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PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2014 1:27 pm 
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Kenyan sex workers using HIV drugs instead of condoms
by Maurine Murenga and Corin Faife
Wednesday, 7 May 2014

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A Kenyan sex worker looks for clients outside of her home. Photograph: EPA

In Kondele, sex is in high demand.

Prostitutes charge clients as little as 20 shillings (14p), or provide sex on credit with the hope of being paid at the end of the month. The area is a low-end red-light district in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu. The temptation for many women, given the low fees, is to make potentially dangerous concessions in order to earn more, such as forgoing condoms.

"Men who do not want to use protection pay double," explains Florence, a sex worker in the area. "We don't have money, and when you meet a client who offers to give you more money than you usually get, you have sex without protection even when you don't know his HIV status."

The latest UN figures, from 2012, show the number of people living with HIV in Kenya is about 1.6 million. Approximately 820,000 are women. Florence says after having unprotected sex with three or four men in a night, she visits a clinic the next morning to get emergency antiretrovirals, or post-exposure prophylaxis (Pep) treatment, which suppress the HIV virus if taken within 72 hours of infection. "We use these medicines regularly, but we make sure that we do not visit the same clinic as the nurses usually become suspicious," she says.

Sex workers who visit these clinics often falsely claim they have been raped. Over the past decade, Kenya has significantly improved post-rape care, and medical professionals regularly provide Pep treatment. To maximise uptake, neither women who have been raped nor health workers need to report the crime to the police, but this lack of regulation leaves the system prone to abuse.

"Anyone can go to any hospital or clinic in the country and make a report that they have been violated sexually," says Eunice Atieno of the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV and Aids in Kenya. "They immediately start receiving the therapy, sometimes without adequate adherence counselling. Some do not observe the window period with which the medication is supposed to be effective. In such incidences, we find some sex workers abusing the services."

Many sex workers claim they need to lie to access medication. "I don't say I am raped every time I go for post-exposure prophylaxis – there are times that I say that the condom burst," says Akoth, 26. "One thing I never dare say is that I am a sex worker, or that I have more than one sexual partner, because if the healthcare providers find out you are a sex worker seeking post-exposure prophylaxis, they send you away saying it is a self-made problem."

Lilian, 27, a fellow sex worker, agrees: "Accessing basic healthcare as a sex worker is difficult due to the stigma associated with the work. Accessing medicines for prevention of HIV is like trying to get milk from a chicken if you identify yourself as a sex worker, and that is why we pose as rape victims."

An HIV test is required before Pep is administered. Mandatory testing ensures that prophylaxis is not given needlessly to anyone who has tested positive. But that can create additional problems for sex workers, since under the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act (2006), non-disclosure to a partner is a criminal offence.

"Sex workers should be supported not only with services but also with adequate information on post-exposure prophylaxis once they access treatment at facilities," says Martha Opilli, at Keeping Alive Societies' Hope. "Most of our clients face harsh treatment because sex work is criminalised; however, there no clear laws or guidelines on how to handle a sex-worker suspect. This makes it difficult for our clients who are arrested and taken to court, because they are forced to test for HIV and sexually transmitted infection, and, if found positive, they are charged with attempting to infect intentionally. This increases [the likelihood of] dependence and sometimes abuse of post-exposure prophylaxis."

According to Dr Rachel Baggaley, a specialist on the World Health Organisation's HIV team, making pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) more widely available as an alternative to post-exposure drugs would be more effective, and less harmful for the women. "These [drugs] are not so toxic for the body, and the good thing is that they get into your bloodstream before the virus, [so] you've blocked it," she says. "If it's already there and you take the post-exposure drugs after that 72-hour window, you can't be so sure."

Sex workers would like to see the introduction of Prep drugs."This will give us a variety of options to pick from when it comes to prevention. We are already satisfied with the different methods of preventing unintended pregnancies, but something should be done about diversifying the options of HIV prevention," says Akoth.

But Prep treatment is relatively new, and has been trialled only in small-scale studies in Kenya. Given the cost considerations of rolling out such treatment, it could be some time before these drugs are widely available, and, if they are, the question of whether sex workers will be able to access them will be key.

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:32 am 
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AIDS circumcision campaign boosted by new evidence
By Richard Ingham
July 21, 2014

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A non-surgical circumcision device called Prepex used in Uganda as part of a campaign to reduce AIDS/HIV rates pictured on May 12, 2014
(AFP Photo/Isaac Kasamani)

Melbourne (AFP) - A campaign to encourage circumcision among men in sub-Saharan Africa to help protect them against the AIDS virus was backed by new research on Monday showing that men who have had the operation are unlikely to engage in unprotected sex.

Three major trials have previously shown that, for heterosexual men, male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV by as much as 60 percent -- a finding that has prompted the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) to recommend it as a voluntary prevention option, to be used along with the condom.

But some experts have warned that circumcised men, believing themselves to be shielded, are likely to become more promiscuous after the operation, and less likely to wear a condom. The new study, coinciding with the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, took a long look at this argument yet found no evidence to support it.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers questioned more than 3,000 men aged 18-35 in Kenya's Nyanza province who had just been briefed about the option of circumcision and advised on safe sex and testing for HIV. At the start of the study, half of those enrolled decided to be circumcised, while the others chose to remain uncircumcised. They were asked about their sex life, with follow up questions every six months over the following two years.

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A patient is fitted with a non-surgical circumcision device in Uganda on May 12, 2014 (AFP Photo/Isaac Kasamani)

During this period, sexual activity increased in both groups, especially among those aged 18-24, the investigators found. But risky sex -- such as having multiple partners or having intercourse in exchange for providing money or gifts -- declined, while use of condoms rose.

Just as revealing was self-perception. Men who were circumcised often believed they had lessened their risk of acquiring HIV. Thirty percent considered themselves high-risk before circumcision, while just 14 percent considered themselves so after. Among those who decided not to be circumcised, 24 percent considered themselves high-risk at the study's start, and 21 percent still did at the end.

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File photo taken in Gaborone, Botsana of an advert campaigning for male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa (AFP Photo/Monirul Bhuiyan)

But the different perceptions did not translate into different behaviour, sex-wise. "Countries that have been holding back on implementing medical circumcision programs due to a lack of evidence regarding risk compensation should have no concerns about scaling-up programs," said lead scientist Nelli Westercamp in a press release issued by the university.

The research appears online in a specialist journal, AIDS and Behavior.

Food voucher incentive

Separately, a presentation at the Melbourne conference said that offering men compensation in the form of food vouchers worth around $9 or $15 (6.5 or 11 euros) was a useful incentive for the circumcision campaign.

The WHO and UNAIDS recommend voluntary circumcision in 14 countries in eastern and southern Africa where HIV is highly prevalent. But most countries remain far short of reaching their targeted numbers -- and investigators have found that many men are deterred by the loss of wages from time off work to have the operation, and the cost of travelling to and from the clinic to have it carried out.

Harsha Thirumurthy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led a team who studied 1,504 uncircumcised men in Nyanza aged 25-49 who were randomly assigned to groups where they were offered food vouchers of varying amounts to offset the cost of the operation or offered no compensation at all. Nine percent who were offered the equivalent of $15 decided to get circumcised within the next two months, while 6.6 percent did so if offered $8.75. Among those offered $2.50, the takeup was only 1.9 percent. In the "control" group, where no compensation was offered, just 1.6 per cent got circumcised within the following two months.

The increase was "modest" overall but much higher among married and older men, a group that had been harder to persuade, according to the scientists. "The interventions also significantly increased the likelihood of circumcision uptake among participants at higher risk of acquiring HIV. This latter result is especially promising from an HIV prevention standpoint," according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2014 4:32 pm 
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HIV drugs 'boost South African life expectancy'
1 August 2014

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Members of the South African Health Ministry chat on April 8, 2013 during the launch of the new single dose anti-AIDs drug at Phedisong clinic in Ga-Rankuwa, 100 kms North of Johannesburg.

Life expectancy in South Africa has increased dramatically over the last decade, mainly thanks to life-saving Aids drugs, a government report says.

South Africans are living on average up to 61.2 years compared to 52.2 years nearly 10 years ago, the figures show. "The life expectancy is expected to keep improving because of improving medical science methods," the head of the national statistics agency said.

South Africa runs the world's largest anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs programme. The country's population now stands at a little more than 54 million, Statistics South Africa said in its annual demographics report. "For 2014, life expectancy at birth is estimated at 59.1 years for males and 63.1 years for females," it said.

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A patient receiving ARVs in South Africa - 2008

Statistics South Africa attributed the change to two main trends: More people being on ARV drugs and a decrease in the infant mortality rate. "The ability for people who are HIV positive to access ARVs is the cause of the increase in life expectancy," Pali Lehohla, the agency's statistician general, told the BBC.

Under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, South Africa refused to roll out the anti-Aids medication, citing costs. When he left office in 2008, about 680,000 people were receiving HIV treatment. Now South Africa's anti-retroviral programme serves 2.5 million people. Statistics South Africa estimates that 10.2% of the population is HIV-positive.

Part of the country's strategy in fighting Aids is to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as early detection and treatment, which Statistics South Africa says has yielded some results. "The infant mortality rate has fallen from an estimated 58 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 34 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014," the report says.

Source: BBC.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:19 pm 
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The South African HIV scientist who gave girls back control of their bodies
by Linda Nordling
Tuesday, 28 October 2014

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Quarraisha Abdool Karim, who has won the World Academy of Sciences prize Photograph: PR

Last weekend Quarraisha Abdool Karim, one of South Africa’s top HIV researchers, became the first woman to receive a US$100,000 (£62,000) prize for developing world scientists.

The prize is a welcome recognition for the 54-year-old epidemiologist. Abdool Karim has devoted her career to developing tools that African women can use to protect themselves against HIV. She is involved in developing a battery of new methods, including anti-HIV gels and long-term injectables.

One of the main challenges has been how to prevent HIV infection of young women, who in South Africa have the greatest risk of contracting HIV. Most HIV prevention methods, such as condoms, faithfulness or abstinence, are difficult for women to control. In rural areas, where farming is falling out of fashion, women often don’t earn money, and sex frequently becomes a form of currency.

In 1990 Abdool Karim led South Africa’s first community-based survey of HIV infection in the KwaZulu-Natal province on the country’s east coast. At the time, HIV was a silent epidemic in South Africa, with few carriers showing symptoms. Deaths from Aids only became commonplace in the late 90s, nearly 20 years after the disease was first discovered in the US.

The HIV prevalence in South Africa was low back then (around 1%) compared to current rates (over 12% nationwide in 2012). But Abdool Karim found that HIV infection rates shot up quickly in girls aged 15-19 years old, while the prevalence among boys only started climbing in their late 20s. Why did the girls have HIV but not the boys?

“It could only be that the younger girls were having sex with men from the older age group,” says Abdool Karim. It was one of the first descriptions of what became known as the “age-sex” difference in HIV acquisition in sub-Saharan Africa. Other studies found that older men sleeping with teenage girls was key driver of the HIV epidemic in Africa.

The age-sex gap has proven tricky to address. Abdool Karim found in her studies of the epidemic that even when girls and women knew the risks involved, HIV wasn’t an overriding fear. “Aids six or seven years down the line was less of a priority than survival today,” she says.

Working with sex workers, Abdool Karim had the idea of a HIV barrier gel that women could use to prevent themselves from HIV. She’d heard about microbicides – compounds that can be put inside the vagina or rectum to protect against sexually transmitted infections. The first one she tested, a spermicide called Nonoxynol-9, didn’t stop HIV. Nor did the second one, a gel containing a drug known as PRO2000.

However, on 20 July 2010, South African researchers led by Quarraisha and her husband, Salim Abdool Karim, unveiled the first global results showing that a microbicide could protect against HIV. In clinical trials of a gel containing the anti-retroviral drug Tenofovir, the women using the gel reported a 39% reduction in HIV infections, compared with those using a placebo gel.

The study also found that among women who were high-adherers (who used the gel over 80% of the time before and after intercourse) HIV infections dropped by 54%. A confirmatory trial of the Tenofovir gel is underway, and if successful the vaginal gel could fill a gap in HIV prevention for women who may not be able to insist on condoms or faithfulness from their partners.

Other tools being tested by Abdool Karim and her colleagues might have higher rates of protection. One is a ring that is fitted around the cervix containing a powerful anti-retroviral called Dapivirine. Abdool Karim is part of an international trial of the product managed by the International Partnership on Microbicides and the Microbicide Trials Network. Another is a three-monthly injection for HIV prevention.

There are also long-term plans to evaluate therapies combining HIV prevention with other medical technologies, for instance birth control. Successful outcomes from these studies could give women a variety of options for protecting themselves against HIV, Abdool Karim says. Options are important, she adds, as what works for one woman may not be suitable for another.

Prevention remains the key to curbing HIV in South Africa. Anti-retroviral rollout in South Africa has changed HIV from a death sentence to a chronic but manageable disease. But rates of new HIV infections exceed treatment rates. The HIV prevalence has remained at about 30% despite the fact that the numbers on treatment increased from about 48,000 in 2003 to close to 2.6 million Aids patients on treatment in 2012. “We can’t treat our way out of the epidemic,” says Abdool Karim.

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:47 pm 
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Court: Namibia forcibly sterilized women with HIV
By LYNSEY CHUTEL
November 3, 2014

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Namibia's Supreme Court upheld a ruling that health workers sterilized HIV-positive women without their consent, a human rights group said Monday.

The 2012 judgment that was upheld had found that health workers had coerced three HIV-positive mothers to sign sterilization consent forms they did not fully understand, and while in labor, the Southern Africa Litigation Center said.

The center said the ruling sends a message to the government to stop the practice in the southwestern African nation, and elsewhere. "This decision has far-reaching consequences not only for HIV-positive women in Namibia but for the dozens of HIV-positive women throughout Africa who have been forcibly sterilized," Priti Patel, the center's deputy director said in a statement. Sterilization is a drastic tactic to treat HIV-positive women, as mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS can be prevented with medication.

Namibia's high court will assess how much money the three women should be awarded, according to the center. The women had all sought care at government hospitals in Namibia while in labor, with one woman signing a form that used only acronyms to describe the procedure, while another signed after being told she didn't have a choice, the center said.

Since the case was first filed in 2009, dozens more women have told stories of similar experiences at public hospitals to the Namibian Women's Health Network. The organization first began documenting allegations of forced sterilization of HIV-positive women in 2007. "These three women are only the tip of the iceberg," the network's director Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet said in a statement. "The government needs to take active steps to ensure all women subjected to this unlawful practice get redress." The rights organizations said they hoped the Namibian government would initiate investigations into the other alleged cases.

About 250,000 Namibians, more than 10 percent of the population, are living with HIV according to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS.

Source: Yahoo! AP.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:08 pm 
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Ethiopia tests thousands for HIV in record attempt
1 December 2014

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In this photo of Sunday Nov 30, 2014. Ethiopians lineup for an AIDS test.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Ethiopian officials say more than 3,300 people were tested for HIV Sunday in the rural region of Gambella, a massive turnout that exceeded expectations among AIDS campaigners who had hoped to test 2,000 people.

Rahel Gettu, an official with the U.N. Aids agency in Ethiopia, said they believed they broke the world record for the number of HIV tests carried out in one day. She said their claim was yet to be verified and confirmed by Guinness World Records. She said 3,383 people were tested for HIV within eight hours in a single event ahead of World Aids Day. Eighty-two of them received positive results.

About 6.5 percent of Gambella residents have HIV or AIDS, a rate higher than the national average of 1.5 percent. Officials hope that voluntary AIDS testing in this region that borders South Sudan can lead to a reduction in the number of new infections.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:40 am 
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Uganda's success against AIDS prompts worries about resurgence
20 November 2014
By Henry Wasswa and Sinikka Tarvainen

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Uganda's success against AIDS prompts worries about resurgence - © Frank May, dpa

Kyetume, Uganda (dpa) - Nurse Margret Nanyonga frantically leafs through a heap of medical files while attending to people queueing for free antiretroviral drugs at a health centre in central Uganda.

About 900 out of a total 2,000 regular patients at the centre in Kyetume east of Kampala are HIV positive, the nurse says. "Two years ago, they were 600. And the number of people enrolled here for AIDS drugs is increasing. People are rushing to get the drugs," she adds.

But more HIV patients does not mean one of the African countries most affected by the epidemic - where entire villages were nearly wiped out by AIDS in the early 1990s - is losing the battle. On the contrary. "It is not that the number of infected people is increasing. It is [that] people are seeing the importance of treatment," Nanyonga says.

Uganda's HIV prevalence rate has gone down to 7.3 per cent of the population in 2011 from 18.5 per cent in 1992, according to the latest figures. The number of new infections declined to an estimated 137,000 this year from about 162,000 in 2011, according to the United Nations agencies UNAIDS and UNICEF. About 680,000 Ugandans are taking antiretroviral drugs, up from 324,000 in 2011. Medication has helped reduce the number of AIDS-related deaths to about 61,300 in 2013 from nearly 73,000 in 2011, according to the UN agencies. "About 90 per cent of Ugandan pregnant women who are HIV positive are on treatment and this has led to the number of babies born with the virus getting lower," said Musa Bungudu, the Uganda director of UNAIDS.

People like Richard Aliwaali, who has been living with the virus since 1998, have teamed up with health workers to encourage social acceptance of HIV. "We are telling people not to fear. We are telling people we have HIV and that they should not point fingers at those who are infected," says the 49-year-old, who lost his wife to AIDS in 2003.

Shortly after he took office in 1986, President Yoweri Museveni also launched a campaign promoting abstinence before marriage, monogamy in marriage and condoms as a last resort. The number of condoms distributed by the government free of cost has risen to 100 million this year from 85 million in 2012, Deputy Primary Care Health Minister Sarah Opendi said. "The demand is high but due to financial constraints, we are only able to procure a quarter of what is needed. That shows that people actually use the condoms," she added.

Angello Nsereko, chairman of Kawuga village 18 kilometres east of Kampala, confirms that young Ugandans are keen to get condoms. "I have been giving them out, especially in beer bars and disco halls," he says.

But Museveni's information campaign has been less successful in persuading Ugandans to be monogamous. "I know so many of my friends [who are] with many women," says Richard Kulanga, a 40-year-old shopkeeper at Bugujju trading centre 22 kilometres east of Kampala. Antiretroviral drugs that make HIV positive people look healthy could paradoxically be favouring the spread of the disease, he says. "Medicine makes it difficult to know that someone is sick. People are going out with sick people who look healthy. Women at home may be taking precautions, but the men bring the virus home to them," Kulanga adds.

An extensive US-funded survey conducted in 2011 found that only 38 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women who were sexually active used condoms regularly. It also found that significant numbers of people, especially men, had relationships outside of marriage. Uganda's anti-HIV programme - supported heavily by donors, who contribute about 20 per cent of the country's health budget - does not yet reach all those in need of drugs.

While 822,000 of the estimated 1.6 million infected with HIV are drug candidates based on the amount of virus in their blood, only 680,000 receive drugs regularly. And more than half of new infections occur in people aged between 14 and 24 years. "Young people … [are] one of the most sexually active segments of the population," Bungudu says. "People in these age brackets are daring, adventurous and very likely to engage in reckless sex."

A new campaign to launch awareness about HIV among young people was launched recently by Museveni, who kicked the first ball of a match between his cabinet and lawmakers under the motto "This is your game - do not let AIDS score."

Source: dpa.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:14 pm 
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Burkina Faso: Food aid shortage threatens HIV patients
By BRAHIMA OUEDRAOGO
21 February 2015

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) -- Thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso could soon face cuts in food assistance because of a funding shortage, the World Food Program has warned.

The shortage threatens more than 12,000 patients and other people affected by HIV/AIDS, local WFP representative Jean-Charles Dei said this week. All are the beneficiaries of a program that distributes 117 tons of food assistance each month to vulnerable HIV/AIDS-affected groups, including corn, beans, cooking oil and corn soya blend, he said.

So far this year, the program has received only 27 percent of its funding needs, allowing it to provide aid to 3,000 people, Dei said. The projected cost of the program this year is $1.8 million. "I am very sad because the international community is not reacting," Dei said. "The situation is more than worrying because people living with HIV and who are on antiretroviral drugs need nutritional balance to survive."

Patients receiving antiretroviral drugs could give up the treatment in response to aid cuts, as side effects including nausea and diarrhea could prove too much for patients who aren't receiving enough food, said Mamadou Sawadogo, head of the National Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS.

There are 110,000 people living with HIV in Burkina Faso, according to U.N. estimates. The adult prevalence rate is just under 1 percent, down from a high of 6.5 percent in 2001.

The current funding shortage is partly the result of past success in fighting HIV/AIDS, Dei said. "For some donors there is nothing more to do in this country. But that would be a big mistake because if we give up, the few cases that remain could cause a resurgence of the sickness," he said.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:26 pm 
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Safe sex in South Africa: Free scented condoms distributed in new anti-HIV campaign
By Morgan Winsor
28 July 2015

As part of its newly launched safe sex campaign, the South African Department of Health plans to distribute 3 billion scented male condoms, 54 million female condoms and 60 million lubricant packets during the next three years. The rebranded condoms and lube will be dispensed to 4,000 sites nationwide and will cost South African taxpayers 3.5 billion rand, or $279 million, according to independent news source the Conversation.

The South African health department has redesigned its safe sex campaign in an effort to meet its targeted goal of slashing in half HIV/ADS, tuberculosis and STD infections by 2016. South Africa has one of the world’s target goal of slashing in half HIV/ADS, tuberculosis and STD infections by 2016. South Africa has one of the world’s highest incidences of HIV. The country has seen an increase in HIV infections among young adults over the past few years, as well as a decrease in condom use across all age groups.

Giving out free condoms in South Africa is nothing new, but the government was hoping to attract students and youth across the country with the rebranded condoms, which now come in different colors and scents. South African youth have often viewed the standard contraception as unappealing, and the health department’s free condom campaign was vilified in 2007 when millions of government-supplied free condoms were deemed decrease in condom use across all age groups, according to Erica Penfold, a research fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

“This legacy could compromise the effectiveness of the new condom campaign. Young people who are aware of the recall may not want to use even the rebranded free condoms, foregoing safe sex for unprotected sex in the belief that the condoms may not work anyway,” Penfold wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for the Conversation. “Will it work? Only time will tell.”

Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes South Africa and every other country south of the Sahara Desert, has the most severe HIV-AIDS epidemic in the world. More than two-thirds or 70 percent of all people living with the illness live in sub-Saharan Africa, including 88 percent of the world's HIV-positive children, according to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.

In March, South Africa’s health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced the government would hand out 50 million multi-scented condoms which were brightly colored and available in strawberry, grape and banana. “I hope that you find this condom more appealing and will use them,” Motsoaledi said in a speech in Cape Town, according to local News24.

Source: International Business Times

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:28 pm 
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Uganda stages beauty pageants to fight stigma of AIDS
By Henry Wasswa and Sinikka Tarvainen
15 September 2015

Kampala (dpa) - On the outskirts of the Ugandan capital Kampala, 31 young women and men take turns parading on a catwalk in a corrugated iron building filled with sunlight.

The youths could be appearing in any beauty contest - except that they are HIV positive. The audience watches as the candidates, wearing black or white T-shirts, are questioned by the three-woman jury on their life goals - including how to prevent the transmission of the virus they are carrying.

On September 18, the male and female winners along with 18 others from similar regional beauty contests will participate in the national finals held at a Kampala hotel to elect Uganda's Miss and Mister Y+, meaning youth positive.

At the final contest, participants "will wear normal clothes" created by a fashion designer, said Moses Bwire, a social worker with the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA), which organizes the contests. "The pageant will involve catwalks and fashion, but the dresses will have to be decent," he added, saying the Y+ beauty contest "is not about looks, but about personalities who can fight the stigma." "We are looking for young people who will be outstanding in controlling the spread of HIV," Bwire said.

The winners will act as ambassadors, attending events dealing with HIV, engaging in campaigns and promoting condom use. The pageants featuring youths aged 16 to 25 have been staged annually since 2014, following the example of Botswana, one of the African countries with the highest HIV infection rates, which launched a similar initiative in 2000.

"I have been with the AIDS virus since I was born. It is not an easy challenge to overcome," said one of the Kampala contestants, Robina Babirye. "We face discrimination each day. Some show it openly and others hide it," said another, Irene Nabunya, while male entrant Sadam Kyeyune, who lost his parents to AIDS at the age of 5, said he feels "lucky that I did not die."

Uganda was formerly known as one of the countries worst hit by HIV, with infection rates of more than 10 per cent in the 1990s. An aggressive campaign advocating condom use and a donor-sponsored programme currently allowing nearly 700,000 AIDS patients to receive medication have cut death rates. However, about 7 per cent of Ugandans aged between 15 and 49 years are still living with HIV, according to the United Nations agency UNAIDS.

The Health Ministry says that more than half of new infections - estimated at 137,000 in 2014 - occur among people aged up to 25 years. "Young people ... [are] one of the most sexually active segments of the population," said Musa Bungudu, the UNAIDS representative in Uganda. "People in these age brackets are daring, adventurous and very likely to engage in reckless sex," he added.

Prior to the national contest, the 20 regional winners will be schooled at a Lake Victoria hotel "on how to fight the AIDS stigma and handle sexual reproduction and health rights," Bwire said. At the contest for Miss and Mister Y+ Central Region near Kampala, some of the participants were clearly new to the world of glamour, struggling to strut correctly on the catwalk and to answer questions.

The jury finally announced the victory of two 22-year-olds, Robina Babirye and Mark Tuhaise. On hearing her name ring through the room, Babirye - who had impressed the public with her candid words about discrimination - broke into sobs. "People taunted me that I could not do anything since I had the AIDS virus. Now, I want to be an advocate for the voices of people who have AIDS," she said.

Source: dpa

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2015 8:59 pm 
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Winners crowned in beauty contest for young Ugandans with HIV
19 September 2015

Kampala (dpa) - The king fell to his knees when crowned out of joy while the queen vowed to encourage her subjects to fulfil their capabilities.

Silas Lubangakere and Robina Babirya were crowned Friday night as the winners of a Ugandan beauty contest open to young people living with the HIV virus. Teenagers gathered around catwalks in a music-filled hall in Kampala to hear the names of Miss and Mister Y+, or "youth positive," who are to become nationwide ambassadors in the fight against the virus and its stigma.

Babirya, 22, won the women's title. "I feel so humbled, and I cannot believe that I have won," she said. Babirya, who was born with HIV, vowed to "identify with the young population which faces discrimination and stigma and to make them aware of their potential." "I am filled with happiness," her male counterpart, 21-year old undergraduate Lubangakere, said after his crowning.

The pageant is open to candidates 16 to 25 and is now in its second year. The winners are expected to join in efforts to fight discrimination against people living with HIV, which causes AIDS, and to fight the spread of the infection.

"The winners will be ambassadors in the struggle against AIDS," said Jackie Alesi, executive director of the National Association of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA), which organized the pageant. She said they will receive training and support for their new roles, which will take them to events across Uganda, from visits to regional AIDS control projects to talk shows. Runner-up Daniel Owino will join them on their campaign. The 19-year-old said, "I was born with HIV, and I faced discrimination and stigma in the schools I went to and in the society I lived in."

An estimated 1.5 million people are infected with HIV in the East African nation, according to the UN programme dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS. Last year, the Health Ministry recorded 137,000 new infections, half of which were among people under 25. People living with HIV can control the virus through medication, preventing the onset of AIDS and allowing them to lead a normal life.

Source: dpa

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 6:51 pm 
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AIDS leading cause of death for African teenagers
By LYNSEY CHUTEL
27 November 2015

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- While the global push to eradicate HIV may have saved over a million babies, AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African teenagers and the second most common killer for adolescents across the globe, the United Nations' agency for children said on Friday.

Despite gains made among adults and babies with HIV, the number of 10-to-19-year-olds dying from AIDS-related diseases has tripled since 2000, UNICEF said, launching the global data at a press conference in South Africa. "We've collectively dropped the ball in the second decade of childhood," said Craig McClure, the chief of UNICEF's HIV and AIDS division.

Children born with the virus were dying in their teens because there was not enough treatment aimed at adolescents, McClure said. Only a third of the 2.6 million children infected with HIV were on treatment. Teenagers born without the disease are also vulnerable, and infections rates among those aged 15 to 19 now add up to 26 new infections every hour with 70 percent of those infected girls. Women are biologically more susceptible to HIV infection, but behind that statistic are social factors like illiteracy and child marriage, said McClure.

While 60 percent of adolescent infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa - with South Africa leading, followed by Nigeria - countries like the United States, India, Indonesia and Brazil also showed a worrying rate of infection among teenagers. Mani Djelassem, a 17-year-old activist from Chad who for the last four years has been speaking about living with HIV, said affected teenagers have not been properly taught about the virus or the medication to treat it. "I was infected at birth. What was my fault in this? Is it something I should be ashamed of?" asked the soft spoken teenager, sporting purple highlighted hair. She said no one was talking to teenagers about AIDS so she was speaking out.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:30 pm 
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Kenya 1st in Africa to use generic of current AIDS drug
By TOM ODULA
28 June 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Kenya is the first country in Africa to introduce a generic version of the current drug of choice for people living with HIV, officials said Wednesday.

Kenya's government and the global health initiative Unitaid announced that the East African nation will make the generic version of dolutegravir available for routine use. They said Nigeria and Uganda will introduce the drug later this year. The move is part of efforts to make such drugs that are widely used in developed countries more accessible to impoverished ones. It can take more than a decade for new drugs to be introduced in lower-income countries, Unitaid said.

The World Health Organization says the region most affected by HIV is sub-Saharan Africa, which has two-thirds of the world's new HIV infections. In 2015, more than 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living with HIV, according to WHO.

Kenya's health ministry says it will give the drug initially to 27,000 people living with HIV who can't tolerate the current drug of choice used in the country, efavirenz. It will be distributed free of charge as part of the country's free antiretroviral program in public hospitals, officials said. The plan is to make the drug available nationwide later this year. An estimated 1.5 million people in Kenya are living with HIV, and a little over one million are on antiretroviral drugs.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 12:05 am 
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For 1st time, over half of people with HIV taking AIDS drugs
By MARIA CHENG
20 July 2017

LONDON (AP) -- For the first time in the global AIDS epidemic that has spanned four decades and killed 35 million people, more than half of all those infected with HIV are on drugs to treat the virus, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.

AIDS deaths are also now close to half of what they were in 2005, according to the U.N. AIDS agency, although those figures are based on estimates and not actual counts from countries.

Experts applauded the progress, but questioned if the billions spent in the past two decades should have brought more impressive results. The U.N. report was released in Paris where an AIDS meeting begins this weekend. "When you think about the money that's been spent on AIDS, it could have been better," said Sophie Harman, a senior lecturer in global health politics at Queen Mary University in London.

She said more resources might have gone to strengthening health systems in poor countries. "The real test will come in five to 10 years once the funding goes down," Harman said, warning that some countries might not be able to sustain the U.N.-funded AIDS programs on their own. The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut in contributions to the U.N. starting in October.

According to the report, about 19.5 million people with HIV were taking AIDS drugs in 2016, compared to 17.1 million the previous year. UNAIDS also said there were about 36.7 million people with HIV in 2016, up slightly from 36.1 million the year before.

In the report's introduction, Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS' executive director, said more and more countries are starting treatment as early as possible, in line with scientific findings that the approach keeps people healthy and helps prevent new infections. Studies show that people whose virus is under control are far less likely to pass it on to an uninfected sex partner. "Our quest to end AIDS has only just begun," he wrote.

The report notes that about three-quarters of pregnant women with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, now have access to medicines to prevent them from passing it to their babies. It also said five hard-hit African countries now provide lifelong AIDS drugs to 95 percent of pregnant and breast-feeding women with the virus. "For more than 35 years, the world has grappled with an AIDS epidemic that has claimed an estimated 35 million lives," the report said. "Today, the United Nations General Assembly has a shared vision to consign AIDS to the history books."

The death toll from AIDS has dropped dramatically in recent years as the wide availability of affordable, life-saving drugs has made the illness a manageable disease. But Harman said that "Ending AIDS" - the report's title - was unrealistic. "I can see why they do it, because it's bold and no one would ever disagree with the idea of ending AIDS, but I think we should be pragmatic," she said. "I don't think we will ever eliminate AIDS, so it's possible this will give people the wrong idea."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 12:09 am 
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HIV epidemic 'coming under control' in nation with top rate
24 July 2017

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The United States government says the HIV epidemic is "coming under control" in the country with the world's highest prevalence of HIV, Swaziland.

Monday's statement by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, says new HIV infections in the tiny southern African country have nearly halved among adults since 2011. The statement says the southern African nations of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe also "demonstrate significant progress" toward controlling the epidemic.

The four countries are among 13 nations with the highest HIV rates where PEPFAR has been focusing its efforts. The White House's 2018 proposed budget would reduce funding by about $1 billion to PEPFAR, which supports anti-retroviral therapy for over 11 million people, many in sub-Saharan Africa.

Source: AP

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