Category Archives: HIV / AIDS

Botswana Receives First White Space Telemedicine Service to Reach Rural Populations

One of the beautiful aspects of Africa is its beautiful, wide expanses. All over the continent you will be awed by how far-reaching your eyes can see especially when traveling through its spectacular countryside. But as much as it is beautiful, the size of Africa also poses a significant problem because without modern infrastructure, including the Internet, and transport to major cities, those who live in the deepest, far-reaching rural areas are not privy to the best medical care they can receive.

In Botswana, this is about to change.

In partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Microsoft, the University of Botswana, and other global partners, the Botswana-University Hub (BUP) has launched a new project, “Project Kgolagano,” to bring telemedicine to rural areas in the country to help diagnose maternal health cases as well as HIV, cervical cancer, and TB cases.

Using TV white spaces (unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum) Internet broadband is able to reach even the most remote villages in developing countries. In fact, it has been reported that Microsoft and Google are both chasing white spaces in Africa where only 16 percent of the continent’s population is online. This is where solar power can be game-changing to keep Africa online despite its energy shortcomings. Just look at Kenya where Microsoft helped provide broadband Internet in rural areas even when electricity was nonexistent or very scarce.

Continue reading Botswana Receives First White Space Telemedicine Service to Reach Rural Populations

9 Last-Minute Virtual Valentine’s Day Gifts for Good

Valentine's Day 1

If you’re like many of us you may have waited until the very last-minute to buy your loved ones Valentine’s Day gifts. While you can still run out and buy a wealth of flowers, cards, and chocolates, here are nine virtual Valentines’s Day gifts you can give that also give back.

Oxfam Unwrapped: Oxfam recommends giving duos of animals for Valentine’s Day: a pair of chickens ($18), a pair of sheep ($80) or a pair of goats ($100).  Send lovely animals to families in need.

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation: EGPAF is asking its lovely supporters to send Valentine’s Day e-cards to spread awareness about pediatric AIDS. It costs nothing, but the gift of awareness is always key. Click here to spread the love.

Midwives for Haiti: We all believe in the power of saving mothers’ lives. This Valentine’s Day donate to Midwives for Haiti and help them stock their medicinal chest with life-saving medicines for the entire year. Donate with love to Midwives for Haiti.

Vaccine Ambassadors: There is no doubt that vaccines save lives. Vaccines are one of the best ways to show love for children around the world. Buy vaccines with love for children whose lives can be saved by this easy intervention. $10 vaccinates 19 children against the measles.

Continue reading 9 Last-Minute Virtual Valentine’s Day Gifts for Good

Zambians Head to the Polls: Candidates’ Stance on Health Care

This morning as most Americans were asleep Zambians headed to the polls to elect either the candidate of the ruling party, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front founded in 1991 by the late President Michael Sata, or the leading opposition candidate representing the United Party for National Development, Hakainde Hichilema. Political observers say the race is close and there is no definitive leader at this point. Polls close at 6 PM Central African Time Zone.

Zambia one of the leaders on the continent of copper production along with the DRC and both candidates disagree about taxing mining companies that employ many Zambians in the Copper Belt according to Al Jazeera.  A contentious subject, Lungu believes the copper companies should be heavily taxed while Hichilema believes taxes on the companies should not increase which could cause mine closures that could in turn hemorrhage workers. As expected, both candidates have promised increased job creation and more aid to poor, rural Zambians across the country, a move that researchers at the London School of Economics say is key to helping elect African politicians. Most African politicians favored overwhelming urban campaigning to curb urban violence during election time, but have quickly learned that re-election proves difficult without the rural vote.

Hichilema is running to increase the number of frontline health workers and to improve training and respecting health workers. The United Party for National Development’s health provisions range from decreasing taxes on health care and medicines and providing free care to poor Zambians to increasing the number of frontline health workers. Of note, the UPND has placed an emphasis on fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The Patriotic Front has created a Health Services Provision that lays out in six parts how the party will improve Zambia’s health care system starting with every Zambian’s right to quality health care. The Patriotic Front is also committed to better education and working conditions for health workers based on the contents of the Provision.  It  also calls for a realignment of the Mother and Child function.

Health care is an important issue for a country that has a maternal mortality rate of 591 out of 100,000 live births (one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world ) and mortality for children under the age of five is 119 per 1,000 according to UNICEF.

Thus far copper mining, which accounts for more than 86 percent of Zambia’s foreign direct investment and has made Zambia the eighth largest producer of copper, seems to be primary on the political agenda. After the election, only time will tell if health care, particularly maternal and child health, can compete with the copper industry and job creation.

Photo: www.facebook.com/hakainde.hichilema

 

 

5 of Our Partners Who Continue to Work in Haiti #Haiti5Years

In an earlier piece today, How is Haiti Faring Five Years After the Earthquake, development and recovery effort data and details were rather pessimistic. The numbers bear out that while some overall development achievements have been met, there is still a long way to go to help Haiti fully recover. And, yet, there continues to be successes all over Haiti. Our partners are helping to make these successes happen.

SOS Children’s Villages 

On January 10, 2015, SOS Children’s Villages opened its third village for orphaned children in Les Cayes, Haiti. 63 children will be provided a home. For over 30 years, SOS Children’s Villages has provided family-based care and education programs in Santo and Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Immediately following the earthquake SOS Children’s Villages took in 400 orphaned children and fed 24,000 children every day.

“The biggest challenge for SOS Children’s Villages during the earthquake was to find a way to welcome these children because the village was too small,” said Celigny Darius, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages – Haiti. “We installed temporary houses to enable us to take them in.”

In addition to the opening of its third village, SOS Children’s Villages has invested in six schools to renew education on the island. And 3000 children receive support through their community centers.

Continue reading 5 of Our Partners Who Continue to Work in Haiti #Haiti5Years

How PSI Keeps Sex Workers Safe in Haiti

By Ashley Judd, PSI Global Ambassador

A woman will do whatever is needed to feed her family.

In a brothel in downtown Port Au Prince, you see just that. Twenty women, all of them mothers, were clustered in the front room. The cement walls were sparsely decorated with stenciled yellow stars.

With few options but with families counting on them, these women sell their bodies. They know it’s dangerous. They know the risks. But for them the alternative for their families – homelessness, hunger, hopelessness — is worse. PSI tries to keep them safe.

A PSI lab tech is in the room. She covers a table with gauze. She lays out gloves, testing kits for syphilis and HIV and a bio waste receptacle.

Nadege – who once sold her body, but found work through PSI as a health educator — walks to the center of the room. As she speaks, some women take turns getting their blood drawn.

Thank you for your past support of PSI’s work. You are the kind of person who understands why we must help these women live healthier lives and create better futures for their children. Make a tax-deductible donation to fund the efforts of PSI-trained health workers like Nadege. For a short time, your donation will be matched through a $200,000 challenge gift from PSI’s board of directors.

Fedeline, a quiet woman with a shy smile, comes here every morning. She rents her small room for $6 US a day and gets paid $5 per client.

She works to take care of her son Widney and pay for his education. But she admits that she’s terrified each time she sees a client. She says, “You don’t know if the guy is a good guy or a bad guy. You just have to do it.”

She’s also afraid of STIs like HIV. “If you don’t use a condom, you can get viruses. But we have Nadege. She comes and does the tests for us. She’s one of us.”

At PSI, we believe that every person deserves a chance to live a healthy life. We go into hot spots like brothels and provide HIV testing and counseling free of charge. Preventing illness among women like Fedeline is imperative to a healthy community.

Support this important work. For a short time, your donation will go twice as far through this generous challenge match.

Thank you.

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd is a celebrated American actress and humanitarian. She became an ambassador for PSI in 2002 and served as a board member from 2004 to 2013.

Exclusive Breastfeeding Rates in Kenya Still Low

By Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, Kenyan motherhood blogger and maternal/child health journalist based in Nairobi.

As Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the World Breastfeeding Week, health experts in the country are calling on more stringent efforts to be put in place that will encourage more women to exclusively breastfeed their babies. Though the country has noted an increase in the exclusive breastfeeding rates over the last decade, the numbers are still not enough.

Data from the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) show that in 2003, the exclusive breastfeeding rates stood at 13 per cent, and which rose to 32 per cent in 2008. Despite this remarkable improvement, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mr. James Macharia says that the figures are still not at a desirable level, adding that many Kenyan children still miss out on the important nutritional benefits of breastmilk.

“Out of approximately 1.5 million children born each year in Kenya, only 500,000 of them are exclusively breastfed. This means that over 1 million babies are exposed to the unnecessary risk of malnutrition and increased illness which impact negatively on the country’s road to achieving MDG 4 –that of reducing child mortality,” he says.

New mom at PumwaniA new mother at Pumwani Maternity Hospital on August 1 2014, the day of the launch of the World Brestfeeding Week celebrations in Nairobi at the maternity hospital.

The reasons for the low uptake of exclusive breastfeeding among Kenyan mothers are many. A study conducted by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in two urban slums in Nairobi revealed that only about 2 per cent of children were breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. The study also found out that about 15 per cent of children stop breastfeeding altogether by the end of the first year. Some of the reasons for this low uptake include: poverty, food insecurity, ignorance about best breastfeeding practices, lack of social support, as well as myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding.

Another reason for the low uptake of exclusive breastfeeding is misinformation about breastfeeding when the mother is HIV positive. A significant number of HIV+ Kenyan women think they will transmit HIV to their newborns if they breastfeed them, and so do not offer them breastmilk at all, instead offering them cow’s milk. Notably, and in relation to this, is the fact that the number of Kenyan women who seek antenatal care services (a minimum of four visits during their pregnancy) is only at 47 per cent. Similarly, the number of women who seek postnatal care is 42 per cent. These figures only mean that a large number of women miss out on ideal opportunities for them to receive information about best practices in maternal and newborn health, including information about the extraordinary benefits of breastfeeding.

Working women face barriers too as there are some Kenyan employers who do not adhere to the Kenya Employment Act which offers women a maternity leave of fourteen weeks. Many working women have been called to return work before the end of their maternity leave. Sadly, and despite being aware of the law and its provisions regarding this, many career women agree to return to work before completion of their maternity leave for fear of losing their jobs. Consequently, many middle and upper class working women introduce formula milk to their babies from as early as two months, while the low income women who cannot afford formula milk introduce cow’s milk or porridge to their baby’s diet.

Ignorance also exists among many rural women, who believe that breastmilk alone is not sufficient enough for a baby’s optimal growth and therefore introduce porridge (blended with fish, millet and sorghum) from as early as two months in order to ‘supplement’ the baby’s diet. For many rural communities, a ‘fat’ baby is considered healthy, and many mothers, for fear of reprimand by relatives and health workers about having a ‘think unhealthy baby’ introduce solids to babies (mixed with margarine) at a tender age. Many women in rural communities are yet to be reached with information on the fact that breastmilk alone contains all the nourishment a baby needs for the first six months of life.

Some of the steps the government has made to try and increase the uptake of breastfeeding among Kenyan mothers is the enactment of the Breastmilk and Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act (2012) which regulates the marketing and distribution of breastmilk substitutes and provides for safe and adequate nutrition for infants through promotion of breastfeeding.

The government has also adopted the Option B+ program, where mothers and their newborns receive ARVs, and which helps keep the baby HIV negative while still enjoying all the benefits of breastmilk.

Terry WefwafwaTerry Wefwafwa, head of nutrition and dietetics at the Ministry of Health. She is hopeful that increased awareness campaigns on breasfeeding will translate into more women taking up the practice.

There have also been awareness campaigns through the media –both mainstream and community radio promoting exclusive breastfeeding. Such campaigns work towards increasing the level of information to not only the women, but also men and other members of the household on the critical role they can play with regard to supporting best breastfeeding practices. It is these awareness campaigns that are giving Kenya’s head of nutrition and dietetics, Mrs. Terry Wefwafwa confidence that the next survey will reveal a significant increase in the number of women exclusively breastfeeding.

“Since the last survey was done in 2008, intense sensitization among communities about the benefits of breasmilk have been done, and I am confident that the uptake on exclusive breastfeeding has increased. This will be evident in the next survey report,” she says.

Maryanne_Waweru pptMaryanne Waweru-Wanyama is a motherhood blogger from Nairobi, Kenya. She tells her motherhood stories on her blog mummytales.com where she also incorporates the experiences of other Kenyan mothers. On her blog, Maryanne provides education on pregnancy, birth, delivery and infant and child care and nutrition. Maryanne is a journalist with over fourteen years experience and who has written, and still writes for various publications in Kenya including: the Daily Nation newspaper, the Star newspaper, the Standard newspaper, Parents Magazine, Healthy Woman Magazine, Healthy Child Magazine and many other publications. Her area of specialty is human interest features, maternal and child health articles. Maryanne is married with two sons.

20 Key Tweets from the #AIDS2014 Conference

"20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), run by the International AIDS Society at the Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia. "
Through July 25, the 2014 International AIDS Conference (IAC) conference is taking place in Melbourne, Australia. With over 14,000 delegates, including experts, religious leaders, scientists, writers, and staunch HIV/AIDS advocates in attendance, the #AIDS2014 conference in the yearly gathering of the minds who stand on the global forefront of the HIV/AIDS conversation. In light of last week’s tragic crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, several have said the mood of the conference is sad and reserved as 100 AIDS scientists and researchers who were en route to the conference never made it.

Despite the tragedy, organizers assured delegates that the conference would continue as planned, “in recognition of our colleagues’ dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS” as reported by ABCNews.com.  There have been several opportunities for attendees to reflect and mourn those in the community who were lost. Follow the hashtag through the end of the week at #AIDS2014.

Here are 20 tweets I found give a thorough glimpse of the conference thus far. 

Momina’s Story: International HIV/AIDS Alliance #WAD2013

Meet Momina

Momina is a 22 year old single mother of two who lives in the city of Adama in central Ethiopia and was diagnosed as living with HIV three years ago. Although she wears a smile, sadness is etched across her face when she talks about her younger son, Yerosa. Born HIV positive, he is now three but Momina knows very little of his life save for the occasional photos she is sent by the American family who adopted him. Momina took the agonising decision to give him up for adoption in the hope that he would be able to receive medical treatment.

In telling her story today, Momina hopes that she might help other young women just like her, to know how they can protect themselves from contracting HIV and get the care and support they need through projects like Link Up being led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Momina

When Momima was a teenager, she left her family home as she was afraid that her parents would marry her off to an older man as they did with her older sister – who later died of AIDS. After falling pregnant with her first child Rapira, and without the support of her parents, she was forced to move from community to community, taking temporary jobs where she could, to try to provide food and shelter for her son.

“I don’t want my child to starve or get hurt,” says Momina.

“There are times when I feed my child and I do not eat at all. I sometimes come home late from work, there are times when I wake him up and feed him because I don’t want him to sleep on an empty belly.”

Without life being tough enough already, three years ago Momina was diagnosed as living with HIV. At that time she had no idea that she was pregnant and subsequently she was not able to receive the treatment needed to protect her unborn child from onward transmission of the virus. When her youngest son, Yerosa was just four months old, Momina learned that he was HIV positive and took the agonising decision to give him up to a family in the US with the hope that he would receive the medical care he needed.

“I convinced myself that it’s better to see my child well. If he had not been seriously ill, I would have not given him away. I would have fought until the end. I am praying for him to be well wherever he is.”

Living with HIV

Determined not to be defined by her HIV status, even when her own mother will not allow her into her family home for fear that she might infect her siblings, Momina remains candid about her condition with friends and colleagues. But in a country where HIV stigma and discrimination still prevail, her openness sometimes costs her and she is presently between jobs.

“I do not let myself down because I live with HIV and have my own objectives.”

“I want to continue my education and qualify as a nurse. I have always had a passion and love for the profession and I want to serve people like me, people living with the virus. I would be happy if I could do that. My biggest aim is to get educated, get a job and live my own life but at the same time I don’t want to cry over split milk”

Momina is assisted with access to HIV treatment and care by Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), who in turn is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Every fortnight she attends a support group meeting organised by OSSA where she and other members of her community living with HIV meet to share their experiences.

OSSA have also helped contribute to her son Rapira’s annual school fee. Momina is determined to see that he gets a good education.

“I wish for him something much greater than I had,” she says with feeling.
“I hope he can go all the way and graduate which I was unable to do.”

In another world, life for Momina and her family could have turned out so very differently. If she had known how to protect herself against HIV. If she had gone through proper antenatal care when she was pregnant with Yerosa. If she had not felt compelled to run away from home for fear of early marriage. If she was able to work freely without worrying about becoming a target for discrimination.

“I would like people to see me a strong person,” she smiles. “I know that there is strength in me; I got that strength from the life I have had. I want young people of my age to be strong and to have the strength to face and overcome challenges.”

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up

Ethiopia is one of five countries currently being targeted by the Alliance and its partners through Link Up, an initiative that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV.

Over the course of the next three years, Link Up will reach more than one million young people aged 15-24 by implementing tailored HIV and sexual and reproductive health interventions to increase uptake and access to services and reduce unintended pregnancies, new HIV infections and HIV-related maternal mortality. In Ethiopia the initiative aims to reach 140,000 young people to improve their sexual health.

What can you do to help?

Show your support to Momina, Link Up and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance by:

1. Sharing Momina’s story (Click to Tweet) (Share on Facebook) #LinkUp
2. Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at www.link-up.org
3. Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook

Thank you for taking the time to read Momina’s story today. It means a lot to everyone involved in this project.

Photo credit: Benjamin Chesterton\duckrabbit\International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Living, Thriving with HIV/AIDS: A Mother’s Story

Can you imagine newly arriving to the United States from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania as a happy, expecting 22-year-old newlywed to attend college and then finding out through a routine prenatal visit that you are HIV positive? This is precisely what happened to Fortunata Kasege in 1997. What turned out to be a dream of coming to America to study journalism quickly turned into a nightmare when she discovered her HIV status.

Fortunata Kasege: Living with HIV and raising a HIV-negative child, I developed a desire to become a part of advocacy and community outreach. Today, I use my story to educate people about HIV/AIDS, to give hope to those who are infected and affected, and to eliminate stigma and stereotyping. Source 

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Kasege. “I was shaking. I was screaming. They were basically telling me that I was going to die. Everything was really, really spinning around my head at that time. I had a high level of anxiety. I had deep depression.”

That was then. Today, life is measurably better for Fortunata Kasege.

Today I hung out on Google+ with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and had the opportunity to speak with and hear Kasege’s uplifting story of hope and survival. It’s moments when I hear true stories of those who have triumphed in the face of despair that I am humbled beyond words by their courage and drive to help others. Today Kasege is a HIV/AIDS advocate and ambassador who spreads the word of hope to other mothers who are also HIV positive. “I feel so lucky,” said Kasege. “I feel like I am the one who got the gift. I am the one who got this incredible gift to be a mom.”

Fifteen years ago all Kasege knew about HIV/AIDS is what she saw in her native Tanzania. When people contracted HIV/AIDS they rapidly died from the disease. “I come from a completely different world where people die from HIV,” Kasege remembered. “You just prepare yourself for the worst. I didn’t want to die at 22.”

In those days HIV/AIDS ravished the African continent. Little did Kasege know after her diagnosis that there was medication to treat her and prevent HIV transmission between she and her unborn daughter. Today Fortunata Kasege is doing well and is healthy. Her daughter, Florida, who is now a teenager, is HIV-free thanks to the medications Kasege received when she initially learned of her HIV status fifteen years ago.

Like Kasege, this Mother’s Day you can celebrate your mom and mothers around the world. Visit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation site, A Mother’s Fight, and leave a comment and tell them how your mom inspired you.

Infographic of the Week: An Integrated Approach to HIV/AIDS and Family Planning Services

An integrated approach to healthcare no matter the setting is a more effective and rights-based approach to healthier outcomes. When family planning services are available at HIV/AIDS clinics, Population Action International (PAI) believes patients will receive better care, health workers will be more efficient, and dollars will be saved.

In sub-Saharan Africa integrated clinic settings are critical to healthier outcomes. In addition to this infographic, PAI created this film last year, In One Place, to drive home the importance of integrated services to family planning and HIV/AIDS services.

PAI Infographic