Category Archives: HIV / AIDS

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.