How to Save the Children of Mosul

November 20, 2016. Qayyarah, Iraq. Children stand in the back of a truck as their family prepares to return home from Qayyarah Jad’ah camp.
Children stand in the back of a truck as their family prepares to return home from Qayyarah Jad’ah camp in Qayyarah, Iraq on Nov. 20, 2016.

                                  Originally published on time.com

The Mosul offensive continues—both militarily and in terms of help for civilians—but it is not too soon to help the region’s children start to recover from years of suffering. As Iraqi forces enter Mosul, they are not only faced with ISIS militants but also up to 1.5 million civilians still trapped, including about 600,000 children, who are growing increasingly desperate. In the short term, safe routes must be established so these families can escape the violence. We risk another Aleppo, where civilians are trapped inside a warzone, if safe passage is not possible.

As thousands of families flee and others are caught in the crossfire or by snipers and landmines, children must urgently be protected. However, in the long run, we will fail Mosul if we are unable to help a whole generation of children recover from the violence, uncertainty and lack of schooling that they have faced in recent years.

Thousands of babies were born in Mosul in 2003 and 2004 as the war in Iraq was taking place and fighting raged in the city. Now in their early teens, these children have lived the vast majority of their lives in a state of uncertainty.

By 2008, when these children should have been starting kindergarten, armed militants were using the city as their strategic center of gravity—a hub for funding and violence. UNICEF reported at least one-third of children in Mosul were out of school. Even as active conflict subsided, it remained a dangerous place to be a child. In December of that year, a bomb detonated outside a primary school as students were leaving for the day, killing three children and injuring 18.

The situation grew even direr in 2014 when ISIS invaded the city—just as children born in 2003 should have been finishing primary school. The group took control of schools, burned textbooks and instituted a new extreme curriculum. Children were to be drilled in lessons on ISIS doctrine. The curriculum was also militarized and encouraged children to fight and learn how to use weapons.

More than one million children who have been living under ISIS in Iraq have either been out of school or forced to learn from an ISIS curriculum. Many parents refused to send their children to school out of fear for their safety and well-being. Other families had to make the difficult decision to flee their homes to escape violence and intimidation and are now living in camps or non-camp settings that don’t always have educational opportunities for young people.

Now, with the offensive to retake Mosul underway, Save the Children staff positioned in nearby camps report meeting families with children who have escaped the fighting and who say their children are getting sick from breathing air filled with smoke from oil wells that ISIS set on fire. Many have already lost loved ones and they are dehydrated and hungry from long journeys made on foot as they flee ISIS-held areas.

Mahmoud, a father we met, recently escaped Shura, south of Mosul. As fighting approached the village, he and his family were taken deeper into ISIS territory, where they were reportedly forcing people to act as human shields. The family escaped and is now in a temporary camp.

“I have four daughters. Before IS the older ones were going to school and loved it,” he said. “When IS took over, the content of the curriculum changed, so we stopped sending them. Every lesson became militarized. Even math lessons—they would teach the children ‘one bullet plus one bullet equals two bullets.’ They’ve now been out of school for two years.”

We know from our work in Iraq and other conflict zones that getting children back into school is absolutely critical. Being in a classroom setting provides a child with a sense of normalcy that they miss during times of conflict or displacement. Trained teachers can help students process the trauma they have experienced, and a quality education can help young people acquire the knowledge, tolerance, and critical thinking skills necessary to help rebuild their country and make a constructive contribution to society.

The government of Iraq and international partners can show their commitment to education in Iraq in four ways:

For those families who have already fled or who are desperately trying to, children need to be provided with quality education and psycho-social support inside camps established for internally displaced people and refugees. Save the Children is establishing temporary learning places in tents in one of the camps where people have fled, but much more is needed.

The Iraqi government should also work with international partners to reopen schools in retaken areas as soon as it is safe to do so. Repairs to schools should be prioritized, and school buildings should only be used for classes, not by the military.

Additionally, special attention needs to be given to children who have been forced to serve as child soldiers. They need extra help to make up for time lost in the classroom, tools to regain their self-confidence, and assistance reducing stigmas that might exist in their communities.

Finally, make sure that all Iraqi children can go to school. Iraq was once a country where more than 90% of children were in education, but it now has about 3.5 million children out of school. Donors must ensure that the UN’s 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan is fully funded—at the moment education has only 40% of the funding it requires.

Securing Mosul is crucial, but unless we include education in the immediate recovery plan, it will be almost impossible to build a prosperous city and region. Children of Mosul have suffered for many years and have missed out on enough of their childhoods. Getting them back into a safe positive school environment is critical to starting the recovery process, giving them hope for the future and breaking the cycle of suffering in Mosul.

Global Tax Policy Just Got Sexier

Andrew wainer

Andrew Wainer

Director of Policy Research in the Public Policy & Advocacy Department 

Washington, DC

Few public policies are less popular with Americans than taxation.

In 2014 52% of Americans said their taxes were too high, while 3% said they were too low. The Internal Revenue Service is rated as one of the least-loved federal agencies. In 2013 only 27% of Americans said it did a good or excellent job while 42% said it was doing a poor job, making it the lowest rated agency among all surveyed.

But from a global perspective, taxation and prosperity often go together. As analysts have asserted, wealthy, healthy, and well-educated populations are typically supported by high levels of government expenditures. That money has to come from somewhere, often it’s from taxes.

Evidence indicates that – in general – the wealthier your country, the more taxes it raises as a percentage of its economic output (GDP). If you live in a prosperous country – unless you are living on top of massive oil reserves – then you probably have an above-average tax-to-GDP ratio. For example:

But we have to be careful not to make facile linkages between taxation and healthy and prosperous societies. While taxes and development often go together, the relationship is complex.

Taxation is beneficial in developmental terms only if it’s done to an extent that doesn’t hamper economic growth and doesn’t hurt the poor. Government intervention can increase poverty rather than raise incomes.  As analyst Charles Kenny has noted, “The incidence of poverty after transfers, taxes and subsidies is higher than market income poverty in Armenia, Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Guatemala.”

But before delving further into the nuances of taxation on poverty, it’s useful to ask: Who cares? In addition to being disliked, tax is also typically regarded as a dull public policy issue.

That’s changing.

The momentum on “taxes for development” has been growing for some time as the development finance focus has shifted to include domestic resources, which now contribute nearly 70 percent of development finance in Africa. No wonder that domestic resource mobilization (DRM) – developing countries increasing their own revenue – is receiving increased attention from governments and analysts:

  • Developing country leaders are driving the conversation. In a recent op-ed Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that developing nations, “Need to invest in modern tax collecting systems, stem corruption…and crack down on tax evasion.”
  • This month analysts and policymakers discussed the U.S. role in promoting DRM at the Brookings Institution. During the discussion, U.S. officials revealed the Addis Tax Initiative, a multilateral DRM package to be rolled-out at the conference in Addis Ababa.   
  • USAID and the U.S. Treasury Department have expressed increasing interest in using more international development assistance on DRM, helping developing nations with their tax administration – collection and spending – to be more self-sufficient in reaching their development goals.

DRM and tax are experiencing their 15 minutes of fame, but more development assistance for DRM is not enough. It needs to be done right. In addition to ensuring that taxation is pro-poor and progressive other key principles include:

  • Strong country leadership: Reforming the tax sector can be politically hazardous, so using development assistance to help countries improve their tax collection and spending is only workable in countries where there is demonstrated and authentic political will to do so.
  • Long-term support: Increasing DRM is a long-term process that can take more than a decade. Reform needs to be sustained by ongoing support.
  • Donor coordination: Lack of donor coherence for improving DRM can create confusion rather than reform if donors promote different systems in the same country.
  • Include civil society: Supporting taxpayer associations and other civil society organizations will help hold government revenue generating agencies more accountable and transparent.

Taxation is moving to center stage in development finance, and could be a key tool in achieving the SDGs. If the increased focus on DRM contributes to the achievement of the ambitious SDG goals, including eliminating extreme poverty within a generation, than its newfound fame will be well-deserved.

A Girl’s Dreams, Rescued

Getachewdibaba

Getachew Dibaba

Media and Campaigns Manager, Save the Children in Ethiopia

Amhara Region, Ethiopia

June 16, 2015

 

Ayelech* 13, lives in a remote village in the Amhara region, north of Addis Ababa. She likes local celebrations which involve traditional songs and dancing. Last year, when Ayelech's parents started to organize an event in their house, she was excited to be part of it.

After school, she assisted her family in preparing the feast like other rural girls in her village. She collected fire wood and washed utensils for preparing local drinks. But she was confused and shocked when she learned from her close friend that the feast was not for any other social or religious events but for her wedding.

Bewildered, Ayelech started contemplating a way to escape from the wedding ceremony.

"I am aware of the challenges of child marriage," says Ayelech who is in grade four. "I also know many women including my mother who did not finish school because of getting married as a child. I do not want to miss school, I informed the girls' club coordinator and school director to help in stopping my parents and the family of the 'husband-to-be'."

"My favourite subject is science. I want to become a doctor when I grow up," she says. 

Ayelech's marriage was cancelled after a joint intervention of a women association supported by Save the Children, a school administration, a local administration and other actors in the community.

"Ayelech is brilliant," says, Belayne Mucha, the School Director who was informed by Ayelech and helped cancel her marriage. "I am confident she can be one of the celebrated professionals in the country."

Child marriage is not uncommon in her village and other parts of Amhara Region. The deep-rooted practice is adversely affecting the lives of many children, forcing them to abandon school and leaving them more likely to become pregnant early, experience more complications during labour and become more vulnerable to gender-based violence. Despite progress over the past decades, there is still high rate of child marriage in Ethiopia. In Amhara region, where Ayelech lives, the prevalence (44.8%) is much higher than the national average which stands at 21.4%.

The good news is that Ethiopia recognized child marriage as threat to development and prepared the 2013 National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices with the objective of reducing child marriage from the current baseline of 21.4% to 10.4%. The Ethiopian government also made a commitment – at the first Girl Summit held in London in July 2014 – to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Ethiopia by 2025.

The implementation strategy and action plan will certainly enable thousands of children like Ayelech to have a bright future where child marriage will not rob their dreams and expose them to many social ills and life-threating diseases.

Save the Children works with Amhara Women Association (AWA) that aims to improve economic status of women, empower them in decision-making processes and eliminate socio-cultural factors that hinder equal participation and benefits of women.

The Association has helped cancel more than 40,000 child marriages over the past five years. AWA, through its members who are also well recognized at grassroots level, empowers women and closely works with the local administration and school community.

Save the Children supports the association to strengthen its efforts in addressing the many challenges facing children and women so that children can grow and thrive.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the child

Notes from the UN and the Clinton Global Initiative: Speaking Out for Children in New York

This was a busy week for global development, as leaders from government, business and civil society came together in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative meetings and the UN General Assembly. As usual, Save the Children was there to take the opportunity to make children a central part of the agenda—and urge action on their behalf.

 

It’s no surprise that Ebola was a major part of the conversation, as the outbreak continues to dominate the headlines. I spoke with Reuters about how critical it is for the international community to step up our efforts to treat Ebola victims and halt the spread of the virus. We have increased our ongoing response to the outbreak in West African countries and we are moving forward with a stronger, community-based response through local Ebola Care Centers in rural areas. Easier access to local medical help and supplies, plus ongoing education about how to contain the spread of the virus, is urgently needed to save lives and protect children. As the death toll from Ebola nears 3,000 one thing is certain: the world must act quickly.  

 

Another big issue this week was the ongoing crisis in Syria—and we are working to ensure that children are not forgotten in discussions about geopolitics and conflict. Our new report, Futures under Threat: The Impact of the Education Crisis on Syria’s Children, shows the effects of conflict on millions of school-aged children. Before the conflict began, almost all Syrian children were enrolled in school but now Syria has the second-worst enrollment rate in the world. I talked about the report on Al Jazeera America and we used our influence this week to demand that Syrian children, both inside the country and those living as refugees, are protected and educated—their best chance at building a better future.

 

Of course, one of the greatest areas of focus for Save the Children is newborn and child survival as we work to accelerate progress toward achieving Millennium Development Goal #4, to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015. The world has made significant progress, but we have more to do in the 500-day sprint to the end of 2015 and in the post-2015 agenda to get to zero and finish the job. At Mashable’s Social Good Summit on Sunday, I introduced a “Simple Ways to Change Lives” panel featuring Liya Kebede, Ethiopian model and maternal health advocate, UNFPA’s Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin and our own Victoria Shaba, a midwife from Malawi, to talk about how trained and equipped health workers can save the lives of mothers and children using low-cost, proven interventions.

CGI - Logging Miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I joined with others at the Clinton Global Initiative to announce a new partnership to support literacy across the globe. Together with the Bezos Family Foundation and their Students Rebuild program, we are engaging school children everywhere in The Literacy Challenge to design and create bookmarks. The Bezos Family Foundation will give $1 for each bookmark they receive through the challenge to help power our Literacy Boost program in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

 

We take advantage of major meetings like those held this week to advocate for a better world for children—but we know that one week in New York won’t address every issue and answer every question. That’s why we match our global advocacy work with everyday efforts in communities around the world, fighting for progress in large ways and small, to give kids a chance at a better life.

Don’t Read This on an Empty Stomach…




Sara headshot
Sara ShaughnessyMedia and
Communications Intern at Save the Children

Westport, CT

June 2013


What do you get when you challenge a group of mom bloggers
to create kid-friendly recipes under $8 using eight healthy ingredients? You
get “Gr8,” good-for-kids treats that even grown-ups will love.  If you’re looking for a healthy way to cure a
raging sweet tooth or your little one is a chipsoholic, read on.  

But wait.  Before I
get to the recipes—and before you start wondering whether Save the Children is
becoming the new Food Network—let me explain our foray into the foodie world.  Coinciding with the G8 nutrition summit
earlier this month, attended by President Obama and other world leaders, Save
the Children released a new report on child nutrition, called “Food for Thought”
(get it?).

According to the “Food for Thought” report, 165 million
children globally are malnourished, a condition affecting a child’s cognitive
abilities, overall health and physical strength.  Meanwhile, 23 million U.S. children are
overweight or obese, which can be just as detrimental to their health and
well-being. 

Carolyn Miles w bloggers

Tri-state-area mom bloggers with Carolyn Miles, Save the Children’s president and CEO, at an advance screening of “Man of Steel,” which, in conjunction, helped to raise awareness about the “We Can Be Heroes Campaign,” a Save the Children and DC Entertainment initiative working to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.

Leading up to the G8 summit, 20 mom bloggers posted and tweeted kid-friendly, “Gr8 recipes” to raise awareness of childhood malnutrition around the world and show parents in America easy, inexpensive (yet tasty!) ways to make healthier choices for their children.

The result? Mouthwatering recipes that take minutes to
prepare, such as this quesadilla with a twist: on a whole-wheat tortilla, swap
greasy cheese with natural peanut butter, top it off with some fruit and,
voila—a delicious dessert that’s nutritious to boot. Or try my personal
favorite, crispy kale chips, which I made last night. Check out all the recipes
by following the ‘Gr8’ healthy kids’ recipe links below.

A big thank you from Save the Children goes out to all the
mom bloggers for sharing their recipes, making calls to action through social
media, and urging White House and government officials to ensure children get
the nutrition they need in their first 1,000 days.  We also wanted give a shout-out to the mom
bloggers who participated in an early screening of the “Man of Steel” movie as
part of the “We Can Be Heroes” campaign, a Save the Children and DC
Entertainment initiative to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.

To end on a positive note, here is some promising news: At
this month’s Nutrition for Growth Summit in London, the Obama administration
pledged to reduce stunting among 2 million children through its Feed the Future
program, as well as committed more than $1 billion in funding for global
maternal and child nutrition programs. A great start, but there is still more
to be done.

Now go back to those tasty recipes.  But if you start salivating just by looking at
the photos, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Thank you!

See the Pinterest Board


‘Gr8’ Healthy Kids’ Recipe Blogs

Lisa Van
Engen of About Proximity
, Jennifer
Barbour of Another Jennifer
,
Lea of Becoming super Mommy,
Connie
Roberts of Brain Foggles
, Samantha
Kitchenman of Carrying the World on My Hip
, Jennifer
Wagner of Connect With Your Teen Through Pop Culture and Technology
, Karen
Heffren of Desert Chica Ramblings,
Elizabeth
Atalay of Documama: Sahara to Suburbia
, Amanda
of Maroc Mama
, Shiloh
of McKinney Mommas
,
Makeba Giles of MelisaSource
, Julia Gibson
of Mom on the Run X2
, Ruth
Hill of My Devotional Thoughts
, Tiffany
Washko of Naturemomsblog
 (also on Macaroni Kid), Betsy
Shaw of Baby Center
,
Barb Webb of RuralMoms.com,
Jeanna
S. of Surf and Sunshine
, Kelli Nelson of
Sweetness of Life and Motherhood
, Heidi
of Textbook Mommy
, and Holly
of Tropic Home and Family
.

Mom Bloggers Who Mobilized a Call to Action to the White House

Jennifer Barbour of Another Jennifer,  Samantha Kitchenman of Carrying the World on
My Hip, Karen Heffren of Desert Chica Ramblings, Elizabeth Atalay of Documama:
Sahara to Suburbia, Shiloh of McKinney Mommas, Makeba Giles of MelisaSource,
Julia Gibson of Mom on the Run X2, Ruth Hill of My Devotional Thoughts, Tiffany
Washko of Naturemomsblog, Betsy Shaw of Baby Center, Barb Webb of
RuralMoms.com, Kelli Nelson of Sweetness of Life and Motherhood, Heidi of
Textbook Mommy, and Holly of Tropic Home and Family.

Mom bloggers Raising Awareness About ‘We Can Be Heroes’

Harriet Shugarman
of Climata Mama
, Adriana
Velez of CafeMom
, and Jennifer
James of Mom Bloggers For Social Good

 

Don’t Read This on an Empty Stomach…




Sara headshot
Sara ShaughnessyMedia and
Communications Intern at Save the Children

Westport, CT

June 2013


What do you get when you challenge a group of mom bloggers
to create kid-friendly recipes under $8 using eight healthy ingredients? You
get “Gr8,” good-for-kids treats that even grown-ups will love.  If you’re looking for a healthy way to cure a
raging sweet tooth or your little one is a chipsoholic, read on.  

But wait.  Before I
get to the recipes—and before you start wondering whether Save the Children is
becoming the new Food Network—let me explain our foray into the foodie world.  Coinciding with the G8 nutrition summit
earlier this month, attended by President Obama and other world leaders, Save
the Children released a new report on child nutrition, called “Food for Thought”
(get it?).

According to the “Food for Thought” report, 165 million
children globally are malnourished, a condition affecting a child’s cognitive
abilities, overall health and physical strength.  Meanwhile, 23 million U.S. children are
overweight or obese, which can be just as detrimental to their health and
well-being. 

Carolyn Miles w bloggers

Tri-state-area mom bloggers with Carolyn Miles, Save the Children’s president and CEO, at an advance screening of “Man of Steel,” which, in conjunction, helped to raise awareness about the “We Can Be Heroes Campaign,” a Save the Children and DC Entertainment initiative working to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.

Leading up to the G8 summit, 20 mom bloggers posted and tweeted kid-friendly, “Gr8 recipes” to raise awareness of childhood malnutrition around the world and show parents in America easy, inexpensive (yet tasty!) ways to make healthier choices for their children.

The result? Mouthwatering recipes that take minutes to
prepare, such as this quesadilla with a twist: on a whole-wheat tortilla, swap
greasy cheese with natural peanut butter, top it off with some fruit and,
voila—a delicious dessert that’s nutritious to boot. Or try my personal
favorite, crispy kale chips, which I made last night. Check out all the recipes
by following the ‘Gr8’ healthy kids’ recipe links below.

A big thank you from Save the Children goes out to all the
mom bloggers for sharing their recipes, making calls to action through social
media, and urging White House and government officials to ensure children get
the nutrition they need in their first 1,000 days.  We also wanted give a shout-out to the mom
bloggers who participated in an early screening of the “Man of Steel” movie as
part of the “We Can Be Heroes” campaign, a Save the Children and DC
Entertainment initiative to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.

To end on a positive note, here is some promising news: At
this month’s Nutrition for Growth Summit in London, the Obama administration
pledged to reduce stunting among 2 million children through its Feed the Future
program, as well as committed more than $1 billion in funding for global
maternal and child nutrition programs. A great start, but there is still more
to be done.

Now go back to those tasty recipes.  But if you start salivating just by looking at
the photos, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Thank you!

See the Pinterest Board


‘Gr8’ Healthy Kids’ Recipe Blogs

Lisa Van
Engen of About Proximity
, Jennifer
Barbour of Another Jennifer
,
Lea of Becoming super Mommy,
Connie
Roberts of Brain Foggles
, Samantha
Kitchenman of Carrying the World on My Hip
, Jennifer
Wagner of Connect With Your Teen Through Pop Culture and Technology
, Karen
Heffren of Desert Chica Ramblings,
Elizabeth
Atalay of Documama: Sahara to Suburbia
, Amanda
of Maroc Mama
, Shiloh
of McKinney Mommas
,
Makeba Giles of MelisaSource
, Julia Gibson
of Mom on the Run X2
, Ruth
Hill of My Devotional Thoughts
, Tiffany
Washko of Naturemomsblog
 (also on Macaroni Kid), Betsy
Shaw of Baby Center
,
Barb Webb of RuralMoms.com,
Jeanna
S. of Surf and Sunshine
, Kelli Nelson of
Sweetness of Life and Motherhood
, Heidi
of Textbook Mommy
, and Holly
of Tropic Home and Family
.

Mom Bloggers Who Mobilized a Call to Action to the White House

Jennifer Barbour of Another Jennifer,  Samantha Kitchenman of Carrying the World on
My Hip, Karen Heffren of Desert Chica Ramblings, Elizabeth Atalay of Documama:
Sahara to Suburbia, Shiloh of McKinney Mommas, Makeba Giles of MelisaSource,
Julia Gibson of Mom on the Run X2, Ruth Hill of My Devotional Thoughts, Tiffany
Washko of Naturemomsblog, Betsy Shaw of Baby Center, Barb Webb of
RuralMoms.com, Kelli Nelson of Sweetness of Life and Motherhood, Heidi of
Textbook Mommy, and Holly of Tropic Home and Family.

Mom bloggers Raising Awareness About ‘We Can Be Heroes’

Harriet Shugarman
of Climata Mama
, Adriana
Velez of CafeMom
, and Jennifer
James of Mom Bloggers For Social Good

 

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

I spent last week at the Clinton Global Initiative and the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. There was much talking about issues of international development, about the rights of children to an education, about stopping children dying from preventable things like pneumonia, about making sure that the world is free from hunger. But in the midst of all this talking, I noticed that there was simply not enough of one thing—not enough shouting. We need louder voices to make changes on what really needs to be done for poor children and families around the world. Simply put, we need more people to care and speak out. Loudly.

Read Article

Ultimate Growth Stock

Together with a group of experts, I spoke at last week’s Clinton Global Initiative on something I have become more and more convinced of the longer I do this work with Save the Children. The best investments we can make for children are those that are made early. The overwhelming evidence shows that if you want to spend money wisely on development, invest in early education and healthcare. The return on those investments will far surpass those you make later in children’s lives.

Read Article

Getting Ready for BlogHer ‘12

I am incredibly excited to connect with all of the amazing women at BlogHer ‘12, an annual conference that brings women in social media together. One of the most powerful ways to deliver a message in social media is through video. That’s why I want to share this video with you, which we’ll screen at BlogHer ’12. It includes shots of multiple health workers from all over the world. I met one of them, Madalitso Masa, along with her son Patience, who lives and works in a rocky and mountainous part of Malawi where she helps prepare women for a healthy pregnancy.

Read Article

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.