Recapping The 19th International AIDS Conference

Carl hennCarl Henn, Senior Director of Child Protection and HIV & AIDS

July 28, 2012

Washington, DC


The 19th International AIDS Conference (or “IAC”) ended on Friday, after a closing speech by President Bill Clinton. That brought to a close a week in which almost 25,000 participants attended daily “plenary” speeches in a huge hall, plus hundreds of smaller talks and presentations, and saw thousands of posters on aspects of HIV prevention, care, and treatment, from almost every angle imaginable.

The participants at IAC included people most Americans might expect would work on this issue, such as doctors, nurses, and scientists, as well as politicians, program planners, donor agencies, and celebrities, who visited thousands of AIDS displays by all types, and even enjoyed musical and dance performances. People came from 90 countries around the world, and from all aspects of American society as well.

The participants also involveda very large number of AIDS activists, including “LGTB”, or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people, who play a prominent part in HIV/AIDS meetings and activities. Also present were commercial sex workers and intravenous drug users, who are at high risk for HIV/AIDS. In the exhibition halls were drug companies who are often the targets of protests by many AIDS activists.

For me, personally, I met a large number of colleagues who work on HIV/AIDS, as well as some of their kids, who came to volunteer, and even a former US Ambassador and his wife who volunteered at IAC. I also met workers at the convention center, African Americans from Washington, DC, where there is a mini-AIDS epidemic. We talked about the need for HIV testing, to learn their status and to be HIV-free.

So it was a very diverse cross-section of people, and also an amazing learning environment for a week. How can we convey to you even a brief sense of what the meeting was about, and what we learned? Let’s take a look at some of the headlines and the people that made them (or at least presented them).

MEANING

What does HIV/AIDS mean to America, Americans, and people from other parts of the world? It’s hard to summarize. What do most of us know about HIV/AIDS? That there is a virus (HIV) that destroys the immune system, leading to AIDS. There is still no vaccine, and no cure. For now, we prevent, provide care for, and treat it. There are 8 million people on treatment, called “ART,” and 7 million who need it.

MONEY

Money is a big part of every discussion about HIV/AIDS. The cost of 8 million people on treatment, and everything else that is being done, is a huge figure, about $17 billion per year. But estimates of the total needed range another $7 billion per year, for a total of $24 billion, in order to “turn the tide” on AIDS.

MEDICINE

What do “we” (meaning, Americans, the world, people infected with HIV (or PLHIV), and also children orphaned by AIDS) get for $17 billion a year? We get a range of drugs that PLHIV, including babies born with HIV, have to take every day for the rest of their life, in order to protect their immune systems. We get a vast array of programs to prevent HIV infection, and to care for and support those affected by it.

MORALITY

There are always discussions about morality when we talk about HIV/AIDS, including everything from the most conservative faith-based groups that oppose condom promotion, and condemn homosexual behavior, to the churches and congregants who visit PLHIV in their homes and provide hospice care. Sometimes the same churches operate on “both sides” of HIV/AIDS, showing compassion for PLHIV.

MORTALITY

Death is always a main topic at AIDS meetings. Without access to life-prolonging treatment, PLHIV will eventually progress from asymptomatic, to symptomatic, to “full-blown” AIDS. We’ve all seen images of what AIDS does to its victims – the weak, gaunt figures, who in the past were often cast out of societies. The good news at this IAC is that far more PLHIV receive ART, so far fewer people are dying now of AIDS. Stigma (discrimination against PLHIV) is decreasing in Africa, but still persists in some parts of the world.

MOMS – AND KIDS

Women and kids were a big topic at the IAC, and they should be. HIV prevention and ART for moms protects them and their babies from infection with HIV. There is huge progress on getting adults on ART, but less in getting babies and kids onto ART early enough to save their lives. So, more needs to be done. Along with ART for moms and babies, the world needs to care for and support millions of AIDS orphans. Imagine the sheer numbers of AIDS orphans – estimatedat17 million – and imagine what their life would be like without our support. Imagine what life would be for your kids if they became orphans.

XIX International AIDS Conference – Day 2

GenericScott McGill, Senior Advisor, HIV/AIDS

Washington, DC

July 24, 2012


Every two years experts, governments, activists, and affected community representatives meet to take stock of the global AIDS response – these conferences are often known for particular breakthroughs or for global commitments and other landmarks.DSC00393  The 2012 International AIDS Conference will be known as the meeting that ambitiously committed to ‘The Beginning of the End of AIDS!’

Over the past two years, a consensus has developed that anti-retroviral treatment (known as “ART”) is also a prevention strategy. New technologies show promising results. These include using HIV treatment drugs with higher risk individuals to prevent the spread of HIV infection. While these are exciting innovations, we also need to scale up other prevention strategies, and combine those with other medical approaches to achieve the greatest impact on slowing and ultimately reversing this epidemic.

Even if a vaccine or cure for HIV infections is found tomorrow, there is still the need for prevention as well as strengthening of healthcare systems.

Save the Children has prioritized prevention of HIV transmission among youth, especially those who are vulnerable or most-at-risk for HIV transmission. 

At the conference workshop “Leading the Way in Asia – Mapping, Mobilizing and Building Capacity in Young Key Affected Populations” we took part in discussions led by youth with many stakeholders and partners which resulted in a consensus on a number of important issues:

  • More information is needed to identify the youth most affected by HIV & AIDS
  • Policies and laws need to support HIV programming and not block them
  • Services need to be youth friendly
  • The meaningful engagement of young people is critical in developing the next generation of young leaders for the AIDS response and beyond.

IMG_8398Two young delegates from the Philippines, Jeffry and Philip, said, “young people also need to be seen as more than HIV risks – they need other support and services that would help them avoid being in situations which make them more vulnerable including safe housing, education, other health and support services, legal protection and opportunities to make a living and contribute to their communities’.

Over the last two days Save the Children has been involved in many activities – including presentations on the challenges and legal barriers in providing prevention services to those selling sex in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, and school based programs for children and youth in Georgia. Simon - FSW decriminalization

There are a number of questions and challenges posed to us as a child-focused agency – how do new technologies and innovations fit in our approaches? How do we address the multiple needs of younger key affected populations beyond solely their HIV risks and address the factors that make them more vulnerable?  How do we not lose focus on the behavioral and social issues? How can we better understand and access those youth who are hidden, ignored, and misunderstood?

XIX International AIDS Conference – Day 1

Ronnie lovichRonnie Lovich (Senior Advisor HIV/AIDS) and Alice Fay

Washington DC

July 23, 2012


We come together at the 2012 International AIDS Conference with 20,000 colleagues, implementers, activists, ready to listen, and share our experiences of what works. As we gather for this week of meetings, we eagerly await news of scientific advances, global successes, and evidence of best practice and effective response. We also need to keep the fire that moves so many to respond to the HIV and AIDS pandemic burning. On this first day, we have not been disappointed.

After 30 years of responding, we can now look at ‘hyper-endemic’ countries such as Zambia and for the first time say that we have more people being treated than being diagnosed with new infections. And it is possible to say that adhering to treatment could possibly mean living a long life. But we have a new conviction and a new way of looking at treatment – treatment must be viewed as prevention.

Nowhere is this truer than in the case of ending parent to child transmission. The faster we can get a mother on treatment, the sooner we can reduce the risk of ransmission to her baby.

Some compelling facts:

  • In 2011, 330,000 children were born with HIV; a decade ago that number was 600,000. Now to prevent mother to child transmission there is “Option B+” which provides full treatment during pregnancy and continues for life. We have an unprecedented opportunity with the new B+ therapy, which is simple and can be started in the antenatal clinic setting, and demonstrates that the best treatment is prevention.
  • Under the Global Plan to end pediatric AIDS, a goal has been set for reducing transmission to , and treatment rates of 90% to keep mothers alive. However, as a number of our colleagues have illustrated, preventing mother to child transmission is a cascade of services….but the cascade can be imperfect. We may start off with good antenatal coverage but few receive the continued support they need. At each step ofintervention, we lose more women and their infants, and too few infants are tested soon enough. 

There is another missing piece that requires our attention. The majority of youth who are living with HIV do not yet know their HIV status. There has been a lot said about adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and the need to take into account the needs of younger people, who are so often excluded from adult programs including preventing mother to child transmission. We met a young Ugandan woman living with HIV; she gets her Anti RetroviralTreatment and other HIV related services from a clinic for people over 15. She said that since the clinic has opened, people her age feel much more comfortable accessing services. She also expressed her frustration that there is little
representation of the voices of young people living with HIV.

Which is why sharing our exhibition space with our young colleagues from YouthLead is so special. These inspiring individuals will be able to share their experiences living with HIV, their strategies for
addressing the stigma and helping others as peer educators.

More to come tomorrow…

Are Kids of the World Doing Better? Not When it Comes to Hunger

Child Development Index 2012This week, we released our Child Development Index and the bottom line is: kids deserve a lot better. The Index ranks the best and worst places in the world to be a child based on education, health, and nutrition statistics.

 

While there is some good news in terms of education and child survival rates—33% more kids are in school now than in the 1990s and almost 5 million more kids surviving to age 5 per year—there is one part of the report that is really shocking. In the 21st century, we still have children in the world without enough to eat every day—and it’s gotten worse over the last decade, not better. The number of acutely malnourished children across the globe has actually risen since 2000. The situation is particularly

The Hope and Power of Education

Nomsa Mkandawire, Communications OfficerNomsa Mkandawire, Communications Officer

Zomba, Malawi

July 20, 2012

It’s slightly after 12 noon and a bit hot in Zomba, the eastern district of Malawi. My colleagues and I are visiting a primary school where Save the Children is constructing a school block. The maize has not yet been harvested and we have to pass through fields. As we walk on a winding path, an old drunkard shuffles by. I swiftly dodge him and he stands in front of my colleagues, just for a hand shake. Suddenly it starts showering. 

We quickly reach a nearby compound. Two boys are playing and goats are grazing. We are in Lone Maluku’s compound, she smilingly comes out to welcome us. Lone Maluku is a mother of seven and has two children in the Save the Children sponsorship program. She says she is the proudest mother in her village and is reassured knowing that her children, 9 year-old Catherine and 7 year-old Kingsley, are sponsored and in school. “It is clear that education is the key to any development of every
human being. Look at me, I did not go to school and that is why I look like this,” she sadly points to her clothes and regretfully smiles.

Lone Maluku at her home2She continues, “You know, if I had gone to school I would never have had seven children at my age, and besides I would have found a job like other educated women. Life is tough without education. I am very hopeful that my children will finish their education, it is of paramount importance to me.” Lone says she is grateful to Save the Children for delivering these programs and is confident her children will have a bright future.

“I know my children will make it in life, every day I tell them to work extra hard if they don’t want to be like me,” explains Lone, now with a child on her back as she prepares lunch for her family. 

It suddenly occurs to ask her age. She replies, “I think I should be thirty-something because I was born in 1972. You see I dropped out of school early and I don’t know many things.’’

“I have to trek long distances early every morning to look for firewood and water, sometimes it is so cold but I have to go on. You have to understand me when I say that I wish I had gone to school and my children must be educated,” says Lone stressfully.

Life may be hard now and regrets may echo in her ears, but one thing is clear for Lone Maluku, education is the surest way to achieve a better life.

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Moving Local Organizations into the Driver’s Seat

Carlos CardenasCarlos Cardenas, Guatemala Country Director  

Guatemala City, Guatemala

July 18, 2012


Sometimes the best way to serve families over the long haul is to step back. A recent change to U.S. foreign assistance policy is putting more local organizations in the lead on development projects around the world.

X00228_9In Guatemala, chronic malnutrition keeps half the country’s children from developing properly. That fuels a vicious cycle of poverty that hurts children in rural, indigenous communities the most. U.S. investments to break this cycle have helped countless children and families, but new reforms mean Guatemalans will play a bigger, more sustainable role in fighting the worst rate of chronic malnutrition in the Western hemisphere.

Save the Children has worked in Guatemala for 14 years with a variety of public and private funding to help poor populations overcome the impact of poverty and three decades of civil conflict. As an international nonprofit humanitarian and development agency, we work alongside communities to implement integrated programs that improve health, nutrition, economic opportunities, disaster risk reduction, democracy and governance.

For the last five years, Save the Children was the prime recipient of funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to run a major food security project. In tandem, a local consortium created by Guatemala’s largest export corporations called AGEXPORT was running small scale projects with USAID funds opening up markets for poor rural farmers.  

As a result of USAID’s policy called Implementation and Procurement Reform, AGEXPORT is about to move into the driver’s seat. Under this policy, USAID aims to spend 30 percent of its resources on local institutions by 2015. In Guatemala, USAID has required that a local organization be the prime funding recipient in a new Feed the Future project called “Rural Value Chains.” AGEXPORT has been selected to take the lead and AGEXPORT has asked Save the Children to play a supportive role by providing key technical support and institutional capacity.

We know that improving farmers’ access to markets leads to greater, steadier income through the year and–critically for children–to improved nutrition for their own families. 

If the new project moves ahead as planned, AGEXPORT will bring its expertise with domestic market to the partnership, and Save the Children will bring our experience improving children’s nutrition and food security.

AGEXPORT’s selection as the prime grantee will also give the organization the opportunity to build capacity and institutional expertise to lead increasingly large-scale projects. 

That bodes well for the future.

In the next grant cycle, I suspect that AGEXPORT may not need Save the Children or any other international NGO to improve conditions for Guatemalan farmers and their children. And Save the Children can move on to another area where our technical expertise and services are still truly needed. 

Working ourselves out of a job is a development success.

Family Planning Saves Lives, But Millions Can’t Access It

The following first appeared on Care2.com

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Around the world, an estimated 222 million women who don’t want to get pregnant cannot access contraception. I was surpised to learn Namutebi was one of them.

 

On the way to the Ugandan hospital where I met Namutebi, I saw several clinics advertising family planning services. The services were free and there for the asking. But despite her

Chain Weaver Grandpa

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 2 - May 2012, Author - Shazia Azizzada 2Shazia Azizzada, Sponsorship Management Officer

Faryab, Afghanistan

July 11, 2012


Afghan children, even amid the turmoil of a three-decade war, continue to play traditional games. For 80 years “Baba Zanjeerbaf,”meaning “chain weaver grandpa or old man,” has been a favorite.

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 2, May 2012, Photo 1The tradition behind “Baba Zanjeerbaf” tells of a spiritual old man who ties people together with long chains to bind and strengthen them so
that when one is in need they can all help to support them.

The game, played by girls and boys of all ages usually in a group of around 10 to 20, is very common in Faryab and Saripul provinces where we are implementing Sponsorship-funded programs.

From the group one child is chosen as “Baba Zanjeerbaf” and another as the group leader. Holding each other’s hands, the children stand in a line with the group leader and “Baba Zanjeerbad” at each end. The group leader and children then sing a song of questions which are answered by the
“Baba Zanjeerbaf”:

Children: Baba Zanjeerbaf!

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Baba zanjeer bafti? (Did you weave the chains?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Poshte koh andakhti? (Did you throw them behind
the mountains?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Baba amada? Chi chi aworda? (Did Baba Zanjeerbaf
come? What did he bring?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Keshmesh wa Nakhod! Bya wa Bukhor! (Pea and
Raisin! Come and eat!)

Children: Ba sadaie chi beyayem? (Which sound should we come
with?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Ba sadaie peshak! (The sound of a cat!)

Children: Meyaw…Meyaw…Meyaw (imitating the sound of cat)

The children then swap positions and start the song again,
this time imitating another pet’s sound. This continues until all the children
have swapped their position and have imitated different pets’ sound, then the
song changes:

Children: Baba Zanjeerbaf!

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bali! (Yes)

Children: Zanjeer ma bafti? (Did you weave my chains?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Bafta shod! (It is made.)

Children: Zanjeer mahkam ast ya shol? (Are they strong or
weak?)

Baba Zanjeerbaf: Kash ko wa bibin! (Pull it and see.)

AfCO Sponsorship Blog Post 2, May 2012, Photo 5Then the “Baba Zanjeerbaf” pulls from one end of the line and the group leader pulls from other, until the chain breaks. The child where the chain breaks is penalized by the group leader to sing a song, dance or tell a joke. The side of the chain with the most children is the winner.

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Tips to Beat the Heat this Summer

DeMarrais picJeanne-Aimee De Marrais, Domestic Emergencies Advisor

Washington, D.C.

July 6, 2012


Temperatures have risen to triple-digit highs throughout the East Coast. As you and your family think of ways to stay cool,please keep in mind that infants and young children are among the most vulnerable in extreme heat. Follow these helpful hints and suggestions from the Center for Disease Control's Extreme Heat Guide to keep you and your child happy and healthy this summer:

  • Do NOT leave children unsupervised in parked cars, even if the windows are cracked open. Even in less threatening temperatures, vehicles can rapidly heat up to dangerous temperatures. A child left inside a car is at risk for severe heat-related illnesses and/or death.
  • Air-conditioning is the best form of protection against heat-related illness and death, so be sure to spend as much time in air-conditioned spaces (i.e. shopping malls, public libraries, public health sponsored heat-relief shelters) as possible during extreme heat waves.
  • Get Informed! Listen to local news and weather channels for health, safety, and weather-related updates.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light-colored, and breathable fabrics, as well as broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect you and your child from the heat and potential sun-related skin damage. Hats and umbrellas can be used to limit exposure to harmful sun rays.
  • Remember to drink plenty of fluids, regardless of your activity level. Also avoid hot meals as they too can affect body heat.
  • Know how to identify heat-related illnesses/conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps, and severe sunburn. Please refer to the CDC website for a complete list of health conditions caused by extreme heat exposure, and how to remedy them.

Here are some links to additional information which will help keep you and you child safe this summer:

The Center for Disease Control's Extreme Heat Guide

More information on child vehicular hyperthermia