical transmission of HIV from mother-to-child through screening and intervention efforts.

Cuba was the first nation to be certified as transmission free by the WHO. At least 17 other nations are close behind or have already achieved the same success. The elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission is a part of the United Nation’s campaign to end the AIDS epidemic, which has claimed the lives of 39 million people since it began.

Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO/WHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis, said, “If we want to end HIV by 2030, we need to accelerate action for prevention and access to treatment, focusing on key populations and increasing investment and resources.”

There is now strong evidence that an increased investment in preventative measures could make vertical transmission a thing of the past on a global scale. Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO/WHO, said in a news release “The countries of the Americas have made tremendous efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, cutting new infections by half since 2010.”

Despite steps in the right direction, the transmission of HIV from mother to child is still a critical issue for millions. Transmission can occur during pregnancy, birth, or during breastfeeding.

To combat mother-to-child HIV transmission, pregnant women are given HIV medication throughout their pregnancies. For those who have not received treatment throughout the course of their pregnancies, an IV-administered antiviral called zidovudine can be given during labor, the point at which infants are most exposed to infected blood and bodily fluids.

The IV treatment enters the infant’s bloodstream via the placenta, rendering the infant immune to HIV infection, regardless of the level of the mother’s infection.

Due to the many risk factors associated with mother-to-child HIV transmission, the eradication throughout an entire nation is an impressive feat.

This success in the Americas signals a new phase of hope in the preventive medicine game.

Claire Colby

Sources: AIDS info, A Plus
Picture: Google Images

world aids day
The 27th annual World AIDS Day was globally celebrated on December 1, 2014. The first World AIDS Day held in 1998 was the first-ever global health day. Since 2011, the universal theme for World AIDS Day has been “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination.” This year, the U.S. theme for World AIDS day was: “Focus, Partner, and Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation.”

Currently, 35 million people in the world live with HIV/AIDS. Since 1981, 39 million deaths have been attributed to this disease.

The fight against AIDS has been a global, collective effort. It is outlined in Millennium Development Goal 6 and the United Nations has declared fighting AIDS a top priority.

While significant strides have been made against combating HIV/AIDS in recent years, the greatest concern of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is that there are still too many new cases of HIV infections each year.

One of the primary ways that the world is working together against HIV/AIDS is through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was established in 2012 and islargely guided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Currently, the CDC facilitates the growth and development of national HIV/AIDS programs in nearly 60 developing countries, particularly throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Through PEPFAR funding, the CDC leads programs aimed at tackling HIV/AIDS and eradicating the disease completely.

In November 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated:

“The goal of an AIDS-free generation may be ambitious, but it is possible with the knowledge and interventions we have now. And that is something we’ve never been able to say without qualification before. Imagine what the world would look like when we succeed.”

PEPFAR outlines the framework to tackle all the areas that would stop the spread of HIV. The four main points include:

  •  A road map for saving lives: Those who have already have HIV/AIDS, particularly mothers and children, are given priority and treatment to eradicate the presence and prevent the detrimental effects of HIV to ultimately reduce the mortality rates caused by the disease.
  • A road map for smart investments: The CDC conducts research to target the cause of the virus and ultimately protect the most vulnerable. Not only does it track down the virus, but it also figures out how to partner with the part of the population that is most vulnerable.
  • A road map for shared responsibility: This reiterates the importance of working collectively across both the public sector and private sector alike, as well as multinational and bilateral organizations.
  • A road map for driving results with science: PEPFAR will support those with solid and compelling scientific research. While funding research, PEPLAR will fund new and promising technologies that will prevent or effectively treat HIV/AIDS.

Despite the large number of new cases of HIV each year, significant progress has been achieved. Even the mortality rates due to HIV/AIDS have substantially dropped by 35 percent since 2005, which was considered the worst period for AIDS. In 2005, the number of deaths caused by AIDS had risen to 2.4 million people. By 2013, that number dropped to 1.5 million deaths.

One thing to emphasize is the importance of working collectively against this disease and finding new methods of treatment and prevention. The disease is not limited to third-world countries. Rather, no country has been exempt from finding new cases of HIV infections. While the highest instances of new HIV infections are found in sub-Saharan Africa, the first world has its share as well. For instance, there are nearly 100,000 people in the U.K. who live with HIV and in the U.S. alone there are currently 1.2 million people.

As the world joins together once a year to remember all those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, support those currently battling HIV/AIDS and work together to bring sustainable solutions to eradicate the disease, one can celebrate the great strides already made and hope to see the virus destroyed forever.

 – Christina Cho 

Sources:, CDC, UNDP 1, UNDP 2, US Department of State
Photo: The Guardian

As World AIDS Day 2014 fast approaches, organizations strive to promote awareness and support for the cause. Led by groups such as the World Health Organization, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 each year. This year’s campaign aims to promote social change and focuses on closing the access gap to important treatment.

Over 39 million people have lost their lives to HIV over the last few decades, and an estimated 35 million people were living with the disease in 2013. World AIDS Day is intended to pay homage to those who have died while advocating awareness and support for an HIV-free future.

The 2014 campaign asserts that closing the gap in HIV testing accessibility would help 19 million unknowingly affected people receive care and support. Additionally, the 35 million HIV-positive people across the world would gain access to vital medicine.

The campaign also aims to allow for children to receive better access to HIV treatment, as currently only 24 percent are able to receive care.

Organizations declare that by closing the access gap, the world could see an end to the AIDS pandemic by the year 2030.

The WHO plans to honor World AIDS Day by releasing new information and recommendations to assist countries in their progress toward HIV prevention and treatment. The new WHO guidelines will cover recommended use of antiretroviral drugs for those that have been exposed to HIV including healthcare professionals, sex workers and rape victims. The manual will also include information regarding the treatment of infections and diseases that can be detrimental to HIV patients.

For the last several years, the WHO has been a strong advocate of antiretroviral, or ARV drug treatment for HIV infections. The latest statement reported, “The ARV regimens now available, even in the poorest countries, are safer, simpler, more efficacious and more affordable than ever before.”

As World AIDS Day approaches, many are showing their support for the cause and the 2030 virus-free goal. Leader of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, states, “With collective and resolute action now and a steadfast commitment for years to come, an AIDS-free generation is indeed within reach.”

However, WHO officials urge that there is still a great deal of work to be done in order for these treatments to become accessible to communities in need. Officials hope that the new HIV guidelines will help to close the gap in prevention and treatment for everyone affected.

In honor of World AIDS Day 2014, many companies are providing special offers that allow for proceeds to go toward the fight against AIDS. The (RED) campaign has partnered with businesses including the Apple Store, Starbucks, CocaCola, Bank of America and many more to raise awareness and gain support for the cause.

Getting involved this holiday season, either by participating in the campaign or helping as a consumer, can make an enormous difference in the future of our world.

– Megan Douches

Photo: World Aid Day UN AIDS, WHO
Photo: Flickr

The AIDS and HIV epidemics remain rampant around the world. The rates of infection are shown to have unprecedented growth in countries and regions that do not have the resources and education to provide to key AIDS populations. Overall, AIDS-related infections and deaths have dropped around the world. But the anxiety remains that such numbers are not sustainable.

In anticipation of World AIDS Day on December 1, USAIDS released a new report compiling Global AIDS data. In 2012, an estimated 35.3 million people around the world lived with HIV. Of those, 2.3 million people were newly infected with the disease while 1.6 million people died from AIDS.

There is overall progress from the earlier years. New HIV infections among adults and children have dropped 33% since 2001 while AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 30% since antiretroviral vaccines debuted in 2005.

The age gap of the afflicted has increased, extending to children and adults aged 50 years and older. The report also mentions that in “priority countries” 3 in 10 children receive HIV treatment according to treatment guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Under these new guidelines, an estimated 10 million total people around the world will be in need of treatment.

The numbers have significant room for improvement. Investments for HIV prevention services have plateaued since 2008, and by 2015 an estimated $24 billion will be needed annually for HIV resources.

As the world’s deadliest and unrelenting infectious killer, real solutions are being sought by organizations like USAIDS and the WHO. Attention to child patients, preventative education, the offering of preventative supplies, and the fostering of stable health care systems are the priorities in the mission of containing the disease in the most plagued of regions.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: UNAIDS, WHO
Photo: IB Times