FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Monday:  October 6, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in AIDS (10)

Thursday
Jul192012

AIDS deaths worldwide drop as access to drugs improves (REPORT) 

(Video: UNAIDS)

Fewer people infected with HIV globally are dying as more of them get access to crucial antiretroviral drugs, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations AIDS program said on Wednesday.

The United Nations estimates that about 34 million people are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. In a report released ahead of the International AIDS Society's 2012 annual meeting set for next week in Washington, D.C., it said that the number of worldwide AIDS-related deaths fell to 1.7 million last year from some 1.8 million in 2010. AIDS deaths peaked at 2.3 million in 2005.

The decline has been fueled by greater access to medications that help more people live with the disease. An estimated 8 million people in lower-income countries are receiving antiretroviral drugs, and the United Nations has set a target to raise that to 15 million by 2015.

Funding for HIV prevention and treatment totaled $16.8 billion last year. Of that amount, $8.2 billion came from international sources including the United States, which donated 48 percent of it. The amount of money spent by poor and middle-income countries reached $8.6 billion last year, surpassing international investment for the first time. The UN estimates that another $5 billion is needed to reach its 2015 goals.

The UN is also talking with pharmaceutical companies about how to improve access to lower-cost versions of simpler HIV treatments that combine several drugs in a single pill.

(MAP: Global AIDS Infections, 2010/Payvand) "We need innovation which will reduce the cost of medicine," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said during a telephone interview. "If we want to maintain people on second-and third-line medicine it will not be possible with the price of the drugs we have today."

Paul De Lay, UNAIDS deputy executive director, speaking a briefing in Geneva, said overall progress in treating the disease could be jeopardized by a surge in infection seen in smaller patient groups, including in Eastern Europe and the United States.

"We are looking at an epidemic that's going to last another 40 to 50 years to get down to what we would consider the lowest possible number of infections," De Lay said.

"It reminds us that prevention must be sustained, just the way we talk about sustaining treatment. Until we have a vaccine this is still going to have to be part of all countries' health programs," he said.

Public health officials are considering wider use of HIV medications in people who are not infected with the virus but have a high risk of contracting it. Earlier this week, US health regulators for the first time approved use of Gilead Sciences Inc's Truvada drug for preventing HIV.

Such antiretroviral drugs, also sold by companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co, are designed to keep the virus that causes AIDS in check by suppressing viral replication in the blood.

Researchers are also working on using HIV-fighting antibodies to prevent infection, and they say their efforts could yield a licensed vaccine.

In the meantime, treating more people infected with HIV remains a priority. UNAIDS estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa, a region encompassing countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, 31 percent fewer people died from AIDS-related causes in 2011 compared with 2005.

The region "has actually been able to scale up more than other parts of the world, more than Eastern Europe and Central Asia, more than North Africa and the Middle East, and even more than Asia, with a 62 percent coverage rate of people eligible for treatment able to access treatment," said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the HIV Department at the World Health Organization.

Access to therapy also led to lower rates of AIDS-related deaths in Latin America, the Caribbean and Oceania.

In Western and Central Europe, as well as North America, where antiretroviral therapy is extensively available, the combined number of AIDS-related deaths has varied little over the past decade, totaling about 29,000 last year, according to the United Nations.

Death rates were also stable in Asia at an estimated 330,000, while AIDS-related deaths continued to rise in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

New infections among children declined for the second year in a row amid focused efforts to protect them and their mothers against HIV. About 330,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2011, down from 570,000 in 2003

- This article originally appeared in the Buenos Aires Herald. From July 22-27, 2012 AIDS 2012 will take place in Washington D.C. The international AIDS conference is the largest gathering of AIDS activists, scientists and experts this year.

Wednesday
Nov232011

Global Fund Cancels Fundraising; Seeks New Leadership (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, November 23, 2011) The high profile Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has, in a surprise move, cancelled its multi-million dollar fundraising efforts and has instigated a search for a new chief.

The Geneva-based Fund aims to save 10 million lives and prevent 140-180 million new infections from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria from 2012 to 2016. It has$4 billion in its trustee account and expects to sign grants for existing approved programs worth $10 billion for the period 2011 to 2013.

In a statement today issued in Ghana, the Fund said that in its last pledge round, in October 2010, it managed to raise only $11.7 billion, well short of the $13 billion “austerity budget” it said it needed as a minimum to continue programs already started. It had hoped to raise $20 billion.

Questionable disbursement practices by many countries, including Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia, lost their grants or had new safeguards put in place after officials were accused of stealing. The Fund’s own inspector general exposed the fraud and earlier this month was trying to recover about $20 million that had been allegedly stolen.

The funding has its complications. Recipient country, Zimbabwe, for example, has blamed the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for delays in disbursements of Fund grants.

"The five-year strategy and transformation plan adopted at the meeting together commit the Global Fund to shift to a new funding model that focuses on investing strategically in countries, populations and interventions with high potential for impact and strong value for money,” said Fund board chair Simon Bland. “It will provide its funding in a more proactive, flexible and predictable way. It will better manage risk and it will work more actively with countries and partners to facilitate grant implementation success. In doing so, I believe the Global Fund will shift from an institution that has successfully provided emergency funding to allow countries to cope with the runaway pandemics, to become a sustainable, efficient funder of the global efforts to control them and eventually win the battle against AIDS, TB and malaria."

The fund’s board, while meeting in Accra, created a new general manager position to take some day-to-day authority from the executive director - French national and physician, scientist and diplomat, Michel Kazatchkine. His fundraising capabilities have reportedly come into question.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies, Global Fund

Saturday
Jan012011

HUMNEWS Person of the Year: Orphan Sephora in Lesotho

(HN, January 1, 2011) - Sephora celebrated New Years Day today the same way she observed it ever since she lost her mother five years ago - cleaning the small house she shares with her grandmother in a remote village in Lesotho.The HIV epidemic in Lesotho has hit children disproportionately hard. CREDIT: HUMNEWS

Sephora is known to aid agencies and statisticians as a "double orphan." She lost both parents to AIDS, giving her unenviable membership in the orphan community in this impoverished southern African country - a neglected group now estimated to number between 270,000 and 400,000.

Like Sephora, almost half of all orphans in Lesotho do not live with either parent. Almost 20 percent of all orphans have lost both biological parents.

Most of the orphans in Lesotho come from families devastated by HIV AIDS. Lesotho has the third highest HIV AIDS rate in the world - with almost 30 percent of the adult population affected - according to the charitable organization Sentebale. It estimates that every day, 100 children in Lesotho are devastated by the death of a parent. With so few orphanages in the country only about one percent have access to institutionalized care.

An 'orphan' is defined by the United Nations as a child who has 'lost one or both parents'. Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 16 million children under 18 have been orphaned by AIDS. Around 14.8 million of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to international HIV and AIDS charity AVERT.

Sadly, Sephora was born into a family with parents belonging to the highest risk groups: her father was a migrant miner in neighbouring South Africa and her mother was among the 40,000 people toiling away in Lesotho's garment factories.

Now at 14, Sephora does not attend school - she hasn't been inside a classroom for many years. Even when she was in school she was forced to repeat classes due to low marks and non-attendance. The stress of living in a troubled household made studying difficult. And even
though primary education in Lesotho is compulsory and free - there were weeks in winter time when Sephora didn't have shoes and stayed home. There were also days when teachers sent her home because she didn't have money for basic stationary items.

Sephora wasn't enrolled in Grade One until she was 10 years old - in fact about half of children I'm Lesotho start Grade One at six years old and above. Each year almost a quarter of all students must repeat classes and drop-out rates are extremely high. Only two percent of boys and eight percent of girls from the lowest wealth quintiles enroll in secondary school, which is not free.

Sephora's younger brother, Oscar, does attend school - one of the reasons is he receives a free meal at lunch paid for by the World Food Program (WFP). On some days, her hungry grandmother goes to the school yard to get a portion of Oscar's lunch. Sadly the school feeding program may be discontinued shortly due to funding shortages.

Sephora says she and her classmates have never touched a computer or surfed the Internet. There is a dire lack of good-quality textbooks and education on how to protect themselves from HIV/Aids and other dangerous diseases. A recent study of southern African countries funded by UNESCO pegged Lesotho's children as having the lowest knowledge of HIV and Aids prevention measures.

Indeed, Sephora had the odds stacked up against her well before she was born. With one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world her chances of either contracting the disease during birth or becoming infected as teenager was extremely high. The district of Leribe, where Sephora lives, has the highest prevalence rate in the country, at 30 percent. By the time she reaches 24, she could be among half of all women at that age that have been infected. And by the time she reaches
18 she will have probably reached middle age: life expectancy in Lesotho is just at around 40 years old.

According to UNICEF: "The nexus of significant levels of poverty, chronic food insecurity and a high prevalence of HIV has dealt a serious blow to child survival, development and protection in Lesotho."

When Sephora's parents were still alive they rarely sought health treatment for themselves or their children. Only 34 percent of poor households live within an hour of the nearest health facility. Even
those who do make it to a clinic are more likely than not to find a lack of medicines, poorly trained health care workers and few doctors. It is still unclear where doctors will be found to staff a multi-million dollar hospital in the capital Maseru.

Lesotho is a small mountainous country of 1.9 million people surrounded by South Africa. With about half of all households living in poverty, it has been mostly sidelined by the economic miracle happening across the border. When the 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa, many of Sephora's relatives were prevented from traveling to their jobs across the border due to a sudden border tightening imposed by the Government of Jacob Zuma.

So for Sephora - and the millions of other Aids orphans on the African continent, today will be just another day. Many will be asking, as they start a new decade, whether change will come quickly enough to bring them back into school before they become adults, to bring them at least one meal a day, and to save them from deadly diseases such as HIV/Aids.

Sephora represents the millions of children like her living with poverty, disease and inequity and is a character composed by HUMNEWS based on official statistics, mostly from the World Bank, and on interviews, other data collected by HUMNEWS and on real children we've met in Lesotho. She is HUMNEWS' person of note for 2010.
To help children in Lesotho such as Sephora, visit Sentebale and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Both have substantial and well-regarded programmes for children impacted by HIV and Aids.

Lesotho is one of the 116 countries in the geographic gap covered exclusively by HUMNEWS.

Tuesday
Nov302010

Despite Gains More Than 1,000 Babies Born With HIV Every Day - UNICEF (Report)

(HN, December 1, 2010) - More than 1,000 babies are born with HIV every day - and many will die before age two if they do not receive treatment.

However, recent gains in access to treatment have been notable and are saving lives of women and children: last year 53% of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries received antiretroviral drugs for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV - up from only 15% in 2005. Over the same period the percentage of children under 15 who needed antiretrotrovirals and received them rose from just seven percent to 28%.Community child protection for children affected by the epidemic is improving - including for these AIDS orphans in Lesotho. CREDIT: Michael Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS

Still - the figures reveal that just over half of pregnant women with HIV in developing countries get the drugs necessary to prevent their babies becoming infected. And only about one in four children under 15 needing ARV treatment receive it.

The figures were included in UNICEF's Fifth Stocktaking Report on HIV and AIDS and progress for children. Released yesterday in New York, it is jointly produced by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The report says that the number of young people aged 15-24 living with HIV is declining - from 5.2 million in 2005 to about 5 million in 2009.

And while the dynamics of the epidemic varies from region to region, in most women disproportionately carry the burden of HIV and AIDS - especially in sub-Sahara Africa.

For years, being "overshadowed" by the epidemic, children are now an integrated group in the response. 

"The story of how AIDS epidemic is affected children is being re-written. Children are now central to the HIV response and investments on behalf of children have had an impact," the report says.

The authors of the report predict that the elimination of mother-to-child transmission by 2015 "appears within reach."

"We have strong evidence that elimination of mother-to-child transmission is achievable," said Margaret Chan, WHO director general. "Achieving the goal will require much better prevention among women and mothers in the first place."

The report also found that:

- In many sub-Saharan African countries, children who had lost both parents to AIDS are more likely to be in school than before

- progress in decentralizing treatment access has been "unacceptably slow." The report notes that people living in rural and remote areas face many barriers to access - including costs and distance.

- Adolescents living with HIV are a "hidden epidemic." Many with HIV do not access treatment because they have never been tested.

- In Haiti, the January earthquake reduced significantly the number of people living with HIV accessing treatment. The Ministry of Health estimated fewer than 40% of people accessing treatment had been able to continue their treatment; many of the PMTCT service providers were affected.

- Globally, knowledge levels on the disease remain too low: only three countries have attained a level of knowledge 50% or more in both young men and young women (based on surveys between 2005 and 2009).

UNICEF says the big challenge will now be to reach those who fall through the cracks - mostly people who are amongst the poor of the poor and live in towns without HIV clinics.

"To achieve an Aids-free generation we need to do more to reach the hardest hit communities," said Anthony Lake, Unicef's executive director.

Jimmy Kolker, Unicef's chief of HIV/Aids, said: "Over the last five years children who were largely invisible from the Aids response are now at the centre of it."

In a separate statement before world AIDS day on December 1, UNAIDS Director Michel Sidibe said: "Nothing gives me more hope than knowing that an AIDS-free generation is possible in our lifetime.

Wednesday
Jul212010

A Plea From South Africa: Now is Not the Time to Retreat From the Global HIV Response (PERSPECTIVE)

By Roxy Marosa

(HN, July 21, 2010) -- In the run-up to the World Cup, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the medical humanitarian organization, sounded a loud and worrisome alarm bell: major donors are starting to roll-back funding of HIV prevention and treatment programs that millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have come to depend on. 

Each time I interact with people both infected and affected by HIV, there is still a huge lack of knowledge around HIV and Aids. It goes without saying that so much more remains to be done, and what has been done is not enough.

A case in point: I recently learned that there are still people who have no idea what HIV or those who have the wrong idea of what HIV is. I am particularly referring to the remote rural areas of South Africa.

I ran a session in April this year with a group of faith denominations, where one of the priests said he discovered an area that’s challenging to reach by means of the usual transportation. Addressing the subject of HIV, he was almost in tears as he spoke about the people in this little village who had never heard of HIV - yet there were so many deaths and it is through learning about the deaths that he discovered the place. There is little civilization in the area and people live with just the basics. The priest asked himself, having taken so many years of HIV and Aids education to reach people in civilized societies, how long will it take for people in this isolated community to understand and practice safe sex? 

It has been drummed into people’s minds that the way to be safe with HIV and Aids is through prevention, testing and treatment. This method has taken years to reach people and it is taking years for people to get used to it and practice it.

We still have so many challenges to overcome, such as: 

  1. Basic education for people who have not been exposed to HIV and Aids education
  2. Reaching people who have never seen a female condom, let alone use it.
  3. Helping women who stay in abusive relationships because they are reliant on their partners for day to day survival
  4. Changing the mindsets of women who see sex as an obligation to their husbands
  5. Dealing with men’s attitude towards safe sex - sex with a condom
  6. Providing access to people not able to reach clinics for testing
  7. Outreach to the street dwellers who get raped from time to time and are so used to it and no longer see it as rape

The people who are best able to address these challenges are the not-for-profit organisations. Without crucial funding, they are not able to execute their work. And a draw back on funding would throw tens of thousands of people out of work who have been endowed with skills to help millions of others.

What I think of a lot these days is, what will be the impact of of a withdrawal of funding on ordinary people. If you ask most people ‘How do you manage HIV and AIDS’?, the most common response is ‘by taking AIDS tablets.’ 

Some people - especially low-income earners - refuse to test because they are afraid of the outcome and say that the knowledge that they are positive will lead them to die sooner. Can we blame them for being afraid after seeing so many deaths due to this pandemic? To them the reality is that HIV and Aids leads to death.

Recently in South Africa - which has the highest case load of HIV Aids patients in the world - the government declared a 15 month war on AIDS;15 million people are to be tested by July 2011. Most of the tests are free and those who need treatment will receive it for free. The unemployed are to get the benefits government has made available. It has taken years to get us to this point, and to get the sceptical people to be open to testing, and have the hope and belief of life with HIV and AIDS. Now this possibility is threatened. 

It took many years for people in Africa to utter the words HIV and AIDS. And it is still taking tremendous work for people to relate to their neighbours living with the virus freely without prejudice or judgement. 

The way I see it is if major donors want to roll back funding for testing and treatment, they should propose a different approach to remedying the whole situation. People have to understand why they are vulnerable to this virus. They have to be educated in order to change their attitudes towards activities that will lead them to becoming infected with the virus and responsible for the choices they make.

The fact that we still have new cases of the virus should be sufficient proof that education about HIV and Aids is insufficient - and needs to be scaled up.

It has taken us years to get to the point where people are able to distinguish the difference between HIV and AIDS. People are only now warming up to the idea of getting tested, and are summoning the courage to deal with fear of the test outcome. 

Let us not turn our backs on the millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere who have embraced prevention and treatment.

As donor nations meet in Vienna this week at the XVIII International AIDS Conference, the message should be loud and clear: now is not the time for major donors to retreat from their commitments to the global HIV response that has saved the lives of millions.

Cape Town-based Roxy Marosa is host of the Roxy Marosa Show and runs several projects assisting people affected by HIV and Aids in South Africa. 

Saturday
Jul102010

Using Soccer to Fight HIV in Lesotho

(HN, July 10, 2010) Maseru, Lesotho -- In 2005 brothers Steve and Pete Fleming of the United Kingdom founded Kick4Life, a non-profit organization focused on tackling HIV/AIDS in Lesotho in southern Africa. 

They could not have selected a more needy country: Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence in the world - about a quarter of the population is infected - and hundreds and thousands of children have been orphaned by the disease. Out of a population of 1.9 million, there are an estimated 64 new HIV infections and 50 deaths due to AIDS each day. Kick4Life is committed to playing and important role in addressing this crisis. Kick4Life co-founder Pete Fleming. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

Using football and sport to inspire, unite and make a difference by providing sports-based health education, voluntary testing, life-skills development and support into education and employment. 

Kick4Life has two main projects that it focuses on: National HIV Prevention and Testing Programme which includes the K4L Curriculum to youth across Lesotho. If focuses on heath education, HIV prevention and life-skills development. It also incorporates the award-winning Test Your Team Campaign – a series of one day football tournaments where HIV education and HIV testing is provided on site. Teams earn tournament points for completing HIV educational sessions, getting HIV tested, and for winning matches. 

In the last three years some 8,000 children have been tested, Pete Fleming told HUMNEWS in an interview. Most would have been tested for the very fist time.

The second project is the Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Initiative focused on supporting extremely disadvantaged youth who are living on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital city. It included the Maseru Street League, mentoring and Fit4Work - a training course offered to orphans and vulnerable children who have completed high school. The aim of the programme is to equip young people with the skills to continue into further education, training or employment. 

Pete - who has a degree in sport science - says that since its inception about 25,000 children have gone through a 12-hour education programme. "For the testing events we use football as the hook," says Fleming. "We arrange one-day football tournaments with interactive education focused on the importance of getting tested. We have trained up the national football team to deliver the curriculum to the youth. It's a tremendous tool to have."

 (A short video introduction to Lesotho.)

In addition to the work Kick4Life does they also play an active part in several international networks including Football for Hope, a global streetfootballworld and FIFA movement.  

Funding for Kick4Life comes from a variety of sources, including UNICEF, the Vodafone Foundation, Sentebale and the English Premier League. 

Some high-profile supporters have endowed Kick4Life with valuable publicity: in 2008, England coach Fabio Capello attended a testing event in Lesotho which was widely covered by the media. Kick4Life employs 15 people full-time and is backed by a network of 300 volunteers nationwide.

"We've been amazed by the volunteer ethic here in Lesotho," Fleming said, adding that most young people are educated but can't find jobs.

As a result of its achievements, Kick4Life was selected to host a sports health and education center as part of the official World Cup Campaign, 20 Centers for 2010. 

The aim of the 20 Centers for 2010 campaign is to create twenty Football for Hope Centers in disadvantaged communities across Africa as a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Each centre provides underprivileged communities with public health, education and football facilities.

The centre in Maseru, Lesotho will be located in the Police Training Grounds of Old Europa in Maseru and will help young people address social challenges such as HIV/AIDS awareness, education and testing; essential life skills; personal development and work training. The site of the new Kick4Life soccer pitch in Maseru. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

At the moment, the field resembles an old soccer pitch but planned upgrades will transform the site into an incredible sports facility for children.

Kick4Life co-founder Peter Fleming says, “Being selected as a Centre Host as part of the official World Cup campaign is a fantastic development for Kick4Life that will provide a first-class- sports, health and education facility right in the heart of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital. It will enable us to deliver activities to thousands of orphans and vulnerable children in an aspirational setting, and become, we hope, a centre of excellence for the use of football as a tool for social development.”

Construction is due to begin in September 2010, with completion set for March 2011.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw, from Maseru, Lesotho.

Wednesday
Jun302010

Tutu's Call for Investment, Aid Into Africa (REPORT) 

(HN, June 30, 2010) - Cape Town, South Africa - Archbishop Desmond Tutu's oratorical prowess is legendary. But when "Arch" spoke to a conference room this weekend, packed with some of the world's top executives; a normally skeptical crowd, this holy man's warmth and charisma brought the room to complete silence:  you could hear a pin drop.Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Cape Town summit

Tutu was invited to wrap up a three-summit hosted by the so-called media triumvirate of Fortune, Time and CNN. The theme that emerged was that Africa's time is now - especially with the continent hosting the World Cup for the very first time.

Among African political and business leaders, there was a feeling of heady exuberance - that new infrastructure, growing stability and waves of visitors coming will kick-start a new investment wave.  South African President Jacob Zuma's confident opening remarks at the summit were symbolic of the more self-assured voice one hears more frequently in the corrdiors of power here.

But as Tutu correctly remarked, the continent can't do it alone - and needs the skills, resources and expertise of outsiders to deal with seemingly intractable problems.

"The World Cup has done an incredible thing for us. It told us that we can do this. Yet again we have shown the world, in South Africa just how much we are a rainbow nation. That we are there for one another. It's been an incredibly exhilarating time.

"But we look to you to work with us. This is a continent about to make a leap…and we know that you are very, very smart people. So we pray that you are going to help us eradicate poverty in this cradle of humankind. That you will help us with all the skills that you have. We hope that you will assist us to reduce the burden in Africa."

Tutu reminded an audience sitting in the opulence of the Cape Town Convention Centre, that in many parts of Africa many people are still living on just $2-a-day. "We won't have stability if we have such a skewed relationship."

He said that the world needs to come to terms with the idea that "we are all member of one family."

The rich countries, he said, spend billions of dollars on "instruments of death and destruction." If even a very minute fraction of defence budgets were to be diverted, it would be enough to ensure that all the children in the world don't go to bed hungry. "It's a revolution in our thinking that has got to happen."

Tutu's plea for aid was extremely timely. Recently, respected international non-governmental organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have begun ringing loud alarm bells - saying that donor nations are starting to reduce their funding for HIV AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.

Seth Berkley, the chief of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, told HUMNEWS that in 2008, for the first time, there was a 10 percent decline in global expenditures on HIV vaccine research and that 2009 figures could also be down.

Said Berkley: "Things that are long term are often the first to go at a time like this. And yet if we are ever going to have a chance to eliminate this disease we need better tools."

Many speakers at the summit complained that there exists an enormous knowledge gap in the West on Africa, and that major media should share the blame for this.

African telecommunication entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim told HUMNEWS that this is one of the continent's major headaches.

"This is our main weakness in Africa - that people don't know," said Ibrahim. "There is a total ignorance of what's happening here."

He said that an Indian company typically receives 15 times the market research coverage over an African company of the corresponding size.

"Nobody invests in an atmosphere of ignorance. How can you go to your investment or credit committee with a proposal when they don't know what you are talking about? It is tough."

 --- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw in Cape Town, South Africa

Thursday
Jun242010

Number of Orphans in Lesotho Continues to Grow

(HN, June 24, 2010) -- MASERU, Lesotho -- The number of orphans in the southern African kingdom of Lesotho continues to surge, with the latest data indicating as many as 270,000 - up from 180,000.

The figures were derived from the 2006 census and this newest number was recently released. However some sources put the number of orphans as high as 400,000.A woman in Maseru selling World Cup t-shirts (HN, 2010)

Most of the orphans come from families devastated by HIV AIDS. Lesotho has the third highest HIV AIDS rate in the world - with almost 30 percent of the adult population affected - according to the charitable organization Sentebale. It estimates that every day, 100 children in Lesotho are devastated by the death of a parent. With so few orphanages in the country only about one percent have access to institutionalized care.

In order that orphans and vulnerable children receive proper services several months ago, the country's Department of Social Welfare started a project to register all children that fall into this category. And in order to improve the well-being of vulnerable children, the government recently launched a "Child Grants" programme that provides a regular and unconditional quarterly payment of about $38 to orphans and other vulnerable children.

According to UNICEF: "The nexus of significant levels of poverty, chronic food insecurity and a high prevalence of HIV has dealt a serious blow to child survival, development and protection in Lesotho."

So ravaged is Lesotho by HIV AIDS and poverty that earlier this month several hundred people marched through the capital, Maseru, pleading for the landlocked country to be annexed by its wealthier neighbour, South Africa. Indeed, one South African immigration officer today, referred to Lesotho as the "tenth province."  She said thousands of people cross the border every day for work, though numbers are said to have dropped due to tighter movement restrictions imposed for the ongoing World Cup matches in South Africa.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS’ Michael Bociurkiw.

Sunday
Jun062010

Funding Countries Guilty of "Moral Betrayal" in Fight Against HIV in Africa - MSF

(HN, June 6, 2010) - A severe drawback in pledges from major donors in the fight against HIV represents a "moral betrayal" of millions of infected people on the African continent, says the respected organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Donor governments, blaming the ongoing global economic crisis, are drawing back support of HIV treatment programmes, such as anti-retroviral treatment (ART). MSF claims that had the international community not provided financial support, about 4-million people on treatment in Africa would not be alive today. Its also helped the scaling up of preventative treatment, such as mother-to-child transmission.

The Global Fund Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the countries that fund it, the U.S. bilateral PEPFAR program, UNITAID and the World Bank are all beginning to retreat from their commitments to the global HIV response, according to MSF. The Geneva-based organization is currently facing a major funding shortfall of about $5 billion.

The impact is already being felt by frontline organizations like MSF, which provides HIV/AIDS treatment to 140,000 patients in 30 countries. MSF says it is reaching into its emergency buffer stocks of medicines deeper and more frequently.

Africa is Ground Zero in the fight against HIV: two-thirds of the 9 million people in need of urgent treatment live in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of funding gaps, already in South Africa and Uganda, patients are being shuffled from one clinic to another because of limited treatment slots.

Said Dr. Eric Goemaere, medical coordinator for MSF in South Africa: Some years ago, messages to governments in the region were unambiguous. They were told... we want to see ambitious targets because we want to see a population-level impact on the HIV epidemic. We want you to show that you can have an impact to stop this epidemic. And today the message switched to, ‘let's see what you and [we] can afford together.

"If this trend is confirmed, I would call it a moral betrayal. A moral betrayal because we will have failed first our patients, who were told to get tested and all the ones who tested positive. We promised them we'd provide them treatment. We will fail our health staff, who managed to start 4 million people on treatment, an unprecedented effort for the health services in developing countries in such a short time, and who are today told that they cannot initiate patients. And finally we would fail regional governments, with some of them already contributing a substantial amount of their own resources. The economic crisis is happening here as well as in the United States and Europe, and we would fail them if we would tell them that we cannot any more support this effort."

Aside from longer waiting lists, doctors and nurses are now having to face the agonizing choice of whether to prioritize late-stage cases or new cases, where treatment may have more of an impact, MSF says.

Experts say that the importance of international donors cannot be over-estimated: in Kenya, for example, it covers about 95% of HIV programmes and ARVs.

"If the international donors decide to withdraw their funding, the HIV programs will not be sustainable according to the present funding levels by the government," said Jimmy Gideyi, an activist and person living with HIV in Kenya. "We already have so many problems to take on, such as stigma, beliefs,  misconceptions, cultural practices, which contribute to the spread of HIV in the community, without having to worry [about] where more money will be coming from to catch up on our treatment."

Most African governments had committed some years ago to allocate 15% of their national budgets to health, but that has not happened - making the contributions of the donor community even more crucial, MSF says. It adds that the debate on funding is complicated over whether to prioritize preventative (such as distribution of condoms) or treatment programmes.

"African governments need to keep their commitments, but the international community also needs to keep its commitment," said MSF's Emi McLean. He added that even the richest country on the continent, South Africa - which depends only 20% on external aid - will stil need funding to treat millions of AIDS patients.

MSF's comments were made recently with the release of a report called Titled “No time to quit: HIV/AIDS treatment gap widening in Africa." The report builds on analyses made in eight sub-Saharan countries to illustrate how major international funding institutions such as the U.S. President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the World Bank, UNITAID, and donors to the Global Fund, have decided to cap, reduce, or withdraw their spending on HIV treatment and antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) over the past year-and-a-half.

Friday
Apr162010

FOCUS ON AIDS IN LESOTHO.....APRIL 16, 2010  

(HN, April 16, 2010) - Recently, HUM Adviser Dr. Judy Kuriansky travelled to Lesotho - where she returned to this week - to work with young girls aged 13-15 at a camp run by the First Lady of Lesotho, Mrs. Mathato Mosisilli. The camp, now in its third year is held with girls who were orphaned when parents died from the AIDS virus; and is designed to help them learn life skills such as nutrition, health and entrepreneurship; as well as their own HIV status. 

Lesotho, known as the 'Kingdom in the Sky' is the southernmost landlocked country in the world, surrounded entirely by South Africa.  Its capitol city is Maseru, and while the majority of the 1,800,000 people who live here - almost 60% - are between 15 and 64 years of age, Lesotho has a substantial youth population of around 35%.  Roughly 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day.

A tiny country, Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infections in the world at almost 25%.  Lesotho’s first AIDS case was reported in 1986 and in cities, almost 50% of women under 40 are infected; and the general life expectancy for women now stands at 37; men at 41.  An estimated 62 new HIV infections and 50 deaths due to AIDS occur each day in the country.  Of those infected with HIV in Lesotho, almost 12,000 are children; an estimated 17% are aged 15-24; and 56% of the infected are women.

To deal with the devastating impact the AIDS epidemic has had on the country, the Lesotho government created a `Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS' in 1999 to address the education, prevention, counseling, and treatment needs of the population and has formed a new National AIDS Commission to coordinate nationwide anti-AIDS activities which also distributes antiretroviral drugs.  Additionally, the government launched a proactive program in 2006 called "Know your status" to test everyone in the country who wants to be tested for HIV, funded by the Clinton Foundation

In recent years Lesotho has focused its attention on decreasing the rate of  'Mother to child transmission'.  In 2005 only 12% of pregnant HIV positive women were receiving antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection transmission and by 2008 an estimated 57% of pregnant women were receiving the drugs.  The percentage of women who agree to HIV testing during pregnancy has also increased and currently around 91% of pregnant women are tested. 

However, even with prevention, testing and counseling the number of AIDS orphans in Lesotho is rapidly growing. Out of all countries with HIV prevalence greater than 1 percent, Lesotho has the largest percentage of children who have lost one or both parents and are themselves unclear about what their own infection status is.  The amount of safe houses and orphanages that take care of orphans too young or unable to fend for themselves has grown tremendously and have tended to be unregulated.

This phenomenon can expose already vulnerable children to further trauma, abuse and neglect and serves to highlight why initiatives such as the First Lady’s `Help Lesotho’ leadership camps for girls are so important to the future of not just the children, but to the future of the country overall.

(Dr. Judy Kuriansky returns to Lesotho this week to conduct another edition of the `Help Lesotho’ girl’s camp in conjunction with the First Lady’s office.  Her next report will feature the outcome of her work there.)  

--- HUMNEWS, reporting by Joy DiBenedetto and Dr. Judy Kuriansky