USAID

{Photo credit: MSH, South Africa.}Photo credit: MSH, South Africa.

The prospect that we may see the end of AIDS in our lifetime has never been greater. Over the last decade, the global HIV & AIDS community has achieved stunning successes, including a steady decrease in new HIV cases, a massive scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and proof that treatment is prevention. As we begin the XIX International AIDS Conference, we are also excited by new scientific advances in prevention and treatment, such as Option B+  for prevention of maternal-to-child transmission (PMTCT). As new possibilities develop, we must also build on the successes of the last decade. Only by "turning the tide together" through the simultaneous pursuit of new possibilities, leveraging of proven interventions for scale and sustainability, and strengthening of health systems overall, can we hope to reach our goal of ending the HIV & AIDS epidemic.

Seasoned HIV & AIDS experts gathered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Saturday evening, July 21, to weigh in on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on the eve of the XIX International AIDS Conference, dubbed "AIDS 2012".

The conference is taking place in the USA for the first time in 20 years thanks to President Obama’s lifting of the travel ban on HIV-positive visitors.

“What has been PEPFAR’s strategic significance?”

An illustrious panel including Ambassador Eric Goosby (United States Global AIDS Coordinator), Ambassador Mark Dybul (former United States Global AIDS Coordinator), and Dr Anthony Fauci (Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID) discussed the first topic: “What has been PEPFAR’s strategic significance?”

Dr Fauci, who was one of the architects of PEPFAR, talked of the humanitarian and moral responsibility that George Bush felt. He mentioned an African male comment that “PEPFAR is the best thing that ever happened to Africa.”

AIDSChat 2012AIDSChat 2012

USAID and partners are hosting a Twitter chat in preparation for the 19th International AIDS Conference. The began at 10 am EDT and continues throughout the day.

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) will be co-hosting from 2:00 - 2:30 pm on the topic of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV with Scott Kellerman, MD, MPH, tweeting from .

Jessica, David, and Matuet are members of the community, HIV-positive clients, and a key to HIV care and treatment at Masafu Hospital. {Photo credit: M. Hartley/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Hartley/MSH.

I visited Masafu Hospital in eastern Uganda on a busy Tuesday morning. Tuesdays are antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic days at this Ugandan facility. Patients come on their designated date for a checkup and to pick up their prescription refill. (Clients get a one month supply of medicines; ideally health workers see the HIV-positive clients once a month to check their health status.)

Three volunteer expert clients --- Jessica, David, and Matuet --- assist the trained health workers on clinic and non-clinic days.

On ART-clinic days, Jessica, David and Matuet organize files, greet patients, inform patients about side effects, educate on prevention methods, support CD4 collection, and communicate with relatives. On non-clinic days, the expert clients reach out to the communities to reduce stigma, inform people about the services available at health centers, and encourage others to know their status.

David explains that he chose to become an expert client because, “I have the challenge too; I want to help others understand HIV better.”

Matuet said, “Other community members don’t want to know their status. I had to stand up.”

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

On this historic World Population Day --- the first with the world’s population at seven billion and growing --- we call your attention to a crucial summit in London happening today, and to the ongoing importance of supporting access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health.

The London Summit

Over one hundred high-level decision-makers are convening at The London Summit on Family Planning in hopes of securing a better future for women and girls globally. Hosted by the UK government and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with UNFPA and others, the summit seeks to provide an additional 120 million women in resource-poor countries with lifesaving contraceptives, information and family planning services by 2020.

Rabi giving a public awareness lecture on HIV in her locality. {Photo credit: MSH, Nigeria.}Photo credit: MSH, Nigeria.

Rabi gives a public awareness lecture on HIV. (Photo credit: MSH, Nigeria)

Forty-year old Rabi Suleiman lives in Koko Besse area in Kebbi state, Nigeria. She is married without children. Rabi, who now lives with her third husband, recalls that her ordeal with illness and social ostracism began in 2009. Rabi’s three marriages were the result of her inability to conceive, and a continuous search for a partner with whom she could successfully bear children. In the course of her marriages she contracted HIV.

Weakened by continuous infections and emaciated beyond recognition, Rabi recalls that she was abandoned, equated to animal status and locked up in a hut meant for cattle in her family home. Her meals were pushed to her through a door opening by relations who refused to look her in the face.

Today, Rabi has a new story to tell. With the assistance of the Prevention Organizational Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) project outreach team, Rabi was enrolled with the USAID-supported ProACT antiretroviral therapy (ART) program in the General Hospital, Koko, late in 2009.

GHARF officers and others participate in a CUBS-facilitated proposal writing workshop for community-based organizations in Enugu, Nigeria. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Securing funds from donors and partners can be challenging for Nigerian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), given the nation’s large pool of competing organizations. In order to earn funds, NGOs must have strong proposal writing skills, the ability to defend their proposals, and efficient operational capacity.

The Global Health Awareness Research Foundation (GHARF) is a community-based organization operating in Enugu state in southeastern Nigeria. GHARF recently participated in a three-day proposal writing workshop, facilitated by the USAID-funded Community Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CUBS) project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

CUBS also conducted a series of training and systems-strengthening exercises with GHARF and MSH provided follow-up technical assistance to build the organization's capacity and improve its status within Nigeria’s large pool of NGOs.

Ramatu Fullah now ekes out a decent living selling acheke; her two children stand by her side. {Photo credit: ACEPT staff/MSH.}Photo credit: ACEPT staff/MSH.

Ramatu Fullah is a 27-year-old woman in the Pujehun district of Sierra Leone.  She comes from a poor family and, for years, had to earn her living as a sex worker to take care of her two children. Recently, Ramatu learned skills that enabled her to change her trade through an awareness-raising campaign supported by the USAID West Africa Regional Health Office's Action for West Africa Region II (AWARE II) project, managed by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). Today, Ramatu sells acheke, a local delicacy, on the streets of Sierra Leone.

Women and HIV & AIDS in Sierra Leone

A new hand-washing station in Toghak, Afghanistan. {Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH.}Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH.

In the small Afghan village of Toghak, where open defecation affected the sanitation and health of the community, two women took the initiative to mobilize themselves and others into transforming Toghak.

Ms. Fatima and Ms. Rukhsar attended a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) workshop in the neighboring village of Gheyas Said Abd and learned life-saving lessons they wanted to take back to their village. They learned that flies tend to breed in bacteria infested places, particularly human feces, and then transport the fecal matter to food meant for human consumption.

Knowing that this knowledge would motivate their community to improve their sanitation efforts, the women did not waste any time.

When the women returned from the workshop, they recruited twenty women from Toghak willing to help them improve the latrines. They also requested the assistance of CLTS facilitators to come to Toghak and map the high frequency defecation areas in order to identify the best locations for new latrines.

Within a week the women made improvements to 20 latrines. Within three months 50 new latrines were built.

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