Tube Class: Bringing Sex Education to Burundi’s Youth Through Radio

The Following post is by Leah Hazard, Communications Officer and Global Health Corps Fellow in Burundi.

Mwiriwe neza, ba jeune na mwebwe mwese bakunzi bikiganiro Tube Class. Ndikumwe hano na Fernand kugira tube turabateramisha kuruno musi mwiza wa gatandatu, aho muruhukiye, iwanyu canke kubagenzi banyu.

In a mixture of Kirundi, Swahili and French, Mimi starts the show: “Good afternoon youth and all of you fans of the show Tube Class. Whether you’re at your house or spending time with your friends, I’m here with my co-host Fernand to have a good time together on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.” Rihanna’s latest hit plays in the background.

Mimi is actually introducing a pretty revolutionary concept in Burundi: a youth radio show that talks openly about relationships, sex and health – in a fun and engaging manner. Tube Class (which translates to “Be Class” in English) aims to increase youth knowledge about how to protect themselves against STDs, HIV and unintended pregnancies. Prudence Class is PSI/Burundi’s condom brand, and was a name chosen because youth routinely use the word “class” as a substitute for being “cool” or “chic”. And in a country where talking about sex is taboo, and youth routinely report being too embarrassed to buy condoms, it’s an important subject.

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On the Verge of an AIDS-Free Generation

The excitement for the International AIDS Conference that is coming to Washington D.C. in July is quickly building. USAID release the short video above that features remarks from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton about the hope of realizing an AIDS-free generation.

Last week, Ambassador U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby described in the AIDS 2012 blog what he called a ‘turning tide’ against AIDS. Further, he explains what the United States is doing in order to make an AIDS-free generation a reality.

Evidence-based science is driving our efforts. The United States is supporting a combination of high-impact strategies that are changing the course of the epidemic. These include efforts to keep newborn children from being infected with HIV, voluntary male medical circumcision, and expanded access to antiretroviral treatment to save lives and prevent new exposure to HIV. When used in combination with each other, condoms, behavioural efforts, and other prevention tools, these interventions offer an historic opportunity to drive down the worldwide rate of new infections. Our latest results show that this is continuing to work.

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Healthy Dose: Overcrowded Ugandan Refugee Camps Hurting HIV Services

March 30, 2012

Refugee camps in southwestern Uganda are experiencing overcrowding which is taking a toll on HIV medical services.

Severe personnel shortages in Nakivale and Oruchinga refugee settlements have led to long queues at the clinics and placed a heavy burden on the few health workers available, many of whom often have to take double shifts to meet demand.

“It’s the same staff to do ward work and carry out sensitization and awareness campaigns to increase the refugees’ understanding of HIV/AIDS, and how to prevent transmitting the disease,” said Dr Chris Omara, health coordinator for Medical Teams International (MTI), a medical NGO that works in humanitarian emergencies.

MTI runs two clinics of its own and supports three government health centres in the settlements. Some 180 health workers, only three of whom are doctors, are responsible for a population of over 139,000 people – 63,749 refugees and more than 76,000 local residents – in the area, which has an HIV prevalence of 6 percent.

The UN Refugee Agency, which provides MTI with US$2 per refugee per year for medication, says it difficult to recruit and retain health personnel to work among Uganda’s refugee populations.

Dr Isaac Odongo, MTI’s regional programme manager for southwestern Uganda, noted that the need for information on HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was crucial for refugees, many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) where such information was hard to come by.

“The HIV infection rates are generally low among the refugees when they just come [but] with time, they get into reckless activities [unprotected sex] with locals and they get infected,” he said.

Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers – less than half of the vacant health positions are filled – but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring DRC has put even more pressure on Isingiro’s health services.

MTI replaced the German NGO, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) [German Agency for international Cooperation] in the area three months ago, and one MTI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the transition had also affected the smooth provision of HIV services to patients.

“We have just been in the field for three months. It’s not easy to have all the patients on board. There are also issues to do with procurement and requisition of ARVs [antiretrovirals] and TB drugs,” said the official.

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2012 a Tipping Point for AIDS Says CDC’s Dr. Frieden

Last week Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden gave a talk on progress against AIDS at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This summer, the 19th International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, DC. It is the first time the conference has taken place in the United States since 1990. It is an important time in the effort to end AIDS. Dr. Frieden spoke of the decades spent searching for a cure, the many exciting advances and the work that needs to be done.

From Voice of America:

“It’s possible, I think, to forget just how bad the HIV epidemic has been. HIV has already killed in this country as many people as died in all wars since the civil war,” he said.
And around the world, he said HIV/AIDS remains the biggest infectious disease challenge more than 30 years into the epidemic.

“There have been 65 million HIV infections and 30 million deaths since this epidemic started. In 2010 alone there were 2.7 million new infections and 1.8 million deaths. So the number of people infected continues to grow from 34 million and up,” he said.

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Healthy Dose: WHO Warns of Rising Polio Cases in Nigeria

The World Health Organization is warning that Polio still has a stubborn grip on Nigeria. From All Africa:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has described as worrisome and unacceptable the recent up surge of polio cases in Nigeria especially as the country in 2010 was commended for a 95% immunization coverage to halt the transmission of polio.

Nigeria witnessed a resurgence of polio totaling about 62 cases in 2011 while in 2012 four cases have been recorded.

Speaking during the 23rd Expert Review Committee (ERC) meeting yesterday in Abuja, the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr David Okello, lamented that workable strategies must be put in place to bridge the gaps and challenges bedeviling the immunization plan.

Okello added that though the ERC has been talking and reviewing its strategies since this is its 23rd session they need to look beyond science and technicalities and come up with interventions that would ensure that every child gets immunized in Nigeria.

Also speaking, the chairman of the ERC Dr Oyewale Tomori said despite several interventions by government to interrupt the spread of the polio virus, still the country continue to experience resurgence of polio.

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Video: Alleviating Poverty Through Social Innovation

ViewChange, a project of Link TV, debuted “ViewChange: Unleashing Innovation” today on the Huffington Post Impactpage. The release coincides with the start of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Partnering with McKinsey’s Social Sector Office, the special highlights social innovation happening around the world that seeks to find sustainable poverty alleviating solutions. From the Huffington Post:

“ViewChange: Unleashing Innovation” features the winners of McKinsey & Company’s Social Innovation Video Contest, which received nearly 150 videos from 30 different countries. Hear from first-place winner Embrace, a San Francisco-based initiative ending infant mortality in the developing world with micro-sized sleeping bags. And find out more about second-place winner APOPO, a Tanzania-based venture that trains rats to save lives through measures such as sniffing out bombs and even Tuberculosis in human samples.

In addition to these social entrepreneurs, “ViewChange: Unleashing Innovation” also features those who are driving social change, including Bill Clinton, McKinsey & Company’s Lynn Taliento, ONE chairman Tom Freston and top Obama counterinsurgency strategist Dave Kilcullen.

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Healthy Dose: Global Fund’s Cancelled Grant Program Jeopardizes AIDS Progress Says MSF

March 28, 2012

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is concerned by the shortfall of care for people living with HIV/AIDS and TB that will likely be caused by the Global Fund’s termination of new grant disbursements.

The humanitarian organization — also known as Doctors Without Borders — told reporters that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s cancellation of plans for $2 billion in grants between 2011 and 2013 has caused thousands of new patients to go untreated.

“New treatments for patients have been put on hold,” said MSF general director Bruno Jochum, whose group has been providing antiretroviral HIV treatment. “In some cases, treatment clinics have simply been shut down.”

(snip)

The Geneva-based Global Fund said last year it had cancelled plans for its “Round 11” of grants to expand or add programs due to lack of contributions from donor nations in the face of a difficult economic climate.

But the fund says it also has been tightening its control over how billions of dollars of grant money is managed. The fund created an outside review panel last year after Associated Press articles about the fund’s losses led some donors to withhold funding, and the fund scaled back its spending.

The fund’s announcement last year that it had cancelled spending is a huge setback in efforts to keep alive thousands of people living in poor countries, Jochum said. Also, some related international efforts by the United States, the United Nations and other organizations have been scaled back, he said, on the premise that the Global Fund would pick up the slack.

(snip)

Fund spokesman Andrew Hurst said it continues to hand out $3 billion a year to fight the three diseases, and any country whose grants run out between now and the end of 2013 will get funding so patients can stay on treatment and prevention services are maintained.

“As the Global Fund completes a major reorganization so that our investments in 150 countries can save even more lives, we intend to seek more funding from existing and new donors,” he said.

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Case Study: Testing and Counseling Transgender People in Pattaya, Thailand

Sisters, a Transgender (TG)-focused, community-based organization in Pattaya, Thailand works with TGs to provide HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. Since 2004, PSI/Thailand has implemented the program with support from PEPFARand USAID’s Regional Development Mission Asia. Programming aid at the TG community is rather weak. According to UNDP, “In most cases, HIV programming merges transgender people into programming for MSM with apparently little insight into the particular needs of transgender people (UNDP 2011, 27).”

The Sisters program was developed to meet the need of the TG community in Thailand and provide them with HIV programming that is tailored to the needs of the community.  We believe that the success of the program is in part due to the provision of safe spaces for members of the TG community.  The support staff is a part of the TG community which fosters healthy lives among members.

Epidemiological surveys of TG populations in Thailand report extremely high HIV prevalence, ranging from between 8 to 68 percent in different locations, and incidence of between 3.4 to 7.8 percent per 100 person-years (Guadamuz et al. 2011). Between March and October 2005, the Thai Ministry of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention undertook a study of 474 TG people in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, finding an overall HIV prevalence of approximately 14 percent (Guadamuz et al. 2011). In October 2005, PSI conducted an assessment that found that of 400 TG people (ages 15 to 35) in Pattaya, only 39 percent of participants reported consistent condom use with regular partners, while 50 percent reported consistent condom use with casual partners (PSI 2005).

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PSI/Zimbabwe’s Farai Chieza Speaks Out on Safe Water

Farai Chieza, from PSI/Zimbabwe, closes out the World Water Day 2012 reception with the US Senate by speaking about a caregiver he’s come to know in Zimbabwe. Earlier in the day, Farai participated in a round table discussion on diarrheal diseases and then conducted top priority Congressional meetings. Watch the video above to hear about the impact of unsafe water on the lives of women and families living in Zimbabwe.

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Heathy Dose: BRICS Buoy Global Health Spending

March 27, 2012

Global economic uncertainty has lead to lower aid spending by major donor nations, but the emerging BRICS’s transition from recipient to donor has helped to maintain the level of spending on aid and global health programs, says a report by the NGO GHS Initiatives. Reuters reports:

Some of the so-called BRICS countries, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have traditionally received aid, but fast economic growth over the past decade is turning them into new donors to the world’s poor.

China and Brazil are leading the pack, increasing aid spending by more than 20 percent from 2005 to 2010, the GHS Initiatives global health charity said in a report.

India, Russia and South Africa’s aid budget increased by 11, 36 and 8 percent respectively over the same period.

“The BRICS are contributing significant new resources to global health and development efforts,” said David Gold, co-founder of GHS Initiatives.

“Just as importantly, they are establishing new models for cooperation that challenge the way we think about foreign assistance,” Gold said.

For example, Brazil’s 1996 commitment to provide universal access to effective HIV treatment influenced global policies on access to medicine. China has been a leader on malaria treatment in Africa, while South Africa is pioneering the introduction of molecular diagnostics for tuberculosis.

(snip)

GHS Initiatives said while the BRICS face significant development problems of their own, they are key to supporting health care for the world’s poor due to their low-cost production of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for treatment of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, polio and tuberculosis.

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Highlighting Our Work On TB in 13 Countries

Saturday marked World TB Day 2012. TB is an important health issue for PSI. PSI implements TB and TB-HIV programs in 13 countries: Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Why is TB so important? Here are some quick facts:

- TB kills about 1.7 million people each year
– There are almost 10 million new TB cases each year
– TB is among the three leading causes of death among women ages 15-44
– TB is curable

As we reported in today’s Healthy Dose, people living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to catching TB.

Another problem HIV poses is it can often make it challenging to properly diagnose TB victims. Especially in areas where available technology is often 100 years old, it can be difficult to determine whether the person has TB and what form they have from a sample of phlegm smeared on a slide and a basic microscope. What makes it worse is that individuals with HIV sometimes don’t have the bacteria associated with TB show up on their slides, leading to a wrong diagnosis that they are disease free.

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Living with Tuberculosis: A Personal Note

The following post is by Bryn Sakagawa, Deputy Director, Health and Education Office, USAID Central Asian Republics. It originally appears on the USAID Impact blog.

World TB Day has a special meaning for me, and it is not just because of my job as a USAID Health Officer in Kazakhstan.  It is because every morning for the past four months I have taken a daily isoniazid pill to treat my latent tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a contagious chronic bacterial infection that is spread through the air and usually infects the lungs. More than 2 billion people—one-third of the world’s total population—are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB, but do not show symptoms (latent TB). In the United States, between 10 and 15 million people are infected with latent TB. In other parts of the world, like in Central Asia, this number is much higher.

I found out that I had latent TB at the exam to get my first medical clearance as a foreign service officer. I suspect that I was exposed to TB while I was a volunteer in Indonesia years before. Although I was shocked and worried when I got the diagnosis, the nurse reassured me and explained that latent TB is widespread in many developing countries and that there are options for treatment. I was pregnant then so isoniazid treatment—what I’m taking now—was not an option.

I learned soon after I was diagnosed with latent TB that anyone—grandparents, fathers, mothers, and children—can be exposed and infected. In the three minutes that it will take you to read this blog post, nine people will have died from TB. Although my chance of becoming sick with active TB in my lifetime is only 1 in 10, I felt that it was important to mitigate this risk and undergo the six-month treatment regimen. Every year, approximately 2 million people die from TB.

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