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33 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide – 2.1 million die each year and 2.7 million more are infected.

What will you do this World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day began on December 1, 1988 and has since been recognized around the world each year. It has become a key opportunity to increase awareness, fight against prejudice, commemorate the lives lost to the disease, and celebrate the victories in increased access to services and treatment.

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights,’ which offers the opportunity to recognize that despite the strides, the most marginalized and vulnerable populations still do not have access to the care and services they need – that access is their human right. The review of the Millennium Development Goals this past September reminded us of the goal to achieve universal access and World AIDS Day is another moment to remind policymakers, parents, teachers, and friends alike that we have lots to do to achieve universal access and protect human rights.


Do something this World AIDS Day. Whether you have a lot or a little time, we have just the way for you to get involved:

I care about the issue but don’t think I have time to plan an event.

I can whip up something quick, send me a free kit!

Bring it on! I’ll organize a film screening for World AIDS Day, send me a free kit!

I care about the issue but don’t think I have time to plan an event.

1 ) Read the rest of this entry »

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By Alex B. Hill, Global Health Issue Analyst

Follow the Polio outbreak in real time with HealthMap

Smallpox has been globally eradicated since 1980, so why is the eradication of Polio so much more difficult? The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) would be conducting a new targeted 15 country effort to vaccinate 72 million children in Africa. The new campaign follows numerous failed efforts of the past and reemerging outbreaks. Why does the African continent remain prone to Polio outbreaks that spread rapidly? Why did the organized campaign to eradicate Smallpox take only 21 years while Polio is going on almost 40 years?

Since 1796, when cowpox was used to protect humans from Smallpox, eradication efforts have taken place. It wasn’t until the WHO intensified the eradication of smallpox in 1967 that efforts were coordinated around the world. The Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP) was jointly run by the WHO, CDC, and National Ministries of Health in various countries. Doctors and epidemiologists from the US volunteered to help with the efforts. In many instances US volunteers were overbearing and controlling of their local counterparts. A report by Paul Greenough documented the use of intimidation and coercion in the final stages of the SEP. Foreign volunteers were sent to kick down doors (literally), force vaccination of those who refused, and fix the mistakes of local staff members (1995). These coercive tactics evoked resistance from local communities, but the SEP prevailed. The SEP was run in a structured, militant fashion, where individual human rights were overridden for the global public good. Similar issues with resistance have been seen in Polio eradication efforts, but responses to resistance have not been as militant. Could this be why Polio has continued to resurface?

The earliest documented case of Polio in Africa is traced back to 1580 B.C. in Egypt and still the virus continues to spread across the continent. The eradication of Polio relies heavily on Read the rest of this entry »

By Binta Diallo, Global Health Issue Analyst

Eleven months after the earthquake hit Haiti, the country is now faced with its worst health challenge; cholera.  As of November first, the cholera outbreak in central Haiti had killed more than 250 people and infected more than 3,000 people.  Until the current outbreak, cholera has not been documented to be found in Haiti since the 1960s.  Due to the lack of familiarity with the disease, many people are said to be frightened by the news of the outbreak and unsure of what steps to take to avoid the disease.

For those of you unfamiliar with cholera here are some key details about the disease.  Cholera is an acute infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea and vomit.  It is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  The diarrhea and vomiting leads to severe dehydration, and can become deadly within 24 hours if left untreated.  It is easily treated through rehydration and antibiotics however may be difficult in Haiti’s current poor sanitary conditions.

Although, it is very tempting to link the outbreak to the January earthquake, it is very uncertain as to where the outbreak came from.  Many experts including Dr. Brigitte Vasset from the international organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Paris are reluctant in linking the outbreak directly with the quake.  Sanitary conditions were poor in many parts of Haiti even before earthquake.  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that after the earthquake while cholera testing should have been carried out, the disease was “extremely unlikely to occur.”  Many health experts agree that for cholera to occur, bad sanitation and hygiene have to coincide with people carrying the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.

There are many other hypotheses of how the disease appeared in Haiti.  Read the rest of this entry »

By Michaela Maynard, Global Health Issue Analyst

Nicholas Kristof coined the phrase in his article, published in the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday: “Do-It-Yourself” Foreign Aid; it’s a shift from the usual ‘wealthy country’ gives to ‘poor country’ to improve health and development. Mr. Kristof introduces readers to several of these D.I.Y. individuals: a woman working to manufacture sanitary pads in Rwanda, so that females will not have to miss work or school because they are menstruating; a 23-year old who developed a children’s shelter in Nepal, a mission that started with the $5,000 she had saved from babysitting jobs during high school.

The dedication and commitment that these and other D.I.Y. individuals demonstrate is inspiring. This kind of altruism reminds me that despite all the hardships in the world, there is hope. Today, the delivery of foreign aid does not depend on presidents, United Nations officials or even multi-millionaires. It is the workings of passionate but ordinary individuals with great ideas who are chipping away at huge global challenges. And, that’s the problem I guess, we are only chipping away at the issues.

The article made me question the long-term effects of foreign aid and the sustainability of these projects. If the goal is to make long-lasting changes, shouldn’t we be working towards more systematic development? Shouldn’t we be trying to help countries, economies, and governments help themselves? Read the rest of this entry »

By Simone Oyekan, Global Health Issue Analyst

These days cell phones are used for everything. From sending e-mails to creating powerpoint presentations and to conducting video calls. They have even replaced the home phone as the primary number of contact. But who would have thought that cell phones could be used to solve global problems? As part of a research project, some students from the University of California, Berkeley have created an innovative way to use the cell phone to provide solutions to various global health issues.

The students took a microscope and a Nokia N95 and put them together. They call it the ‘CellScope.’ With the lens attached, doctors are able to see and take photographs of blood cells, then images of cell samples are sent by MMS anywhere in the world for instant analysis. The device consists of fluorescent tagging molecules that attach themselves to the bacteria (specifically those used in identifying diseases), and then the CellScope can be used to detect the presence of disease in individuals. The snap-on microscope also includes a holder for glass slides that can be used to obtain blood samples. New technologies like these make possibilities endless for medical professionals and portable clinics who want to offer healthcare anywhere in the world.

At first glance, this sounds like an excellent invention. Read the rest of this entry »

By Binta Diallo, Global Health Issue Analyst

Recently, the Obama Administration announced that they were going to be allocating $4 billion to the Global Fund.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Global Fund, it is an international “bank” that distributes funds and appropriate resources to the fight against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.  The Global Fund is currently contributing to about 144 countries around the world.  During a recent meeting with the donors in New York, it was announced that countries will be contributing a total of $11.7 billion USD for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next three years. Note that this is less than what they previously said would be the worst case scenario of $13 billion. $4 billion of the total amount comes from the U.S, which the biggest contribution from any country, and would be a 38 percent increase of US contributions from the last three years. Although the pledge of $4 billion from the US increased from previous years, it is still not enough. Since the Global Fund works to fight against the spread of AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis throughout the world, the financial need is extremely high. Based on the projected needs ($13 billion to keep treatment at current levels) and failed commitments by other nations, the US pledge ends up being very small.

Questions about the management and accountability of the Global Fund seem to have affected the magnitude of countries’ monetary commitments. An U.S official said that the US pledge could potentially increase if the Global Fund and participating countries “improve their management of grants, work to avoid duplication of efforts, improve accountability and monitoring.”

This brings up the question: why should the administration pledge more funds if their money is not being used efficiently?  Read the rest of this entry »

The first global health Issue Analyst training occurred exactly a week ago. Yes we did it, we discussed maternal health, reproductive health in crisis situations and HIV/AIDS all in one night! It is possible!

Slide from Maternal Health PresentationJodi Keyserling, a policy analyst with CARE, started off the night with a presentation on maternal health. Not only did Jodi highlight the issues surrounding maternal health and shocking statistics like the difference between a women’s risk of maternal death in Sub-Saharan Africa (1 in 36) versus those living in the U.S. (1 in 2,100), but also shared recent policy news including the Global MOMS Act.  Here is one of my favorite slides from her presentation that illustrates the intersections between other global health problems and maternal health.

Erika Larson with JSI Research and Training Institute’s reproductive health for refugees ASTARTE program, followed with a presentation on Reproductive Health (RH) in Crisis situations. I had no idea that “8 out of 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality are crisis-affected” or that conflict-affected countries receive 53% less official development assistance for RH activities than non-crisis countries. Here are some slides that I found really helpful (click on images for bigger size):

JSI RH-Crisis-Take awayJSI- What are the consequences

We ended the night with a bang as Kaytee Riek, Director of Organizing at Health GAP, gave us a fabulous presentation on the current HIV/AIDS landscape including how the US is contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Prior to the presentation, I was not aware of Read the rest of this entry »

By Michaela Maynard, Global Health Issue Analyst

For each minute that it takes you to read this post, a woman is dying in labor, and for every birthing death, twenty more women are left suffering from disability. Obstetric fistula is the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities. Worldwide, the condition affects over two million women. Obstetric fistula results from prolonged, obstructed labor without access to timely medical care, typically a caesarean section.  During prolonged labor, the positioning of the baby and the pressure of the infant’s head can result in damage to the organs of a women’s pelvis. In almost 90% of fistula cases the infant is stillborn or dies within the first week of birth and if the mother survives, she may be left with a fistula or hole between the vagina and the bladder or the vagina and the rectum, causing her to constantly leak urine or feces.

Women suffering from fistula are incapable of carrying out their normal workload, and they rely heavily on others for support.  In many instances, women report being divorced from their husbands, ostracized from their families, and forced out of their communities as a result of fistula. The constant leaking of urine and the smell that follows them is stigmatizing; they become outcasts and are pushed deeper into poverty and destitution.

Obstetric fistula is not a third-world anomaly. For centuries, women all over the world have been faced with prolonged, obstructed labor and obstetric fistula. In fact, the first fistula hospital was located in New York City on the site of what is now the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In the U.S., the availability of timely obstetric care has helped to eradicate fistula, yet women in Africa, South Asia, and other developing countries of the world still suffer from this preventable and treatable condition.

Surgery can treat the fistula, but the cost of surgical treatment and the lack of trained surgeons prevent women from receiving care. In countries of civil unrest, healthcare services are often depleted, roadways accessible to hospitals and clinics are Read the rest of this entry »

By Sydney Kornegay

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) received their 20-year old check-up at the MDG summit in September. The diagnosis? While some of the goals are on track for completion by 2015, others- like reducing maternal mortality- have experienced only patchy progress. The poorest and most vulnerable communities continue to suffer, and have unequal access to basic human services. These trends are particularly true for women.

According to a UNICEF report of the conference, 1,000 women still die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, mostly in Sub-Sahara and South East Asia. That’s one woman every minute. And while that number represents a one-third reduction in the maternal mortality ratio since 1990, it’s not fast enough to satisfy MDG 5. This goal calls for a three fourths reduction in the maternal mortality ratio and universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.

“MDG 5 is not on track for success, based on current trends. An orchestrated global effort will be needed to achieve it.”

“By focusing our efforts on scaling up practical interventions that reach the poorest and most marginalized women, we can reach MDG 5 more quickly, more cost-effectively and more equitably.”

These cost-effective, equitable solutions are already being implemented in several countries.

Take Brazil: In 1996, just over 70% of poor mothers received skilled care during childbirth. According to a recent report by World Health Organization and UNICEF, coverage of skilled birth attendance became almost universal in the country, by 2007, even amongst the poorest.[1] Brazil has focused on sending Read the rest of this entry »

By April Stewart

The European Union has included stipulations on intellectual property rights in a free trade and investment agreement (FTA) that is currently being negotiated with India. The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an organization of HIV/AIDS positive people who advocate to improve the quality of life and define proper standards of living for the infected, held a “Die In” in front of the Ministry of Commerce to protest intellectual property regulations within the agreement.

Intellectual property (IP) rights have become problematic with generic drug companies producing antiretroviral medicines for AIDS patients. India, with these IP provisions will be unable to produce affordable medication for the portion of the population infected with HIV or AIDS.  If IP provisions are included within this agreement the patent terms will be extended, the exportation of generic drugs will become difficult, and there will be a “delay [in] the registration of generic medicines.”

Thomas Pogge, a German philosopher, argues that Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for pharmaceutical companies are “morally problematic” in his book World Poverty and Human Rights. I agree with his assessment; while intellectual property rights may suit art forms such as music, IP provisions should not be applicable to what Pogge has termed “essential medicines.” I would argue that with the modern developments of medicine for HIV/AIDS, these should be included in the definition of “essential medicine.” In many countries, funding for the first round of antiretroviral Read the rest of this entry »

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