AIDS: Wheregoes the Money?

JUST how much money are the recipients of AIDS funds putting into programmes that have a real impact on communities affected by the disease without hip- hopping around the world or engaging in endless AIDS workshops? It appears that unless there is serious public account of where exactly AIDS dollars are going, we are in for a long ride with the epidemic. Continue reading

Caregivers Come At A Cost

While community home based care is the preferred means of providing care for people living with HIV in many parts of Southern Africa, it comes with massive costs especially to caregivers in terms of time, effort and commitment, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.

According to the study which focused on Botswana, providing caregivers with financial and material support is an urgently required public health imperative. The study revealed that providing caregivers of people living with HIV and AIDS with financial and material support will ensure that caregivers are not demoralized in rendering care services to their clients as well as attract more people into caregiving. Continue reading

AIDS funding falls likely to increase burden on care providers

The dip in funding levels for HIV and AIDS programmes will undoubtedly put paid years of progress in the response to the epidemic in sub Saharan Africa. Reduced funding will not only cause more deaths, but also in more offloading of responsibility to poor and marginalized communities. Persons in need of care will increasingly have to resort to already over-burdened community and home based care providers, mainly women and girls.

Given that the financial drawback for AIDS programmes is occurring at a time when two million people are still dying each year in sub-Saharan Africa due to the disease, the consequences for will be drastic particularly at community and familial levels.

“The donor turn-around will not make the patients in need of life-saving treatment go away. On the contrary, it is likely to increase the numbers of people in urgent need of care and will negatively impact their family, community and the health care system. In the end, the cost of inaction will be far higher than that of action,” states a recent report by Medecins Sans Frontieres titled, “No Time to Quit: HIV/AIDS Treatment Gap Widening in Africa.” Continue reading

Uganda Steps Backward with Anti-Gay Legislation

News from Uganda that the government is seeking to reaffirm penalties for homosexuality and criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality” will only serve to drive people of same-sex orientation underground. The implications for public health efforts are dire, and there is no doubt that if the bill is passed into law, it will deal a body blow to HIV prevention efforts.

In Uganda, as in many parts of Africa, the health of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersexual Peoples is marginalized. This sub-group is already faced many challenges including HIV, STDs and STIs, and mental health problems due to lack of access to services.

“This bill is a blow to the progress of democracy in Uganda,” said David Kato of Sexual Minorities Uganda. “Its spirit is profoundly undemocratic and un-African.”

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission the Ugandan Parliament is now considering a homophobic law that would reaffirm penalties for homosexuality and criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 targets lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans, their defenders and anyone else who fails to report them to the authorities whether they are inside or outside of Uganda.

The proposed law will effectively criminalize homosexuality, and consequently bar any person of same-sex orientation from seeking public health services. Continue reading

The Great Vasectomy Fear

For most men, the idea of vasectomy, a surgical procedure to cut and close off the tubes that deliver sperm from the testicles, is a complete no-can-do associated with being sexually dysfunctional in the male psyche.

According to the latest issue of Population Reports, titled “Vasectomy: Reaching Out to New Users,” published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, vasectomy is simpler and more cost effective than female sterilization and offers men a way to share responsibility for family planning.

“The most entrenched and powerful rumors concern manhood, masculinity, and sexual performance. Many men confuse vasectomy with castration and fear, incorrectly, that vasectomy will make them impotent,” says the report.  But in fact, “Castration involves removal of the testicles. In contrast, vasectomy leaves the testicles intact, and they continue to produce male hormones.”

The procedure which typically takes from 15-30 minutes and usually causes few complications and no change in sexual function is one of the most reliable forms of contraception. Though it does not offer protection against sexually transmitted infections or HIV, for couples it is a way for men to be directly involved in family planning. Family planning has been largely seen as the responsibility of women but vasectomies allow men to play a part.

The report states that the largest number of vasectomized men are in China, where almost 7% of women in relationships — or more than 17 million couples — rely on vasectomy for birth control. Continue reading

Young Zimbabweans Face HIV Risk As Hard Times Hit

Like many young people growing up in Zimbabwe today, Linda Kuterera (not her real name) was forced to drop out of school because her mother could no longer afford the spiraling school fees.

Soon after she stopped going to school, Linda’s mother fell sick and had to be hospitalized.

“They told me to pay for my mother’s medication, and being the eldest in the family the responsibility fell on me. I hate what I am doing but I am forced to sleep with men so that I can raise money to pay for the hospital bills,” said Linda choking back tears.

Poverty has left many young girls and women with little choice but to sell their bodies in order to cope with the economic struggles and food shortages.

According to the Zimbabwe 2008 National Youth Shadow report, girls as young as 12 are being forced to sell their bodies to raise money for sustenance or just to get a day’s meals. Unfortunately, young Zimbabweans are often likely to be left out of HIV and AIDS programmes, adds report.

The report, which seeks to measure the country’s progress on the 2001 UNGASS Declaration on HIV and AIDS states that young people continue to be overlooked in the implementation of programmes. Continue reading

AIDS home-based care in Zimbabwe in dire need of support

Girls

Girls

The HIV epidemic is shaking up Zimbabwe, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and the shock is being reflected in the collapse of the public health-care system.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2006 World Health Report, the African continent bears 24% of the global burden of disease but has only 3% of the global health-care workforce and 1% of the world’s financial resources.

The report identifies 57 countries that cannot meet a widely accepted basic standard for health-care coverage by physicians, nurses and midwives; 36 of these ‘critical countries’ are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO estimates that it will take an additional 2.4 million physicians, nurses and midwives to meet current needs, along with an additional 1.9 million pharmacists, health aides, technicians and other auxiliary personnel.

In simple terms, the public health-care system can no longer accommodate the millions of ill people who require medical attention, care and support. Ironically, the money that is flowing into Zimbabwe to combat HIV has done little to resolve the problems of the poor and weakened public health systems – problems made worse by the ‘brain drain’ of qualified medical personnel.

Critically ill people, it seems, are being offloaded from the public health system onto the community. Increasingly, the burden of HIV care is being borne at the community level, particularly at the household level, where much of the care work and support costs for people living with HIV (PLHIV) are now being taken on. Continue reading