Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

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

Meeting Key US Players in Zambia’s National Health #ZambiaHealth

After spending nearly a week and a half in Zambia during the second half of July with nine other new media journalists we concluded our final day with an official visit to the United States Embassy in Lusaka. We met with representatives from USAID, PEPFAR, the Peace Corps, and the CDC. We also met with the US Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia, Mark. C. Storella. The visit provided a capstone to all of the site visits and panel discussions we had reporting from Zambia. It also provided a tightly wrapped conclusion to the information we learned on the ground not only in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, but also in some of the rural areas in Zambia’s Southern Province.

Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia, Mark Storella
Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia, Mark Storella

Dr. Lawrence Marum, the country Director for the CDC in Zambia mentioned that for two decades HIV transformed countries and now the best prevention is through early detection. “We have gone through a transformation I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime,” Marum said. “Five hundred thousand people are alive today in Zambia and on ARVs who otherwise would be dead.”

Marum also underscored the skepticism many in the west had in the early 1990s about African doctors’ ability to prescribe ARVs. Today thousands of Zambian doctors can prescribe ARVs which shows a significant sustainability and capacity change.

In Zambia, through work with these four key US partners as well as through the Department of Defense, Zambia is creating a climate of increased access to HIV testing, education, and counseling, PMTCT, access to ARVs, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, and the reduction of maternal mortality. In fact, Zambia is one of three countries that is on track to eliminate PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) and could create an AIDS-free generation. Zambia is also working diligently to rampantly reduce the maternal mortality rate of 591 per 100,000 live births. Compare that to 4 per 100,000 live births in the United States. Working in select districts in Zambia, the maternal mortality is dropping significantly. It’s only a matter if the interventions can be scaled.

Under the leadership of Ambassador Storella, Zambia is gradually becoming an active part in financing countrywide health services and is moving to accept country ownership of health programs. This is a process to be sure. Zambian officials have responded and have increased budget allocations for HIV/AIDS detection and treatment.

“Zambia is moving in the right direction,” Storella said.

In fact, Zambia has increased their health budget by 45 percent. Storella realizes that there will come a point where despite budgets health programs will have to be sustainable. “We cannot just provide treatment,” he said. “We have to ramp up health systems.”

One of the main goals of Ambassador Storella is to ensure that US-funded programs produce measurable results and that he shows good stewardship of the American taxpayer’s money. “Diseases don’t know borders,” Storella said. “We are the front line of protecting the American people and the world.”

I reported about HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria as an International Reporting Project Zambia fellow.

[Photo Gallery] Visual Storytelling in Zambia

From mid July through the end of the month I traveled throughout Zambia covering stories about HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria with the International Reporting Project as an IRP Zambia Fellow. I joined nine other new media journalists who put a new spin on traditional reporting of these infectious diseases. You can read my published pieces so far below and see some of my photos from the trip. All of the trip photos have been captioned if you would like to learn more about a specific one.

Announcing New Partner: PSI

We are really thrilled to announce our newest partner: PSI!

PSI is a global health organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world by focusing on serious challenges like a lack of family planning, HIV and AIDS, barriers to maternal health, and the greatest threats to children under five, including malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition.

In fact, while I was in Zambia this month I saw many clinics in the country where PSI has a presence including a male circumcision clinic in Livingston.

A hallmark of PSI is a commitment to the principle that health services and products are most effective when they are accompanied by robust communications and distribution efforts that help ensure wide acceptance and proper use.

We look forward to working with PSI to spread the word about their great work around the world.

Connect with PSI:

Like them on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. And stay informed by reading our Impact blog.

Want to learn more? Send them an email: jkalungara-at psi-dot-org

Reporting from Zambia with the International Reporting Project

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I will be reporting from Zambia as an International Reporting Project Zambia Fellow starting on July 15. I will be in Africa with nine stellar new media journalists. We all have our own beats and will report on different angles about HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. I personally will report on how these infectious diseases acutely affect mothers and children.

You can follow my work on the Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists. You can follow all of our work at the #ZambiaHealth hashtag. You can also follow my personal observations at jjamesonline.com.

Photo:

Children sing at the Fountain of Hope centre in Lusaka, Zambia, during a visit from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The centre helps to rehabilitate thousands of children living on the streets of the Zambian capital.
25 February 2012
Lusaka, Zambia

Book Review: Our Kind of People

Our Kind of People: A Continent's Challenge, A Country's HopeOur Kind of People: A Continent’s Challenge, A Country’s Hope by Uzodinma Iweala

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When it comes to HIV/AIDS on the African continent we, as Westerners, are often blinded by the ubiquitous stereotypes that permeate our perspectives and opinions about Africa. We then can only rely on the authentic and experienced voices of authors, reporters, and first-person stories from those who have lived and grown up on the continent. We have to rely on those who have committed themselves to setting the record straight about what it is like to be an African who has to face HIV/AIDS every day in his/her community, country, continent and the depth of what it means to them. We can’t guess. We have to lean on their understanding so as to better understand ourselves.

Uzodinma Iweala set out to chronicle the stories about HIV/AIDS in his birth country, Nigeria, in Our Kind of People. He traversed the country to discover how his countrymen and women view the disease; how they cope with it, and how they have learned to live with it. This is especially important in a country like Nigeria that is religiously conservative, but has one of the highest HIV infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Our Kind of People, Iweala traveled the country from Lagos to small rural villages to hear first-hand how people – men and women, old and young, rich and poor, are coping with HIV/AIDS and how those who have succumbed to the disease dealt with the realization that they too were living with the disease that would eventually take their lives.

Iweala talked with doctors, activists, advocates, researchers, and ordinary people about how HIV/AIDS has changed their lives, their families and their communities. What most of them revealed is that having HIV/AIDS is disgraceful for many Africans. They don’t want to discuss it with others and in some cases, paralyzed by fear of people finding out, they don’t even seek treatment at the hospital to get tested or to get the cocktail of drugs that will allow them to live with the disease instead of being tortured by  it.

Nigeria has come a long way. Its citizens, urged on by those brave enough to face HIV/AIDS from a realistic perspective and can-do approach, have also come to live with it instead of hiding in fear from it. HIV/AIDS is a part of life in Nigeria – few people are not touched by the disease in some way.

One of the painful truths about Our Kind of People is that while Iweala discounts the Western stereotypes about Africans and HIV/AIDS those same stereotypes seem to be played out throughout the book. I suppose that is the power of stereotypes – everyone is plagued by them no matter how hard we try not to be. Nevertheless Our Kind of People is a much-needed look at the African perspective of HIV/AIDS, one that is sorely needed in the conversation about the disease and its affect on the African continent.

View all our reviews

Photo: UN Photo/Louise Gubb

New Partner Update: mothers2mothers

In order to prevent babies from being born with HIV massive outreach must take place in order to encourage HIV-positive women to take the necessary drugs to ensure their babies are born HIV-negative. Today no child should be born with HIV. That is why we are excited to partner with mothers2mothers!

From mothers2mothersmothers2mothers was founded in 2001 to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and sustain the long term health of women and children. Our model puts mothers at the heart of our mission to promote healthy motherhood and eliminate pediatric AIDS. Since its inception, mothers2mothers has helped over one million women growing from one site in Cape Town, South Africa, to nearly 600 sites in seven sub-Saharan African countries.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is almost entirely preventable. Yet, everyday approximately 900 children worldwide are newly infected with HIV. Almost all of these children are in sub-Saharan Africa, and nearly all of them acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

Not only is HIV the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age, but without treatment half of the children born with HIV will die before their second birthday.
mothers2mothers uses a simple and proven model to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies and sustain the health of women and children. We educate, employ and empower mothers living with HIV, who work as Mentor Mothers in health centers to provide lifesaving information and one and one support.

Employing Mentor Mothers helps them gain economic security for themselves and their children, while also elevating them as respected role models in their community, defying stigma and discrimination.

Together we can end pediatric AIDS. To find out how you can get involved please visit:

Website: http://www.m2m.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mothers2mothersintl
Twitter: @m2mtweets