HIV & AIDS

Shelly with her latest trophy after winning first place at a 2012 regional Emancipation Day race. {Photo credit: V. Hinds/MSH.}Photo credit: V. Hinds/MSH.

Shelly has always been very athletic. She competed in both her high school track events and in community races in her hometown of Essequibo, Guyana. In 2010, she was ecstatic after winning a cash prize for placing first in an annual regional championship. However, her life took a turn one year later.

Shelly became pregnant and, during an antenatal care appointment, tested positive for HIV. The news devastated her, as she believed that an HIV diagnosis meant her athletic career was over. Shelly was unaware of how to remain healthy while living with HIV, and so she soon became ill, weak, and lost a significant amount of weight. To add to this, she was unemployed and lacked the means to provide for her newborn son.

MSH: Saving lives and improving health in 2013.{Image credit: MSH.}Image credit: MSH.

We have seen some remarkable gains in global health in 2012. Yet millions of women, children, and men still die from preventable causes. As we pause and reflect on 2012 and look ahead to the new year, I invite you to read and share some of our favorite blog posts from the year.

2012 World AIDS Day event in Port au Prince, Haiti. From left to right: Pamela White, Ambassador of the United States to Haiti; Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS; Sophia Martelly, First Lady of Haiti; Florence Duperval Guillaume, Minister of Public Health and Population; and Guirlaine Raymond, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population. {Photo credit: C.Gilmartin/MSH.}Photo credit: C.Gilmartin/MSH.

In recent years, Haiti has endured some of the greatest misfortunes in its history, including hurricanes, floods, the devastating 2010 earthquake, and the cholera epidemic that followed. These natural disasters and public health crises have added to the harm already caused by the country’s widespread poverty, social and political unrest, and under-resourced health system. Haiti’s fragile population is further plagued by the highest HIV prevalence in the Western Hemisphere at 1.9 percent, which translates to roughly 120,000 HIV-positive individuals and 93,000 children who have lost their parents to AIDS (UNAIDS, 2011).

Malawi mother and children {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

I got a call from the resident doctor to come to exam room 6. As soon as I entered the room, I prepared myself. The little girl, 7- or maybe 8-years-old, didn't look well; she was “floppy,” combative, and not entirely aware of where she was or what we were doing to her. She was HIV-positive, and my colleague needed to get an IV line in her arm to test the latest in experimental treatments for kids with HIV– and needed the four of us interns to help hold her still.

It was 1993 during my residency in pediatrics in Cleveland, Ohio. We were at one of the best children’s hospitals in the world; it didn’t matter. The young girl died a few months later.

With the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART) a few years later, the whole world changed. The world of HIV medicine blossomed; new drugs and drug combinations literally exploded with amazing effect. HIV-positive mothers could give birth to HIV-negative babies, and HIV-positive children and their moms could get treatment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=joX9cq692Wc

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, discusses the new UNAIDS World AIDS Day report: Results at a press conference today in Geneva.

 

 

 

Trying to cross through a flooded section of road in South Sudan. {Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.}Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.

“We’re going to try to drive through that?”

After spending nearly two years working in South Sudan, I was on my way with two colleagues to one final meeting. The USAID-funded second phase of the Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), ended activities on July 31, 2012, and three of us needed to travel 360 kilometers (220 miles) to a results dissemination meeting. A flight booking mishap meant we had no choice but to drive --- during rainy season.

With a key bridge washed out.

And it rained --- down poured --- for over an hour the morning we left.

After passing several toppled trucks, overtaking pickups irrevocably mired in mud, and crossing through a river, we came across the point where I uttered the above quote (“We’re going to try to drive through that?”).

Democratic Republic of the Congo {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Last night, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) visiting our programs, I attended a US election-eve gathering of mostly Congolese people in Kinshasa. The DRC is one of those “distant nations” President Obama was referring to in his early morning acceptance speech today, where people are, “risking their lives just for… the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.”

Fragile, conflict-ridden nations, such as the DRC, struggle with leadership and governance. Its people have been victims of horrific violence, stunning gender inequality, and some of the worst health conditions in the world. They deserve better.

The United States reelected President Barack Obama to lead not only our country, but also to lead on addressing global health and other global development challenges such as those faced by the DRC.

Management Sciences for Health (MSH), a global non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and improving health for the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, has long been a partner with the US government, foundations, and other donors, working in more than 140 countries to build stronger and more sustainable health care systems.

K4Health Knowledge Management/Health Systems Strengthening Conceptual Framework. {Image credit: MSH.}Image credit: MSH.

Cross-posted from the K4Health blog

No matter which health system building block you are trying to improve, you need specific data, information, and knowledge to inform your decision-making process—this is where good knowledge management comes in handy.

The Intersection of Knowledge Management and Health Systems Strengthening: Implications from the Malawi Knowledge for Health Demonstration Project” provides an interesting case study of the connection between improved knowledge management and health systems strengthening.

Luke and volunteers construct a new house. {Photo credit: L. Ross/MSH.}Photo credit: L. Ross/MSH.

In January 2011, Amelia and her partner, Luke --- both HIV positive --- began accessing HIV care and support services at the Agape Network through its community home and palliative care program.

Agape Network is one of the NGOs that receives technical support from the PEPFAR-funded, USAID-implemented, Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Project (GHARP II), led by MSH.

When the Agape staff first met Luke and Amelia, they were living with their two daughters at Luke’s family’s home. The situation was tense because Luke’s relatives did not approve of his relationship with Amelia.

Finally, in December 2011, the tension escalated and Luke, Amelia, and their family were thrown out of the house.

"Makasi" after two months of TB treatment. {Photo credit: A. Massimba/MSH.}Photo credit: A. Massimba/MSH.

Seven-year-old Makasi, an HIV-positive orphan in Tanzania, was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis (TB) and started on curative treatment. Clinicians at a local health center used standardized TB guidelines to overcome the difficulty of identifying TB in children co-infected with other diseases. In Afghanistan, sixteen-year-old Hamida provides for her family while trying to complete school. Hamida was visited by a community health worker, who identified her TB symptoms, and helped her access appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Steady Progress Against Daunting Challenges

Tuberculosis mortality has fallen by a third since 1990. Yet TB is still the second leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide. The vast majority of new cases (8.8 million in 2010) and deaths (1.1 million in 2010) occur in poorer countries. TB’s effects are often most devastating among people in fragile circumstances. Poverty and conflict push people into crowded, unsanitary conditions without appropriate nutrition and health care.

Even more, TB is fast spreading, easy to misdiagnose, often co-morbid with other diseases, and, increasingly, highly drug-resistant.

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