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By James Craggs
James is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about James below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Students and young people have the best grasp on a new weapon for conquering HIV and AIDS: social networking such as Facebook and Twitter.  Young people are able to share content, blog, tweet and post information fast.  But how are students and young people important in international health affairs and do they influence decisions? 

Well, in circumstances which affect either an individual or a group of people, knowledge is power.  Spreading information online allows information to get around, and let’s face it; young people need to know the risks and passing on what they know.  Young people are, usually, the most sexually active in society, so it’s important for them to know how to protect themselves and others.

It’s not just about how it affects people as individuals, but how it affects other people and how young people can help defeat HIV and AIDS, socially and physically.  The influence of networking is so big today, that when young people can get together behind an issue, people listen.  Demonstrations get organised, groups set up and decisions changed from the influence of networking groups.  The role of online tools and communication to object and demonstrations against actions is becoming more important, as people become more complex in their networking connections.  It’s also a way of spreading information to people who don’t (or can’t) get online, through word of mouth and the media.      

So, with young people keeping in touch with each other, the possibilities are endless.  With such a large voice, online and in the real world, it is a duty of everyone to say something, to act or just to listen, but the importance of young people can’t be underestimated.

My name is James Craggs I’m a final year student at The University of Aberdeen in the UK reading for my Masters in Politics and International Relations.  I also work within the National Health Service within the emergency services.  I volunteer in projects for a local and regional public health charity associated with HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues who have a national presence here in the UK.  In my spare time I enjoy mountain climbing, gym, socialising with friends and travelling as much as possible!

By Simone Oyekan
Simone is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Simone below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.
Yet, malaria is a treatable disease.
How do I know?
I’ve had it before.

I was 9 years old. If not for my families’ access to drugs, I may have been 1 of one million children that die each year.

Malaria is caused by an anopheles mosquito bite. The parasite that is transmitted by these mosquitoes multiplies in the liver and infects red blood cells. Symptoms can include a fever, vomiting, weakness and a headache. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.

It’s easy to see why developed countries have a stake in international development. The more efficient countries such as Nigeria are, the more oil can be obtained. However, when the issue turns to malaria, it’s hard to explain exactly why we should care about malaria. The truth is that malaria can also affect developed economies. It has the potential to lower GDP, increase death mortality rates, lower the workforce and increase government spending in poorer countries. As the world becomes more globalized, one country’s problems will affect the rest of the international community.

Sometimes I believe people see malaria as something unsolvable and begin to accept it. For instance, while I was in Uganda, I contracted a stomach virus. When I told people that I was sick, the first thing people asked was if I had malaria. I had no symptoms whatsoever, but people (even the doctor in the hospital) jumped to the conclusion that I had to have it. For the record, I didn’t.

From the 1920’s to 1940’s, malaria existed in the American south. The Center for Disease Control and Read the rest of this entry »

By April Stewart
April is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about April below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Happiness is the name of a young girl I met in Usa River, Tanzania. She is four years old and loves orange Fanta and dancing. She and more than 30 of her friends live in an orphanage run by the Tanzania Millennium Hand Foundation. All of these children have been infected or affected by HIV, including Happiness. Happiness tested positive for HIV more than a year ago, which she contracted from her mother, who passed away from complications associated with AIDS.

Youth around the world are disproportionately infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The growing number of youth who are infected by this virus reiterates a need for a new perspective on this global issue. Youth posses the creativity and drive to inform their peers about HIV and lower the infection rate. Organizations around the world have targeted youth in safe sex campaigns and HIV/AIDS education, yet because of the diversity of cultures, religion, and location, programs that may work to reduce infection rates in one region of the world are ineffective in others. Youth’s voices should be incorporated into these organizations to provide tailored methods of dealing with HIV/AIDS in their specific region.This could be done through youth teaching seminars, where young adults become trained to teach their peers. This could be complimented with a youth summit in which those that educate their peers around the world could exchange creative teaching strategies.

Organizations, such as the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA), work to incorporate youth in policy and programming decisions, empowering young people in a arena which has greatly affected the. With more organizations committed to giving youth a voice, children like Happiness will be represented in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

My name is April. I am a junior at Northwestern University where I study Social Policy. Getting involved in the fight against HIV has become a passion of mine since high school, when I volunteered for the Minnesota AIDS Project. Since then I have worked in Tanzania, Washington DC, Chicago and New York learning and teaching about this important issue.

By Sydney Kornegay
Sydney is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Sydney below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Mwawi Nyirongo is an unexpected force, a woman whose stamina overshadows her stature. The fragile, five-foot Malawian doctor may not look strong, but after watching her work in rural Africa- nursing abandoned HIV/AIDS infants, treating malaria, and attending to the old, arthritic agogos in her village  – I was convinced. She’s a superhero.

Despite her endless energy, Mwawi is quick to admit she can’t do it all. “I have always believed that no man can work like an island if we want development,” she says. “The communities in Malawi really need others’ brilliant ideas.”

Mwawi’s statement underscores the need for individuals across the globe to combine perspectives, passions, and expertise in solving international issues. While Mwawi plays an important role as a front-line fieldworker, we as youth are vital in helping stimulate those new, “brilliant’ ideas that Mwawi is looking for.

We are the ones who can ask challenging questions of our governments, NGO’s, and communities. Through political advocacy and community mobilization, we can ask what can be done for the 11.6 million AIDS orphans in Sub-Sahara, or the 100 million street children across the globe. We can push these questions to the forefront of the political agenda on behalf of our peers in the developing world.

We can also serve as communicators. Through our access to and understanding of new media outlets and social networking, we can both ask questions and communicate solutions. We can educate ourselves about global health issues, and put a personal face to those problems for our friends and communities.

Finally, we can combine our ability to ask questions, access information, and communicate issues to a broader audience with the medical expertise of people like Mwawi. Through collaboration across cultures and generations, skill sets and knowledge bases, we can serve as another unexpected force.

As a senior Political Science Major at Davidson College, Sydney Kornegay believes that issues of global health, development, and social justice are best studied outside the classroom.  She has spent four summers working with an organization for HIV/AIDS orphans in Malawi, Africa, and a semester studying and interning in development and women’s health in rural India. She enjoys exploring other cultures at home and abroad- either through travel, salsa dancing, or playing the African djembes. She believes students have the potential to be powerful sources of change in international issues, by educating themselves, their communities, and advocating for change.

By Michaela Maynard
Michaela is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Michaela below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

I don’t give it much thought when I pick up my birth control pills each month from the pharmacy.  I know that if I need them, I can walk to the store and buy condoms. On Tuesday nights, I watch MTV’s 16 and Pregnant.  As young Americans, we have the luxury of living in a society where reproductive health is accessible and topics like sex are becoming less taboo. Unfortunately, other countries in the world are not as progressive when it comes to issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health.

Each year, over 3 million females endure the dangerous tradition of female genital mutilation. At least 100,000 women every year are left incontinent and ostracized from their communities due to obstetric fistula.  Today, women account for almost half of the 33 million people living with HIV. This past May, the birth control pill turned 50 years old, yet many women don’t have access to contraception.

Barriers to women’s health are complicated, but the solution doesn’t have to be. In Malawi, Africa, Girl Guides are playing a role in improving the sexual and reproductive health of themselves and their peers. The Girl Guides Association is dedicated to teaching females about HIV/AIDS, promoting gender equality and safe sex practices, and inspiring young women to achieve their goals. Through education and empowerment the Girl Guides have the knowledge and the courage to make decisions about their health and their sex life, and little by little, they are establishing safer and better lives for themselves.  All women deserve this kind of girl power.

Michaela has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health from the George Washington University. She resides in Rhode Island where she is employed at a local hospital as a HIV/hepatitis C Clinical Research Assistant. In 2007, Michaela traveled to Malawi, Africa as the inaugural recipient of the Americans for UNFPA Student Award. She is an advocate for the health and rights of women all over the world.

By Emily Kronenberger
Emily is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Emily below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Young people currently hold the key to redefining sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as around the globe, because we have the innate and practical power to lead by progressive and positive example. Through simple but critical gestures of acceptance, compassion, advocacy, and empathy, young people have continued to demonstrate that sexism, racism, misogyny, oppression, and discrimination are vestiges of a social past that is constantly being challenged by the sexual health and rights-advances of the present.

This is evident in our youth activism around issues of LGBTQI civil and human rights, including same-sex marriage, equal access to partner benefits, adoption rights, and anti-hate violence policies that recognize and address harassment and violence against LGBTQI persons. In addition,  our commitment to preserving reproductive rights by speaking and acting against limited access to sexual health education, services, and options shows that we are united in our opposition to the systematic oppression of women, men, children, and families.

Combating bigotry and hatred of sexual minorities and the repression of reproductive health and rights has always and continues to be a youth issue. Addressing these issues is not only vital to our identity formation as emerging adults with courage and conscience, but also as an imperative while these issues play out in in real time within our own lives, relationships, and families. Our roles in defining these issues must be clear: here and now, we must be the arbiters of bravery in continuing to challenge the political forces that perpetuate cultures of discrimination and heterosexism, and the teachers of moral imagination who can bring the truth about reproductive freedom and self-determination into a lasting  global discourse and policy framework.

Emily Kronenberger is currently a public health advocate and researcher specializing in addressing healthcare disparities among under-served populations, including women with disabilities and LGBTQI-identified people. Emily has worked and volunteered for various health advocacy organizations, including Youth Noise, MomsRising, and the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD). She is the founder of New Wave Grrrl, an information and resource-sharing blog for women with a focus on health disparities that impact women with disabilities, women of color, and the LGBTQI community. Emily is passionate about improving reproductive health outcomes, advocating for sexual health and rights, and interested in how feminism and other progressive political movements can be used to overcome barriers to healthcare. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Marymount Manhattan College, a Master of Urban Affairs degree from Hunter College, and a Master of Public Health degree from West Chester University.

By Binta Diallo

Binta is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Binta below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Nine months ago, Haiti was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake affecting as many as 3 million people.  Immediately, aid organizations and governments from around the world responded to this disaster by providing medical attention, food, shelter, and safe drinking water.  There was such an enormous effort in helping the country; immediate support and help coming from students and young adults from around the world.

After the earthquake hit, I started to come up with fundraiser ideas for the student body once I returned back to school.  About two days after everyone returned from winter break, my inbox was flooded by students proposing service and fundraiser ideas.  Food drives, dance-a-thons, bake sales, concerts, anything you name it was sitting in my inbox waiting to be read and executed!  I was excited to see that my fellow peers were ready to get involved. 

Okay, so many of you may be wondering what does this have to do with global health?  With every natural disaster, there are many health issues that arise.  In the case of Haiti, plenty of health issues arose such as concern for safe drinking water, malnutrition, infection and disease.  Although, it was almost impossible to physically go to Haiti to help with the efforts, students around the nation and world participated in various ways.  They worked with international organizations, their schools, their communities; all in hopes to make sure that they were doing as much as possible.  Without the efforts and help for the youth, students, young adults, there would have been a much different turn out. 

I am going to leave you with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Until next time, think about how you can change the world, you have the power!

My name is Binta Diallo and I am a St. Mary’s College of Maryland 2010 alum.  I majored in Studies of Developing Countries and International Public Policy!  I am looking to go to medical school within the next few years and then work as a physician in developing countries.  Global health is one of my biggest passions, it is absolutely fascinating and by increasing the involvement of students around the country and world huge differences will happen!

The recent floods in Pakistan (watch videos here) caused an initial wave of 1500 deaths, but that number may quickly begin to mount as rain continues to inundate parts of Pakistan and displaced and stranded Pakistanis face shortages in food and clean water. United Nations officials say that approximately 6 million Pakistanis, mostly children, are at risk for water-born diseases that could be potentially lethal.1 This humanitarian disaster clearly shows the linkages between environmental issues, governmental instability, development, and health.

NY times image

Catastrophic weather patterns leading to unprecedented heat waves, storms, and floods are becoming more and more common as global warming takes its toll, causing events like smaller floods here in the US, fires and heat waves in Russia, flooding and mudslides a few months ago in Brazil, and now this deluge of flooding in Pakistan. Governments that are not stable enough or are not held accountable to their people fail to provide the kind of response needed in such instances. Pakistanis were infuriated by the fact that their President Asif Ali Zardari continued his trip to England even as floods devastated his country, and see his response to the disaster as slow and inadequate2 (reminiscent, perhaps, of President Bush’s delayed response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

Both international and domestic aid to the citizens of Pakistan has been slow to arrive and has been insufficient and inconsistent, leaving people to fight over food and water. The lack of developed systems in Pakistan – sturdy buildings, roads and bridges, as well as evacuation routes, transportation, and rescue capabilities – has made aid difficult to deliver and has made it nearly impossible for many Pakistanis to reach safety. Lastly, the impending health disaster demonstrates more than ever the need to prioritize the integration of health systems into other forms of development, in order to provide clean water, safe food, and the medicines necessary to combat disease when these basic needs are not readily avaible in such situations. In order to address the issues posing increasing challenges to our planet, like emergency response, it is necessary to understand and act on the linkages between sectors and develop comprehensive solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

HIV/AIDS antibody graphicA recent breakthrough in research on HIV/AIDS looks to be the most promising progress made yet in the search for an effective vaccine. In the past, the HIV virus has eluded researchers’ attempts to develop an antibody – essentially something that binds to the virus and kills it – because HIV is notoriously mutable. This gives it the ability to survive attacks from the human immune system and from antibodies by mutating its surface and blocking the antibodies from attaching to it.1 As a result of its mutability, there are hundreds of different strains, which has been a barrier for scientists thus far in finding or developing an antibody that can neutralize a significant portion of the variations. But researchers have recently discovered a new antibody that is able to attach to a part of the HIV virus that rarely mutates, and have high hopes that this will help them develop a vaccine that could be used both to treat and to prevent HIV infections.2 This new antibody has been shown to block up to 90% of strains.3

Research for development of a vaccine using this antibody is still in its initial stages. It could still be many years before a useable vaccine could be on the market, and even longer before that vaccine could be made widely available and used universally. But it is hopeful news. In the meantime, the world must push on with comprehensive sex education, universal ARV treatments, safe needle exchange programs, and prenatal care to help avoid mother to child transmission. The XVIII International AIDS Conference happening July 18 – 23 in Vienna, Austria, will be addressing many of these issues. Check out my previous blog about the Conference here, and read more about the vaccine breakthrough on the National Institute of Health website and in the LA Times.

Read the rest of this entry »

“We envision empowered communities everywhere working together democratically to advance a food system that ensures health, justice and dignity for all”

– National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC)

GMO’s, mass produced and overpriced food. Sounds delicious…right?

This is the norm of what food has become for our generation. The mass production of agriculture has led to the commodification of our food, making it over priced in the grocery store as well as hurting local farmers. Not only do these expensive veggies hurt our wallets, but could also have a negative affect on our health.

GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, are chemically altered and could possibly have a negative impact on our bodies in the future. The scary part is we don’t know if, when or how this could occur.

While negative impacts could hurt physically, local farmers and communities face a large blow. With little disregard to human health, local growers and their choice in what to grow, agribusiness has grabbed community growers choice and freedom in farming.

According to the NFFC, the answer to modified and pricey foods is food sovereignty, or making sure that food is available, healthy and at reasonable prices. This involves de-commodifying food and putting the power back in the hands of local farmers, letting them choose what and how they grow, and which seeds they use.

The NFFC gives some tips in how to reform our food policy towards a more locally sovereign food system:

  1. Be a part of the reformation of the U.S. farm bill
  2. Grow your own garden
  3. Support farm to cafeteria projects
  4. Buy local
  5. Support local farmers in trade debates and Each One Teach One (a model for peer education)

The National Family Farm Coalition is also part of La Via Campesina, an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers who are unified in defense of people’s food sovereignty, decentralized food production, and family-farms.  Click here to find out more!

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