August 2010

During the opening ceremony of the International AIDS Conference, International AIDS Society President Julio Montaner declared “Consensus has arrived. Treatment and prevention are one thing and they are the way forward.” He went on to assert that Treatment 2.0 “is the most effective way forward to deliver on the universal access pledge.”

Later in the ceremony UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe proclaimed “Treatment 2.0 radically simplifies treatment to maximize the number of people who can benefit.”

Pick up any American newspaper these days, and all of the stories coming out of Haiti are negative: earthquake relief work is going slow, displaced people are still living in tented camps, men and women are still struggling to find work.  And while these facts can’t be disputed, there are many other stories that are being left untold.  Working in Haiti earlier this month, I encountered six women who are on the front lines of the battle against Haiti’s HIV & AIDS epidemic, who shared their stories with me.

Women in Haiti

A common challenge in advancing family planning is overcoming the misconceptions religious leaders have about the use of contraceptives.

Concerns from religious leaders are often based on misconceptions about family planning methods rather than their religious beliefs. The fear that hormonal methods will cause infertility or are dangerous, are commonly expressed as concerns from religious leaders.

These methods are 300 times safer than becoming pregnant in Afghanistan and about 100 times safer than pregnancy in Yemen, Malawi, and Tanzania is an appropriate way to look at the risks versus benefits.  My experience in these four countries has been that this message was well received by both Muslims and Christians, along with the sound evidence for improved child and maternal health outcomes with healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP). 

It is always very special to witness an idea blossom, a theory carried out in practice, a vision becoming a reality. Such occasions are all too rare and when you’re in one, you really feel like you are living a special moment in history.

Ron O’Connor, Founder of Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and I had this very distinct opportunity two weeks ago in Santa Cruz, Bolivia as we were honored to attend the 25th Anniversary Celebration of PROSALUD.  Over the last 25 years, MSH has been privileged to accompany PROSALUD in its successful journey from one small clinic dependent on outside donations to become one of Bolivia’s primer health care providers with 23 health centers and 5 clinics in 9 cities across the country. And, PROSALUD is financially independent and governed by its own Bolivian Board of Directors.

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