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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 »

About two weeks ago Julia and I attended the US Global Leadership Council’s annual conference. The day was filled with brilliant speakers, but in the end we both agreed that one of our favorites was Gary Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Working shop. He discussed “Muppet Diplomacy”, the idea that through educational television we can develop nations and encourage a more positive relationship between the U.S. and other nations. As Julia mentioned in an earlier post, this was a refreshing viewpoint on a panel that mostly focused on the direct impact of development on business’ pockets (not so surprising since it was a panel on development’s economic impacts).

Sesame Workshop was founded thirty-eight years ago to help low income children in the U.S. prepare for school. The concept was simple: use television to address the developmental needs of children. Since then, the Sesame Street model has gone global. Sesame Workshop works with 18 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt ,France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, South Africa ) on locally produced media following the Sesame model. Each production team involves the top educators, researchers, psychologists, child development experts, artists, writers and musicians in their respective countries. Today Sesame Street if the most researched show in history.

What is most interesting about this process is how local productions are using the Sesame model to talk about regionally relevant issues. Rechov Sumsum, the production in Israel features Arab-Israeli and Jewish- Israeli muppets living together in harmony. Alam Simsim, Egypt’s production features a bright young female muppet, Khokha, to promote the empowerment and education of young girls.

South Africa’s Takalani Sesame embodies the spirit of the “rainbow nation” and features muppets that speak with accents that reflect the diversity of the nation. Most notable is Kami, a young female muppet who is HIV positive. As South Africa continues to be devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the show is attempting to dispel the culture of silence and stigma surrounding the issue.

The name “Kami” comes from the Setswana word “Kamodelo” which means “acceptance.” Kami is a Read the rest of this entry »

It is a widely accepted notion that the education of girls is directly connected to the incidence of poverty. The more educated a girl in a developing country is, the fewer and more healthy children she is likely to have, the more money she is likely to contribute to the family, and the more productive for her community she is likely to be. Another widely accepted fact, however, is that girls do not receive nearly as much education as boys and this is even more true after the onset of puberty. Not only do household tasks often become an expected priority of girls, but even if enrolled in school, many girls are often missing school for a reason girls in developed countries may wish they could use as an excuse to play hooky: that “time of the month.”

A common worry of nearly every female who travels abroad and staple toiletry item, sanitary pads, have a connection to poverty deeper than one may think. A lack of access to convenient and disposable sanitary pads leaves women in developing countries more prone to infections as well as feeling dehabilitated during that one weeks time. According to SHE, Sustainable Health Enterprises, of girls in Rwanda that miss school, 36% miss it because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

In order to extend the benefits that more wealthy women in developing nations receive in the form of multinational cooperation produced feminine products, A. Muruganathm spent many years relentlessly working towards a practical solution. He researched to find a way to increase access to pads for all women, however, was labeled a pervert and ostracized during the process. Despite the taunting, he pushed on.

In 2006, he perfected a machine, costing only $2,500, which produces 120 pads per minute that can be made for 1 rupee and 50 paise each (about 3 cents), without any government subsidies.1 His thought process is that while the larger companies only think in terms of gains on investment, he hopes to create a business with a moral and humanistic foundation. Another success of his efforts is that women are now able to purchase these machines and sell the pads to other women in order to create income. Thus far, access to pads making women more healthy, educated, and productive has been increased in 200 locations in India currently utilizing his sanitary napkin machine.

Market solutions such as these, while very practical on the micro level, will not solve poverty altogether. While every step helps, it is important to keep in mind the structures in place that cause for discrepancies in standards of living. Muruganathm’s production is unique, however, in that he does not see a need for a private-public partnership, and would rather see business flourish on the grassroots level. Some would say that his machine kills two birds with one stone, as it offers a route for economic development as well as addresses an immediate need of women in the developing world.

1http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/100519/tampons-india-health

Something interesting I found on the IPS website today:

The United States and South Africa Share Great Challenges

July 14, 2010 · By Dedrick Muhammad and Christopher Towne
Originally published in The Huffington Post

Both the United States and South Africa, despite black leadership and multicultural societies, still labor under the legacy of segregation and inequality.

This year, the world was united in our excitement for the World Cup, and in praise of South Africa being the first host for the games in the continent of Africa. Thirty-two countries would compete and more than a million tourists came to South Africa during the month; visitors from Zimbabwe, the US, Malawi, Mexico, and all over the globe joined the Zulu, Xhosa, East Indians, Afrikaners, British, mixed-race “Coloureds,” and other infinitely diverse people that make up the hosting “Rainbow Nation.” But when the wave of euphoria subsides, South Africans will still be faced with a fractured society, a legacy of segregation and inequality established under Apartheid and persisting to this day.

The 2010 tournament has attracted more American viewers than any previous World Cup, and is certain to set records for the amount of viewers around the globe. The tournament has also instigated a record amount of Internet traffic, and has been called the biggest event in the history of the Web. Controversy surrounds the South African government’s use of funds to aid the FIFA games, and the removal of local merchants from the stadium areas in favor of official FIFA-licensed products. But the fact that the World Cup was held in Africa has become a symbol itself: of the continent’s progress since the days of colonialism. What may become the most-watched sporting event in history was held not in Europe or North America, but in Africa.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts from the workshop:  “Youth of Color: Understanding Disparities in Sexual Health Outcomes”

At 15, many teens are entering high school, worrying about getting a date to homecoming and are trying to defeat algebra. That stereotype is far from real for 9.1 million youth ages 15 to 24. This is the number of persons affected by STD’s each year.

At this astonishing rate, young adults are coming to terms with the result of early sexual encounters, without the protection they need.

Due to unique barriers, such as urban sprawl, sexual taboos and support towards abstinence only, youth face a frightening reality: a lack of knowledge about sex, and how to protect oneself.

Youth of color are most at risk. Latina and Black women between the ages of 13 to 24  have over 75% of HIV/AIDS reported. For males, the Gonorreah rate surpasses that of white males by 41%.

This occurrence is not by coincidence. Health is greatly affected by social inequality and prejudice. Oppressed groups are more likely to experience poverty, lack of better education and creates loss of self-esteem in the individual. This leads to terrible circumstances.

But what can be done?

The harsh reality lies in ourselves. We must  work to create better sex education for youth, lessening the sexual taboo, looking beyond stereotypes, and ensuring access to information and services.

For more information, see Advocates for Youth: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/

Like Lisa and Ashley, I was also lucky enough to be in attendance at the CARE National Conference and Celebration last week. As they have already written, the conference focused on three different bills and three main targets: (H.R. 3077/S. 384) the Global Food Security Act and addressing the Millennium Development Goal #1 of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (H.R. 2103/S. 987), which condemns child marriage as a human rights violation; and the Global and Maternal Health Bill (H.R. 5268/ not yet introduced in the Senate), which seeks to reduce rates of maternal mortality with cost-effective and women-empowering solutions.

Global issues like hunger, poverty, or lack of access to education are enormous, and need to be addressed in comprehensive ways.  I’m always a big fan of programs that build the capacity to address the issue in the population most affected. People have the ability to solve their own problems. The Food Security Act places much more emphasis on funding for long-term agriculture rather than emergency aid, and, in doing so, the empowerment of communities to feed themselves. It was with this in mind that I chose the Food Security Act as my focus for the lobbying visit. This wasn’t my first time lobbying on Capitol Hill, but it was the first time that I actually had the job of conveying key elements of the group’s agenda to the Hill staffers.

And I’m certainly glad I did.

As of May 19th, my House representative officially co-sponsored the Global Food Security Act. (Curious about your own reps? Click here for the House, and here for the Senate!). As one of over 900 conference participants with 345 Capitol Hill visits, I definitely felt part of something larger than myself.

But that wasn’t the only type of change at this conference.

Read the rest of this entry »

One of the speakers present at yesterday’s Global/Local Exchange, Priva Ha’angandu, traveled from Zambia to represent the impact of G20 policies on poor countries.

While Priva advocated debt forgiveness to those he spoke with, he also warned that countries like Zambia, which are benefiting from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, are forced to adhere to certain conditionalities, such as privatization of public works and financial deregulation, which disadvantage have radically disrupted the country’s ability to pay for important human services like education and healthcare.

Many among the G20 dissenters worry that this week’s talks will result in a resurgence of the IMF, which was practically defunct until recently due to demand for reform. I, and many others, ask the simple question: how can the answer to a debt crisis be more debt?

On a separate note, check out the comment that was posted in response to Priva’s video:

“We already have a forum for the globally irrelevant, collectively indigent national regimes of the world, it’s called the UN, and it’s a supranational joke, just like the G20 would be if we let every country in to blabber about whatever struck their fancy. To exemplify the problem with this video’s logic on an individual level: If you were a successful professional meeting 19 of your other societally upstanding friends, would you want your meeting to be interrupted by degenerate vagrants?”

It is this kind of ignorance and misguided hatred that cannot be tolerated in global politics, nor the American psyche, if we aim to resolve any of the world’s problems.  I mean, did he just call Priva–a highly educated young man, working with international networks for responsible lending and finance–a degenerate vagrant?

Thank you Priva, for joining the People’s Voices events, for sharing the experience of Zambia, and for being part of the solution.

Check out more at: http://www.g20media.org/node/123

“Yeah, but it’s true that condoms can’t protect against HIV, right? I just heard from my friend that some new research just came out that said that HIV is so small it can pass right through condoms.”

As the new woman behind the chair at my barber shop made this comment and went about her handiwork, I realized just how wrong “campaign” was in the context of HIV prevention.

It’s common to read about an organization conducting an HIV prevention campaign for a certain population or during a certain period of time, which in and of itself is splendid. The more people being educated about HIV the better…period; however I often wonder if HIV prevention is viewed in the same context as an immunization campaign, one shot and you’re done. You receive the information once, you’re good to go. This sentiment is often expressed by schools when they say that they provide HIV prevention and proceed to describe a series of health classes that students get once during middle school. Unfortunately, HIV prevention doesn’t work like that.

New HIV information, for that matter health information in general, isn’t in the major headlines or on the radar like the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. It’s buried in scholarly journals that gradually trickle down to the general populace. Perhaps, as a result of this distance between the information source and the recipients, many misconceptions of HIV/AIDS continuously circulate as “new” facts or information. And it doesn’t just happen in my barber shop, I have seen it happen in small-town Wisconsin and in Bangkok, in Washington, D.C. and rural Kenya. I’ve read about it all throughout the world.

When there isn’t a regular, convenient, comfortable and reliable source of HIV information available, people look to their friends, those they trust the most and feel comfortable discussing sexually-related issues with. What their friends say becomes the latest information.

This calls for HIV prevention that is not a one and you’re done, but a continuous process that revisits information and builds upon it with the most recent findings in the field. It calls for a long-term view of HIV prevention.

So…easy to say, how do we get it done? A couple of sparks…

Novice: start with your captive audiences. Educate kids in school at least once a year, starting in late elementary/early middle school and continuing through high school. It’s time for parents and administrators to acknowledge that kids are engaging in sexual activities at younger ages and need education about it.

Amatuer: Urge organizations, companies, etc. to have annual “campaigns”, so it’s not one and done. Or coordinate information so that it is regularly available, but in engaging formats so you don’t get the, “oh it’s the drug commercial again” tune-out.

All-star: Find a point from which to get the community engaged so there are individuals in the community who are championing these issues and are known as safe points of information related to these issues and constant and accurate peer-to-peer education is occurring.

This being my maiden voyage into the sea that is the AIDBlog, please let me preface all future posts by saying that I’m gunnning for as much reader participation as possible. Drop me a comment with opposition, support, an idea for the greater communtiy, a partnership proposal, just to bounce ideas back and forth, a question. It helps me, it helps you. That’s how we’re going to shake things up.

Yesterday, CBS finally reported on where presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain stand on HIV/AIDS. Since the end of July when President Bush signed the new PEPFAR reauthorization bill (a $48 billion legislation that would reauthorize the original President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), there has been significant work done on combating and preventing HIV and AIDS abroad, including $9.6 billion spent annually by the US on the disease internationally. But what about HIV and AIDS in the US? What is being done here? Only $894.2 million is being spent on the disease in the US, while statistics show HIV infections are on the rise, especially in cities like Washington, DC, where the infection rate is 1 in 20, and among African American men, the rate is 1 in 7.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CBS reporter, interviewed two individuals about living with HIV, and also discussed both presidential candidates’ AIDS strategies. Both McCain and Obama believe that having a domestic plan for AIDS is important, but neither have issued comprehensive statements or strategies to combat HIV/AIDS in the US. But why has there been so much work on AIDS internationally and so little done for AIDS here? What is it about domestic HIV and AIDS that allows people in cities throughout the country, and especially in our nation’s capitol to be relatively ignored? AIDS in the early 80s got a lot of attention, especially in New York, but now that drugs exist to keep the disease at bay, many seem to think the fight is over, right? Wrong!

We need a national AIDS strategy that focuses on youth and high risk populations, as well as those without healthcare. We need the next president of the United States to focus on AIDS in the US. AIDS needs to be a priority for our next president because AIDS is not going away on its own. Without education, prevention and accessible treatment, HIV/AIDS is still a serious threat to the health of the American people, especially young people. But because HIV is sexually transmitted, political leaders, especially the presidential candidates have been hesitant to focus on the details of an effective solution, and understandably so; who wants to talk about sex when votes are at stake?

As the presidential election draws near, I hope we can get over our squeamishness and focus on what is most important: saving lives and preventing new infections. And that isn’t going to happen until we start pushing the candidates to do so, and making sex and sexual health a normalized topic for discussion.

To view the full CBS report, go to http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4522459

So Day 1 of the preconference is over… there have been some really incredible incites and ideas. What I have realized and think is most important is that young people from all over the world – students, HIV positive youth, and representatives from countless local, national and international organizations, as well as youth delegates from UN agencies – do indeed have the power to make change. From grassroots advocacy to public policy work, to peer education programs, to comprehensive sex and reproductive health programming, there are SO many things that young people are ALREADY doing. It is just a matter of the larger population engaging them to help make change around approaches to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and education.

I would love to hear more about what others think, so please feel free to comment on this blog, and let me know your thoughts!

Thanks,
Courtney

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