A Winning Strategy: Investing in Local Heroines

By Karl Hofmann, President & CEO, PSI

When you invest in local heroines, women win.

Despite all the systemic challenges women and children face around the world, we’ve learned that investing in local heroines who provide education and resources can help tear down barriers and save lives.

Here is an impact primer that shows how investing in local heroines helps PSI get results for women and children.

Local heroines trained in community health services save children’s lives.In many countries, mothers are unable to access health care for their children to treat preventable but deadly diseases like malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. We can shift that equation by deploying local health workers. In Cameroon, 48% of children received diarrhea treatment in areas served by community health workers vs. 7% of children in other areas with no community health workers.

Local heroines are effective champions for social change.There is often stigma associated with family planning activities. In Zimbabwe, where women are embarrassed to purchase female condoms, local heroines like hairdresser Tears Wenzira are distributing them in beauty salons. In fact, more than one million female condoms are distributed through this network of 2,500 hairdressers across the country.

Local heroines help keep mothers alive during childbirth.In the next 24 hours, 931 women will die worldwide from preventable pregnancy-related causes. In Pakistan, more than three-quarters of births take place at home, which is high-risk for maternal mortality. A pilot voucher program – where trained outreach workers recruit pregnant women from low-income households to receive subsidized reproductive health services from private health providers – increased prenatal clinic care by 16%, health care-facility based deliveries by 20% and postnatal care by 35%.

As you can see, PSI is committed to measuring our impact. And we’ve learned that investing in local heroines provides extraordinary returns on your investment.

Will you invest in a local heroine?

Empowering Women with the Female Condom

By Beth Skorochod, Senior Technical Advisor at PSI. This originally appeared on the USAID Impact blog.

RH Councillor Jonathan Kabanda in a councilling session with client Pauline Phiri at SFH Obote Site, Livingstone, Zambia. Photo credit: PSI

Believe it or not, the female condom is a controversial tool in the arsenal againstHIV transmission. Donors argue that it’s expensive and not widely used. Women complain that it’s too big and hard to insert. What no one can argue is that it works.

Female condoms are the only woman-initiated method available that offers dual protection from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Studies have shown that the female condom is at least as effective as the male condom in reducing the risk of contracting STIs and can reduce the per-act probability of HIV infection by 97 percent. Studies fromMadagascarBrazilKenyaIndia and the United States demonstrate that female condom promotion and use increases the total number of protected sex acts.

Lovemore: The Story of a Father in Zimbabwe

Most couples don’t make getting tested for HIV part of their wedding plans. But when single parents Lovemore and Fungai got engaged, they decided it was a good idea before blending their families. Zimbabwe, where they live, is one of countries hardest hit by HIV. 

Even still, they were shocked when the counselor at PSI’s New Start center gently told them that their test results weren’t the same. While Fungai tested HIV negative, Lovemore was diagnosed with the disease. This is their story.

Fathers-Day-2013-Header

Lovemore is a truck driver from Harare, Zimbabwe. “My son stays with his grandmother because I travel so much,” says Lovemore. “But I’m glad I can come home to him and to Fungai, who I hope to marry this year.”

Lovemore met Fungai a year ago through her aunt. “We had so much in common – both in our thirties, divorced with a child,” says Fungai, who lives with her daughter.

PSI/Zimbabwe Clinics Target At Risk Populations in Zimbabwe

By Dr Karin Hatzold, MPH, Deputy Country Director, PSI/Zimbabwe

DSC_556121 May 2013 (Zimbabwe) It looks like any other day at the New Start clinic in downtown Harare – a waiting area packed with clients about to be served by the team of 30 health care providers working at this site.

The PSI/Zimbabwe clinic offers services including HIV testing and counselling,  a range of family planning methods, TB screening and diagnostic services, rapid CD4 cell count testing , HIV risk reduction counselling and male and female condoms.

But today is different. The site just opened its doors to HIV positive clients requiring treatment and care.  The services, provided by a friendly team of doctors and nurses, are designed to serve those most vulnerable to HIV and least likely to have access to the highly active  antiretroviral treatment  (HAART ) services  they seek.  These clients include sex workers, their families, discordant couples (where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative), pregnant HIV positive mothers  and other vulnerable groups with difficulty accessing HIV treatment services in the public or private health sector.

This new treatment program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), addresses the health needs of key populations currently not adequately met by the existing government-run health delivery system.

What Male Circumcision Taught Us About the Future of Funding for Global Health

By Karl Hofmann, President and CEO, PSI

Private capital is needed to test and develop proof that existing health solutions can be adapted to a developing world context. Once this proof is established, the solution has the power to unlock the large-scale government funding needed to dramatically improve health across the developing world.

As demonstrated in a new report released this week by PSI’s Impact magazine and Devex, in partnership with Fenton Communications, the landscape for global health financing has changed dramatically. High-income governments that provide foreign aid for health have steadily increased their support over the last decade. That support is now leveling or shrinking due to budget constraints. Governments are under increased pressure to reduce risk and ensure that all public funds for foreign aid are invested in solutions that guarantee results.

As a result, corporations, foundations and philanthropists are now taking an active role to help protect the progress already made against serious threats to health and economies like HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and lack of access to family planning, which remain as urgent as ever. They are providing private capital to fund the type of innovation that governments cannot afford to advance on their own.

How We are Preventing Cervical Cancer in Kenya and Zimbabwe

By: Alexandra Steverson, Program Assistant for the Southern Africa Region*

Globally, one woman dies every two minutes from cervical cancer. As the second most common cancer among women, there are 530,000 new cases every year. The developing world is disproportionately burdened by this disease - 86% of cases occur in developing countries where prevention services are limited or unavailable. In some environments, the mortality rate is as high as 52%.

We know that infection with one of many strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a leading cause of cervical cancer. The good news is that it can be prevented. Screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions is the most cost effective method of preventing the disease and creating positive health impact in low-resource settings. However, less than 5% of women in developing countries have accessed screening services. With simple, low-cost interventions, organization like PSI can improve health outcomes for a population that is often neglected, women around the world.

A New Chapter in Tuberculosis Diagnostics

By Petra Stankard, HIV/TB Technical Advisor at PSI

In 1882, Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that caused tuberculosis (TB) and introduced sputum smear microscopy as a method for diagnosing the disease. It was a major scientific advancement. Thousands of scientific advances have followed—we’ve walked on the moon, eradicated smallpox and discovered the makeup of an atom. But until recently, in laboratories throughout the developing world, the diagnosis of tuberculosis remained firmly rooted in Koch’s discovery.

Unfortunately, smear microscopy is far from a flawless diagnostic tool. Time-consuming and cumbersome, smear microscopy often fails to detect TB in people living with HIV (one of the populations most at risk for TB disease) limiting efforts to prevent unnecessary deaths. Added to that, microscopy cannot identify whether the TB bacilli present in a smear are drug resistant. This consequently slows diagnosis and treatment of multi-drug resistant TB even as it becomes a growing health problem.

Inside the 2012 Impact Awards

During last week’s International AIDS Conference, PSI held its 2012 Impact Awards. HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Actress/PSI Ambassador Debra Messing co-hosted the event at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The focus of the event was to honor individuals who have made a lasting impact on the fight against AIDS.

The event also marked the recent release of our latest issue of Impact Magazine.  This quarter the focus is squarely upon HIV/AIDS by discussing the combined approach to HIV and AIDS. The issue presents interviews with leading HIV thought leaders and implementers, as well as personal stories from men and women living with HIV. Interviews include Impact Award winner Ron Zwanziger, Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dr. Daniel Halperin and Craig Timberg, authors of the new book “Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It,” and PSI technical experts.

“Turning the tide is only possible if we devote our minds, resources and support—collectively—to the global AIDS response,” said Messing. “This year’s Impact Awards celebrate a distinguished group of men and women who have helped make progress possible.”

A bit more about the winners:

Zimbabwean Parliamentarians lead by example in promoting male circumcision

On June 22, 2012, a group of three Members of Parliament (MPs) chatted quietly among themselves as they waited to get circumcised outside a make shift clinic set up at the Parliament building. They were the first of the 35 Zimbabwean legislators who were circumcised as part of the “Parliamentarians making the Smart Choice” campaign implemented by PSI in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) and The National AIDS Council (NAC) for the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians against HIV (ZIPAH), a voluntary organisation made up of Parliamentarians. A total of 120 MPs were also counselled and tested for HIV during the campaign.

The ZIPAH chairman, Blessing Chebundo was the first to be circumcised having worked closely with PSI to motivate other MPs to get circumcised.  Blessing grew up in the small village of Shurugwi, 330 kilometres from the capital city of Harare.  Growing up, Blessing always had the ability to lead others.  In high school, he was appointed the head boy, and later became leader of a labour union.   He admits that the leadership skills gained during his early years at school, in church and later as a politician helped him to inspire his fellow legislators to lead by example by getting circumcised.

“I remember first hearing about male circumcision during a workshop conducted by PSI for community leaders in 2009. PSI explained the effectiveness of male circumcision in preventing HIV and urged leaders to talk about the new prevention strategy in their communities.  Later, messages on male circumcision began appearing everywhere on various media channels so that it was quite difficult to ignore them.”

70,000 Men Circumcised in Zimbabwe Since 2009 Campaign Launch

New Zimbabwe covers the successful program to circumcise men in Zimbabwe. The collaborative effort between PSI and Zimbabwe has reached 70,000 men since the programs inception in 2009.

Zimbabwe has 1.1 million people living with HIV, including 150,000 children, according to the National AIDS Council. But the country has made significant gains in fighting HIV, which infected 14 percent of the population in 2009, down from 23 percent in 2003, according to the United Nations.

Circumcision is said to help reduce the risk of contracting HIV and the Zimbabwe campaign is targeting to have 1.2 million boys and men circumcised by 2015.

“Our main challenge now is demand creation, getting word to local communities encouraging more people to be circumcised. Local leadership that includes chiefs has to be involved and we are hoping that MPs will take the message to them,” Hatzold said.