Tag Archives: News

Domestic Action to Fight AIDS Among Women Lacking

March is Women’s History Month. On March 10th, according to AlterNet.org, America “celebrated” Women and Girls’ HIV Awareness Day. But apparently there wasn’t anything to celebrate, since our country has made relatively little progress in awareness or policy around the high HIV rate for women, particularly African-American women and girls. The article laments that our international AIDS relief plans address the gendered issues around HIV prevention and treatment, while our own domestic policy largely ignores the epidemic.

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Anti-Retroviral Drugs Cut HIV Death Toll

BBC News reports that “The World Health Organization and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) say an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide are infected with HIV,” which is up from 2007’s 33 million HIV infections due to the use of HIV drugs, which are helping people with HIV live longer, fuller lives.

Since 1996, when effective ARVs became available, an estimated 2.9 million lives have been saved, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years,and mother-to-child infections have been reduced due to access to preventative drugs.

The quote from the Director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan speaks adamantly and hopefully, “We cannot let this momentum wane. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives.”

However, the figures from Sub-Saharan Africa remain the worst in the world:

  • Total Infections in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008: 22.4 million
  • New Infections in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008: 1.9 million
  • AIDS Deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008: 1.4 million
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Uganda to Revamp its HIV Prevention Message

“We shall use basic facts in the messages to communicate effectively because we have realized that the level of knowledge about basic facts on HIV information is quite limited,” said Saul Onyango, senior health educationist with the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC).

The UAC, after feeling that Uganda’s messages were less successful than hoped, will re-define high-risk sex from “sex with irregular partner” to “anyone whose HIV status is unknown.” An at-risk population now includes anyone engaged in risky sex. Generic warnings about risky sex will now be favored over targeted messages, such as those about inter-generational sex.

“We have to change the destiny of this country, even if it means putting back the drums of the 1980s that used to frighten people,” said UAC director-general, David Kihumuro Apuuli. The center of a 1980s radio campaign in Uganda featured an ominous drumbeat and “AIDS kills.” Some in Uganda would like to see fear-driven campaigns return, believing them to be successful. The other side of the debate worries that scare tactics do not lead to behavior change but encourage fatalism and discrimination.

Those in Uganda’s leadership also voice a worry rarely heard – that funding for HIV prevention programs largely comes from donors and is unsustainable.

A lot to think about. We recommend reading the full article here to gain the most insight.

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HIV Awareness Campaign Yields Results in Tanzanian Village

None of the 2,500 out of 15,000 villagers in Rusaba Village, Kasulu District, Kigoma Region, tested positive for HIV this year between July and September. Local health workers had never come upon such results. They attribute it to an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign conducted by Tanzania Red Cross and Action Aid International, low interaction between villagers and outsiders, and close-knit family structures.

Depending on the size and diversity of the population tested, HIV infection rates can appear distorted. AIDSTanzania, for example, has tested in rural villages during our trips to the Arusha area. In one village, of 100 people tested there were zero positive tests. At face value this is great news. However, a number of factors could be at play: HIV-positive people who know of their infection are usually not going to get tested again; those who suspect they have HIV are afraid to come forward and get tested; and with only 100 tests available, tests go to the aware individuals who show up early because they are already thinking about HIV prevention.

Because the testing in Rusaba Village was of 2,500 of 15,000 people over a period of a few months, we can be confident that it was a representative sample of villagers. These results, and the influential HIV awareness campaign, are something to keep in mind as we work to prevent HIV, encourage testing, and spread education.

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AIDS has Economic Impacts in Tanzania

“But global crisis aside, Tanzania is in a job crisis of its own characterised by the devastating HIV/Aids pandemic and low competitiveness and productivity, experts say,” Damas Kanyabwoya writes for AllAfrica.com.Read the full article here.

It is important for us to remember that HIV has human and social effects beyond the side effects of the disease itself. Jeffrey D. Sachs, author of The End of Poverty, writes that he was shocked during his first visit to Zambia, when many of his Zambian colleagues were incapacitated by AIDS. In his book, he relays how he had never imagined that an illness could be so economically devastating. Indeed, it seems unimaginable to those living in a country like the United States that a disease could have an impact big enough to cause a drain among the working population, even big enough to hurt the economy.

Tanzania faces a similar problem to the one Sachs recognizes in Zambia, and it is exacerbated by malaria, TB, and cholera. When a country is crippled by disease, there is a viscious cycle of disease and poverty – countries do not have the money to fight disease, and so their working populations and schoolchildren are distracted or killed by illness, and thus there isn’t the education or capital to generate money.

Adding economic impacts to the discussion of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment will help educators, researchers, and leaders fight the disease most effectively.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Awards $760K to Transform Global Health

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is awarding 76 grants of $100,000 for ideas to transform health in developing countries. The grants are part of the foundations’s Grand Explorations Challenges to fund such innovative health ideas as killing mosquito larvae with toxic micropellets and creating an intranasal malaria vaccine for pregnant women.

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Re-visiting an old article…

Visit this William and Mary News link to get a peek into W&M’s take on AIDSTanzania and a great video and slideshow of our group.

The article might be a year old, but it still proclaims AIDSTanzania’s mission, and hey – it’s time to reflect on the past, it’s Homecoming weekend!

Max Cameron and Lwanda Mgere during an HIV biology lesson

Max Cameron and Lwanda Mgere during an HIV biology lesson

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First, a vaccine in Thailand…now, one in Tanzania?

An article on Physorg.com reveals the results of a small Phase II HIV vaccine

HIV Virus

HIV Virus

trial in Tanzania: “An HIV vaccine tested in Tanzania has shown positive results in preliminary trials and may provide better protection than a promising Thai vaccine unveiled on September 24, Swedish researchers said Monday.” (Read the full article here).

One of the reasons for the increased success (up to 50% protection vs. 30% in the Thailand study) is that this vaccine included more strains of the virus. The vaccine was tested in 60 healthy Tanzanian policemen. The results will be presented at an HIV/AIDS vaccine conference in Paris on Wednesday.

So much in the news lately about HIV vaccines, and now Tanzania has been involved as well. We’ll have to watch closely over the next few months to see if this trial moves to Phase III (a larger-scale investigation) or if anything substantial comes out of the Thailand trial.

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A reminder that fighting AIDS should not be the only fight…

A lot of the disease-fighting focus in Tanzania, and in Africa as a whole, is to HIV/AIDS. Many people see this as the overwhelming problem and forget that many people struggle against more basic, more preventable, more treatable diseases – such as cholera.

A cholera outbreak in northeastern Tanzania has resulted in 12 deaths and the closing of schools until November 1 (read more here).

Though AIDSTanzania is primarily focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, we have realized the need to broaden our vision. For example, we cannot teach someone about how to prevent contracting HIV when they are struggling with malaria or TB or cholera. Additionally, if someone has one of these diseases their immune system and body are already weakened, and research shows that they may contract HIV more easily while sick. We must start with a comprehensive (or holistic) approach to health and education.

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Truckers Leave AIDS Viral Loads in Namanga Border Town

This article tells a story that is a common narrative in Tanzania about how HIV is spread. This time, the story takes place in Namanga, a border town between Tanzania and Kenya, and the theory is that HIV infections are rising in the town due to heavy trucker traffic and the nomadic lifestyle of the border communities.

Namanga, at the border of Kenya and Tanzania

Namanga, at the border of Kenya and Tanzania

While in Tanzania, our own group heard similar stories about how commuting brings HIV back into the rural villages – men would go into Arusha to work and to seek entertainment, sometimes contract the HIV virus through sexual partners in the city, and then unknowingly bring HIV back to their family and community. This is why some statistics suggest the HIV infection rate growing in rural areas even as it stabilizes or decreases in cities.

This is a similar problem to Namanga’s border town HIV problem. Residents and officials of this area blame in sufficient health and medical facilities both for failing to stop the spread of the virus. The article also suggests that though reported HIV rates are low, the problem is critical – implying not only insufficient medical care, but insufficient testing and potentially a heavy stigma regarding HIV.

Truckers Leave Aids Viral Loads in Namanga Border Town

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