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This blog was originally posted on Global Health Council’s Blog 4 Global Health. This is a guest blog written by Arianna Levitus, policy and advocacy associate with PATH, one of the sponsors of the event.

“This is a pivotal month, in a pivotal year, when the world will take stock of promises made to women and children,” Sallie Craig Huber, global lead for results management at Management Sciences for Health (MSH), announced today to a standing room-only crowd at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Ms. Huber was introducing a panel of speakers to address the challenging topic of improving monitoring, transparency and accountability for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). The three panelists who followed Ms. Huber demonstrated the need to improve the way we monitor and evaluate programs for maternal and child health to capture and use data that can inform meaningful and effective program design and policy change.

This article was originally posted on K4Health’s Blog.

It’s late in the evening in a hard-to-reach village in the Malawian District of Nkhotakota.  There is no electricity in this village, nor in the Bua community health center that serves 11,280 people, including a pregnant mother who goes into pre-term labor. The local Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) is called to provide assistance because the local maternity nurse is not at home.

Over 100 delegates from 30 countries participated in the “National Pharmacovigilance Systems: Ensuring the Safe Use of Medicines” conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, August 16–18, 2010.  Organized by Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems (SPS) program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the conference focused on the issue of medicine safety in the wake of increased access to medicines in the developing world through various global initiatives that promote treatment for HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis.  The forum aimed at providing participants with a framework for building, strengthening, and optimizing medicines safety and pharmacovigilance (PV) systems at the country level.

At a time when many are looking for examples of lasting local success in international development and sustainable approaches to healthcare for low income populations, PROSALUD, Bolivia’s largest health nongovernmental organization (NGO), embodies this success.  PROSALUD just celebrated its 25th anniversary last week – and MSH was there to help celebrate. For over two decades, PROSALUD has contributed to the unmet health needs of low-income populations in Bolivia, working with the active participation of the communities it serves.

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.

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). 

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

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.”

Originally posted on Global Health TV's website.

Watch Video Coverage of Dispelling Myths About Haiti

The Global Health Council and its partners held a press conference at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, to bring the attention of the media back to Haiti six months after it was devastated by earthquake.

Experts such as Dr. Paul Farmer, Dr. Jonathan Quick from Management Sciences for Health, Jeff Sturchio from the Global Health Council, and Dr. Jean William Pape from GHESKIO discuss the struggles and successes being made in the troubled nation - and try to dispel a few myths too.

The AIDS 2010 conference theme “Rights Now, Right Here” was delivered loudly, clearly, and passionately throughout the week in Vienna as delegates discussed the practical and urgent implications for truly gaining universal access to HIV treatment, prevention, and care. Over 10 million HIV positive people are without access to treatment, without universal access, the MDGs will not be achieved by 2015.

Human rights violations are a barrier to learning about the epidemic or receiving critical prevention information. Some HIV positive people are subject to unethical surveillance. Human rights violations contribute to transmission of HIV (such as from rape in prisons or domestic violence) and, in too many countries, being HIV positive is a criminal offense. Stigma, discrimination, and persecution are all huge barriers to HIV testing, care, and support. Universal access to human rights by all is what will lead to universal treatment, prevention, and care, not the reverse. Realizing the full protection of human rights is the first step to enhancing efficiency in these programs. The right to live life free of stigma and discrimination and the right to health care including treatment, prevention, care, and needle exchange and substitution treatment are essential.

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