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Archives for Health

River Blindness Eliminated in Colombia

Today, Colombia celebrates a great milestone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), out of 38 endemic countries worldwide, Colombia is the first to eliminate river blindness, a disease transmitted through infected flies that can cause chronic skin lesions, irreversible blindness, or severe visual impairment.

In Naciona, Colombia, a child is measured for treatment with the drug Mecitzan®, donated by Merck. The village of Naciona's close proximity to the river meant that, in the past, residents were exposed to the bites of flies that carried river blindness. Now, thanks to the work of the national program and the Carter Center OEPA Colombia has eliminated river blindness nationwide. Photo Credit: Carter Center

Approximately 123 million people are at risk of infection of river blindness and at least 25.7 million people are currently infected of which 1 million suffer from blindness or visual impairment. River blindness is traditionally controlled via mass drug administration given to affected communities. Fortunately, since 1987, the drug needed to control this disease has been donated free of charge by Merck.

In Colombia, river blindness affected a single community in the municipality of Lopez de Micay in the Cauca State. A remote location reachable only by a 10-hour trip in a small motorboat. In 1996, Colombia began an intensive public health campaign to break the transmission cycle by administering treatment for river blindness to this entire community. These efforts were sustained until 2007 when it was determined that the cycle of transmission had been broken. Mass drug administration was halted in 2008.

In order to receive certification of elimination, Colombia had to undergo a 3-year post-treatment surveillance period where data is collected and analyzed to determine if river blindness is still present in the community. In addition, Colombia had to submit a country dossier to WHO describing the entire history and achievements of their country program.

After a visit by a team of international experts and an extensive review, WHO verified the elimination of river blindness in Colombia and was announced earlier today by Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.

This milestone could not have been achieved without the work of many organizations. Merck’s drug donation program has been key in the success of controlling and beginning to eliminate river blindness from the world. The leadership and technical assistance from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) to the six affected countries in the Americas has been essential to reach this milestone.

For USAID, river blindness elimination from the Americas was a specific target set when the Global Health Initiative was launched in 2009. Since then, USAID has worked in close coordination with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and currently funds PAHO and OEPA’s work.

In the Americas, Ecuador is expected to be the next country to receive verification of elimination and Guatemala and Mexico are soon to follow. In the western hemisphere, only one remote area at the border between Brazil and Venezuela continues to be affected by river blindness.

The efforts and success seen in Colombia serve as a model for countries globally and paves a way toward a world free of river blindness.

Demographic and Health Survey Show Positive Results in Haiti

A newly released nationwide health survey of Haiti shows continuing positive trends on key health-care indicators in particular those of Haitian women and children. The latest survey, undertaken by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, was conducted in 2012 and compares with the prior survey done in 2006. It shows steady improvements among key indicators despite significant health challenges in Haiti due to the 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak. Of note were improved indicators for child vaccination and malnutrition, infant and child mortality, women’s health and contraception use. The report indicated no increase in HIV prevalence, which remained steady.

Patients get laboratory work done at a USAID-supported health clinic in Ouanaminthe, Haiti on May 15, 2013. Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The Morbidity, Mortality, and Service Utilization Survey measures progress and setbacks in health outcomes over the years. The results were announced July 9 by Dr. Florence Guillaume Duperval, Haiti’s Minister of Public Health and Population. The survey has been administered in Haiti five times since 1994.

The previous survey was administered in Haiti between 2005 and 2006; this latest survey was conducted from January 2012 to June 2012. Over 13,000 households participated in the current survey, representing rural and urban areas in all of Haiti’s 10 departments, including camps for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. The results were eagerly anticipated by health experts concerned of possible setbacks brought on by the devastating quake, which killed more than 230,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million.

However, the survey results show that many health outcomes have improved in Haiti. The data collected in the survey show improvements in women’s health, improved nutritional status among the population, and an increase in use of contraceptive methods. Currently, more than two-thirds of pregnant Haitians have made the recommended number of antenatal visits, an increase from 50 percent in 2006; the prevalence of anemia among women has declined from 55 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2012; and the use of modern contraceptive methods among married women has increased from 22 percent to 31 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Health data for children also showed positive results. Childhood vaccinations increased from 53 percent in 2006 to 62.5 percent in 2012. With regard to nutrition, the survey showed that 22 percent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, a decrease from 29 percent in 2006. The survey also revealed a decrease in acute malnutrition from 10 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2012 and a decrease in percent of children underweight from 18 percent to 11 percent.

Childhood mortality has decreased in Haiti over the last 15 years. Survey results show that infant mortality has decreased from 79 to 59 deaths for 1,000 live births. In addition, mortality for children under 5 has also decreased from 112 deaths to 88 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Among other results, the survey revealed that the HIV prevalence among those ages 15-59 have remained the same:  2.7 percent among women and 1.7 percent among men.

USAID is working closely with the Government of Haiti to continue to improve health outcomes for all Haitians. “The information in this survey forces us to continue to work together, to strengthen our interventions and our methods so that progress in the health sector in Haiti is sustained,” said Marc Desjardins, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, during the July 9 event.

USAID’s goal is to improve access to health care services and build the Government of Haiti’s capacity to manage and oversee its health programs. Currently, about 50 percent of the population has access to a vast network of USAID-sponsored health facilities throughout the country that provide core health services such as maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition. In addition, diagnostic and treatment services for tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS services can be accessed at these health facilities. HIV and AIDS services include access to antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, palliative care, and voluntary testing and counseling. USAID programs aim to reduce risky behaviors and maintaining people living with HIV and AIDS on treatment.

Much remains to be done in Haiti. For example, despite high levels of knowledge of family planning, only 35 percent of married women are using any method and 31 percent are using a modern method. However, the positive health trends revealed by this data shows that Haiti continues to move forward despite the earthquake, the ongoing cholera epidemic, and many other challenges that threaten health outcomes. These results are a testament to the hard work and strong commitment of all of those who work to build a better Haiti.

This survey was funded by USAID, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Global Fund the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria through the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The fifth Morbidity, Mortality, and Service Utilization Survey combined with the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MICS) was conducted by the Haitian Childhood Institute [l’Institut Haïtien de l’Enfance (IHE)] in collaboration with the Haitian Statistical and Information Technology Institute [l’Institut Haïtien de Statistiques et d’Informatique (IHSI)]. This survey was supported by the Ministry of Public Health and Population [Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (MSPP)], benefited from the technical assistance of the Demographic and Health Surveys program (MEASURE DHS), which is implemented by ICF International.

Resources:

  • Read the full DHS report.
  • See photos of USAID’s health-related programs in Haiti.

A Roadside Attraction in Djibouti: Community and Condoms at the SafeTStop

Whether on foot, camel, dhow, containership, tanker, or truck—traders have likely criss-crossed Djibouti and its waters for as long as there has been trade. Today, the Port of Djibouti, one of Africa’s busiest, lies at the nexus of major shipping routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe.

From Djibouti, most goods travel inland by trailer-truck: some 800 Ethiopian truckers arrive every day. After offloading coffee, cotton, beans and other commodities from Ethiopia, truckers wait 4 to 6 days to reload with imported electronics, spare parts, construction materials, food aid and much else.

This range of activity makes a small community, virtually unknown outside Djibouti, both important and vulnerable. It’s called PK-12 for “Point Kilometre 12″ in French, the official language. Meaning that it’s 12 km from Djibouti town, the capital and site of the port. PK-12 looks like the mother of all truckstops. Colorful vehicles lie like flattened dominoes as far as the eye can see—thousands of them.

Thanks to a public-private partnership between USAID, the Government of the Republic of Djibouti, FHI 360, and Dubai Ports World, the little container-hut at PK-12 will be replaced by a larger center.The new SafeTStop will feature testing and treatment on the premises, so clients will have a one-stop-shop for recreation plus HIV and other health services. Photo credit: Dubai Ports World

Understandably, drivers with several days on their hands also ferry back and forth another invisible item. About 25 percent are thought to be HIV-positive. The number of HIV-positive young women and men from the community is not known, and the stigma is too strong for even the boldest to disclose their status.

As late as 2004, HIV was a taboo subject, along with condoms. Voluntary testing did not exist. A lot of young women in this small roadside settlement were not only getting pregnant out of wedlock, they were also dying. If someone got a positive diagnosis—usually by showing up at a hospital with TB or another disease—they often took their own life.

“I got involved in HIV education because I used to lie awake at night worrying about my two daughters,” says Zahra Daher.  “They were very young then, but what would happen later? There’s so little opportunity here except sex work.  It seemed like a death sentence.”

Zahra and I, along with three bearded imams and several peer counselors, are talking on the second floor of a little building made, fittingly, from one transport container atop another. This center for recreation and HIV education is a “SafeTStop”—one in a network of 52 in communities along the main highways of East Africa. The SafeTStops are part of the ROADS II program funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID and implemented by FHI 360.

Zahra Daher and Hussein Houmed, founders of the PK-12 SafeTStop. Photo credit: Carole Douglis, USAID/East Africa

A decade ago, before the SafeTStop existed, Daher and others here were chased, stoned, and accused of infecting people simply for talking about HIV. In 2004, Daher assembled a concerned women’s association. Hussein Houmed put together a youth association. Together, they sought support and funding. By 2005, they received both from PEPFAR through USAID/Djibouti.

The clerics—initially far from enthusiastic—were invited to join the initial training. They did, and today they preach prevention at community mosques. “Our target,” says Houmed, “was to inspire people to go for voluntary counseling and testing, so if they’re positive they start taking ARVs [antri-retroviral drugs] if needed. That way they can stay healthy and are also unlikely to pass the virus on.”

Peer counselors roam the local bars and restaurants, befriending people in Arabic, Afar, Somali, or Amharic, distributing condoms, and encouraging truckers and community members alike to be tested.

“The progress is very visible,” says Daher. “Before, no one mentioned the disease. Today we see people talking about it. We see people easily asking for condoms, going for testing, then going back for the results. People who are positive approaching us for advice. And undesired pregnancies are much rarer than they were.”

Thanks to a public-private partnership between USAID, the Government of the Republic of Djibouti, FHI 360, and Dubai Ports World, which operates the port of Djibouti, the little container-hut at PK-12 will be replaced by a larger center nearby. The new SafeTStop will feature testing and treatment on the premises, so clients will have a one-stop-shop for recreation, plus HIV and other health services.

“I’m taking this opportunity to thank American taxpayers and the Ambassador,” said Houmed after our interview. “Long life to the U.S. and the Government of Djibouti, who have made this partnership possible.”

FP2020: Plans, Partnerships and Progress – One Year On

This originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blog.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your work really makes a difference. Three months after the London Summit on Family Planning, I led a delegation of UNFPA supporters to Ghana. We saw a diverse and inspiring range of maternal health programs — from government hospitals to an entrepreneurial midwife who designed and produced birthing stools with the help of a local carpenter.

In Tamale, we visited a brand new Marie Stopes clinic fully stocked with a range of modern contraceptive methods. It was located in the heart of the city, at a vibrant, open air market that stands at the crossroads of three ancient trade routes. For the women and men who work there, the clinic could not be more convenient — they could easily dash off for an appointment or for supplies.

Ghana woman at USAID health event. Photo credit: USAID

From there we flew north to Bolgatanga, then traveled by bus towards the border with Burkina Faso. As we drove, the tarmac gave way to unpaved roads. Cracks became grooves, and grooves became ditches. As the hours passed, the villages became smaller and the distance between them grew. Wherever we were headed, it felt worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Tamale.

Finally we arrived at our destination: a plain, L-shaped building in a small compound. It was a Planned Parenthood of Ghana clinic that provides an integrated mix of family planning and other health education and services.

Despite its remoteness, we were greeted with as much enthusiasm and excitement as we felt in Tamale. About 200 people — village elders, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, children — had come out to show support for their clinic. They told us about the difference the clinic was making in their lives. In this isolated location, it was their only source of medical care.

But as we toured the facility, I happened to notice one person who wasn’t taking part in the excitement. Her name was Afia, and she sat very quietly, in a corner, on a hard wooden bench. A midwife was by her side.

Afia’s face was etched in pain, but her cries were muted. With quiet dignity, and few of the trappings that attend births in countries like my own, I found out she was in labor to deliver her first child.

As a mother myself, I knew how scared she must have felt. I also knew that in Ghana, for every 100,000 women who go into labor, 350 die giving birth or because of pregnancy-related complications. The statistics can be numbing.

Afia remained on my mind and two days later, I learned she had a lovely baby girl, and both mother and child were happy and most importantly, healthy.

I know that in the coming months and years, the clinic will help Afia keep herself and her baby healthy, and will give her the contraceptives she needs to plan her family and her future.

Our work does make a difference. This is what Family Planning 2020 is all about: reaching women, no matter where they live, with the information, services and supplies they need. Program by program, clinic by clinic, and woman by woman.

One year after the London Summit on Family Planning, I am pleased to report that FP2020 continues to build the foundations of a global movement and is accelerating progress towards achieving our goal of reaching an additional 120 million women with lifesaving contraceptive information, services and supplies by 2020.

Countries are championing the cause — over twenty governments have already made commitments and a few more are gearing up to do so. National, costed family planning plans are being drafted and implemented, new health laws are being passed and service delivery barriers are being addressed. Price-reduction agreements on long-acting, reversible contraceptive implants and the scale-up in delivery of discreet, injectable contraceptives ensures that millions of women will be able to access a range of family planning methods. We’ve improved relations with allies, built and strengthened new partnerships, and established our global governance framework. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

And yet, I remain acutely aware that the work of FP2020 has only just begun. We have so much more to do to ensure that family planning remains front and center on the global development agenda. This will require even stronger international partnerships to uphold and guard the unified aspirations of millions of women and girls to chart their own future.

Women like Afia are depending on us to keep the promises we made one year ago at the London Summit. As we move forward into the second year of FP2020, I am convinced and confident that working together, we shall.

Angola Embraces New WHO Guidelines That Pave Way for Universal HIV Treatment for Pregnant Women

B. Ryan Phelps is Medical Officer for PMTCT and Pediatric HIV, and Melanie Tam is a PMTCT Intern. Both work in the Office of HIV/AIDS. Photo credits: Victoria Guerra and Melanie Tam.

“Oh, most definitely. Most definitely,” Nurse Maria responded [in Portuguese]. I had asked if expectant, HIV-infected mothers in her clinic were excited about lifelong HIV treatment.

As in many clinics in Angola’s Luanda province, the sound of women, babies, and traffic surrounded us with a unique din. Leaning in closer, Nurse Maria continued, “They want to breastfeed and they want to stay healthy to care for their babies. Lifelong treatment lets them do that.”

That was on June 28I was part of a visiting delegation reviewing Angola’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) portfolio for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Two days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its new 2013 consolidated guidelines for antiretroviral treatment (ART). These guidelines pave the way toward lifelong treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, regardless of CD4 count or clinical stage.

Physicians, nurses, and community health workers of Clinical Km 12 with PEPFAR technical consultants during site visit. Photo credit: Dr. Samson Ngonyani

Angola’s National Institute in the Fight against AIDS (INLS) has already drafted guidelines to reflect many of these changes. Angola’s new guidelines provide an opportunity to significantly expand access to PMTCT for the country’s pregnant women living with HIV. One in five of these women currently receive the drugs and services required to protect their babies from infection. Unfortunately, because access to HIV treatment among infants and children in Angola is minimal, infection often means that these children face either a fast (<1 year) or slow (1-5 years) death.

Knowing this all too well, Nurse Maria, with support from PEPFAR, USAID Angola and USAID’s partner, ForcaSaude, has begun preparing for the transition to universal treatment. Maria works in a clinic called, “Clinico Kilometero 12″, after the nearest distance marker along a very busy road outside of Luanda, Angola’s capitol. It is a lively place, and thousands of mothers depend on the clinic near kilometer 12 for their pre- and post-natal care.

I met one of these mothers while there. Her name was Gloria, and she let me hold her healthy, newborn baby girl. These few seconds of face-time with one of PEPFAR’s newest beneficiaries was easily the highlight of my week.

As for the new WHO guidelines, I am not going to go into too much detail about them here. Global health policy documents, even those that exist to protect babies like Gloria’s, are not exactly page-turners. I will say, however, that these new guidelines are the product of over a year of work with dozens of global partners, including USAID. They represent the first ever consolidated global HIV guidelines, incorporating all age groups, several life-preserving interventions, as well as specific, practical programmatic guidance. And for the first time, these guidelines provide an option for universal, lifelong treatment of pregnant mothers who test HIV-positive.

Approximately 5,800 new pediatric HIV infections occur in Angola each year–one in fifty of all children born with HIV worldwide. Nurse Maria and others like her, with support from PEPFAR through USAID, are striving to change that. It is a hopeful time in Angola. If you doubt this, drive approximately 12 kilometers outside downtown Luanda and see for yourself.

Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health for All

Approximately 16 million girls ages 15 to 19 (most of them already married) give birth each year. On July 11, World Population Day, we join the global community in raising awareness on the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of protecting and empowering millions of girls around the globe.

Adolescent pregnancy has dire health, social and economic consequences for girls, their communities, and nations. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 in low-and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and death are 50 per cent more likely for babies born to mothers younger than 20 than for babies born to mothers in their 20s. We know that girls who become pregnant often face discrimination within their communities, drop out of school, and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime. A World Bank study (PDF) found that the lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy in developing countries ranges from 10 percent of annual GDP in Brazil to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.

World Population Day 2013 aims to draw awareness to the issue of adolescent pregnancy. Photo credit: Netsanet Assaye, Courtesy of Photoshare

I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital to ensure future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives.  In developing countries overall, 22 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) who are married or in union use contraceptives, compared to 61 percent of married girls and women aged 15-49 (PDF). Lack of information, fear of side effects, and other barriers—geographic, social, and economic—prevent young people from obtaining and using family planning methods.

It’s appropriate that this World Population Day also marks a year since the historic London Summit on Family Planning, and the launch of Family Planning 2020. This global partnership supports the right of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. I am proud to be on the Reference Group of the Family Planning 2020 initiative (PDF) that aims to enable 120 million more women and girls to access family planning information and services by 2020.

As the largest bilateral donor for family planning, USAID is uniquely poised to accelerate progress and improve education and access to reproductive health services for youth.  We support programs and research on adolescent health and development, and we have approaches that work to improve knowledge and change behaviors. Our programs focus on gender equality, because we know that boys and men who have access to reproductive health information and services are better able to protect their own health, support their partners, and participate in planning of their future and that of their families.

USAID is committed to protecting reproductive rights for all people and especially for the world’s adolescents and youth. Young people are the future, and we want and need their valued contributions to and participation in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and join the conversation about World Population Day using the #WorldPopDay hashtag. Share our new infographic on adolescent pregnancy.

Pledge Guarantee for Health: Working Better, Faster and Smarter

As we enter the last 1,000 days of the Millennium Development Goals we need to make every dollar we spend go further. But we cannot continue to conduct business as usual. The Brookings Institute estimates that the volatility of development aid costs as much as 28 cents of every dollar spent -impeding our ability to deliver results for those in need.

Instead, we must work better, faster and smarter. By using new and groundbreaking tools that can improve the efficiency and predictability of donor financing, we can ensure that life-saving goods arrive in time to save lives. Pledge Guarantee for Health (PGH) is one such simple, yet innovative tool that can help speed the delivery of critical health commodities by 6-8 months.

Aron Betru, Managing Director of Pledge Guarantee for Health, left, and Dr. Raj Shah, Administrator USAID, right, sign the new guarantee agreement between USAID, Swedish SIDA and Pledge Guarantee for Health. Photo credit: USAID

PGH provides countries with working capital to help smooth over any delays in donor aid disbursements, giving them time to plan their procurements. Better planning enables countries to get more value for money by negotiating better prices with suppliers and reducing the cost of shipments. Most importantly, countries are able to accelerate delivery of, and access to, necessary health commodities.

PGH already has a proven track record for delivering results: in Zambia, PGH worked with the World Bank to facilitate an innovative financing solution that helped accelerate the delivery of bednets before the start of the rainy season. The end result: the bednets arrived on time averting an epidemic AND due to incentives built into the partnership, the World Bank worked with the Government of Zambia to ultimately provide one of their fastest disbursements ever.

USAID, in partnership with Swedish SIDA, is proud to help support and scale up PGH by providing a $50 million credit guarantee using USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). This co- guarantee will allow PGH to access up to $100 million of credit from commercial banks. This $100 million of credit can “revolve” up to 10 times, meaning it has the potential to generate up to $1 billion of transaction over the five year guarantee period.

USAID’s participation in this effort is through a partnership between the Development Credit Authority (DCA) and the Bureau for Global Health’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact (CII). DCA has successfully used similar risk-sharing mechanisms in 72 countries around the world, and has unlocked $2.7 billion in credit for developmentally-important projects and businesses. CII uses business-minded approaches to address key bottlenecks in the development, introduction, and scale up of global health technologies and interventions.

USAID’s support of this initiative reflects the Agency’s effort to utilize innovative financing mechanisms to leverage private capital to stretch limited aid dollars further. We are committed to working with our partners in the international development, financing, and supplier communities to ensure that we maximize the value of every dollar spent, ending preventable maternal and child deaths and changing the face of poverty forever.

 

USAID’s Employee HIV Testing Campaign

“Hit early and hit hard,” advises Dr. David Ho, Director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. Referring to the importance of rapid treatment for HIV infection, this advice requires early and frequent HIV testing, so that antiretroviral treatment can be initiated as soon as possible. Early initiation of treatment has dramatic implications for the quality and length of an infected person’s life. Nowadays, if someone tests positive for HIV and initiates treatment once eligible, that person can expect to live a relatively normal and healthy life (assuming they maintain a regular treatment routine).

Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez (left) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Wade Warren (right) listen to Community Education Group counselor and tester Miriam Jones explain how to use the oral swab. Photo credit: Molly Schmalzbach, USAID

In honor of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, USAID offered free HIV screening to all USAID employees at the Federal Occupational Health Center in the Ronald Reagan Building. Community Education Group provided the health screenings, which included HIV counseling and testing and a high blood pressure screening. Even though we were fully booked, some hard work on the part of our testers enabled the accommodation of quite a few walk-ins, bringing the total number of people tested to 64!

This employee HIV testing campaign was designed to both promote HIV testing and destigmatize the act of getting tested. The Bureau for Global Health’s senior management team led by example: Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Clay, Deputy Assistant Administrator Wade Warren, and Deputy Director of the Office of HIV and AIDS Paul Mahanna each agreed to be tested and even smiled for the camera! As Mahanna said of HIV counseling and testing, “It’s critically important. Everyone should know their status and get tested frequently. I’ve been tested countless times.”

Deputy Director of the Office of HIV and AIDS Paul Mahanna (left) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Clay (right) test themselves for HIV using the oral swab. Photo credit: Molly Schmalzbach, USAID

Thanks so much to Community Education Group and the Federal Occupational Health Center for providing invaluable support and coordination for this event. Learn more about how to get tested for HIV in the DC area and across the country.

Learn more about how USAID is trying to keep on the forefront of the global AIDS crisis. 

Partnering to Control and Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola

In October 2010, the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population announced the detection of cholera in the Artibonite Department, located north of Port-Au-Prince. After enduring a devastating earthquake in January 2010, the cholera epidemic hit like a knock-out punch.

Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by a bacteria that spreads rapidly through contaminated water. When people get cholera, they get very sick, very fast, and the risk of death is high if left untreated. A matter of hours can make a difference.

Personnel distribute USAID hygiene kits at a Cholera Treatment Center in Verrettes in the Artibonite department of Haiti. Photo by Kendra Helmer/USAID

In Haiti, cholera attacked a population with no previous exposure and therefore no immunity against the bacteria. Before this outbreak, Haiti had not been affected by cholera in over a century. Over the last two and half years, 658,053 people have contracted cholera in Haiti, and 8,120 have died.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people are at risk of getting cholera every year, and annually 2.8 million cases of cholera occur globally. Since cholera spreads via contaminated water, it thrives in post-disaster environments. Even in the United States, post Hurricane Katrina, emergency personnel attended to many people infected with a bacteria closely related to cholera.

The increased risk of infectious diseases is a recurrent public health concern in post-disaster situations. In the U.S., we have the infrastructure needed to detect and respond to outbreaks, to stop their spread. In Haiti, USAID is working to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s capacity to detect and control infectious diseases and provide timely life-saving care. USAID is committed to assisting the Government of Haiti to combat this epidemic.

When tackling an outbreak of this magnitude, it is essential to work with key partners to leverage each other’s strengths. Today, USAID became an official member of the Coalition on Water and Sanitation for the Elimination of Cholera in Hispaniola. To add to the ongoing efforts of the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and other strategic partners, USAID has pledged to support the Government of Haiti’s plan to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.

USAID’s current work already contributes to this goal through many different avenues that focus on cholera prevention as well as treatment and control. Since contaminated water is the source of cholera, USAID works via its implementing partners to ensure that Haitians have access to safe drinking water at their homes, health centers and schools and makes safe water products available for water decontamination. Since the beginning of the outbreak, USAID programs have mobilized thousands of community workers throughout Haiti to conduct awareness activities that focus on hygiene and sanitation practices that help prevent cholera.

When someone falls ill of cholera, it is important to recognize signs of dehydration and have swift access to treatment. USAID trains mothers and caregivers to recognize these dangerous signs and use oral rehydration products. If medical attention is needed, USAID’s extensive network of health facilities, present throughout the country, has the necessary resources and training to manage this disease.

USAID will continue to work in partnership with the Government of Haiti to improve the health of all Haitians and will coordinate extensively with members of the Coalition to leverage our efforts to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.

USAID’s Investment in Africa

As President Obama embarks on his trip to Africa, USAID is proud to take this opportunity to highlight the important work we are doing to partner with Africans in new and innovative ways to build a peaceful and prosperous future. For the first time in over a generation, sub-Saharan Africa is seeing steady progress toward ending extreme poverty, fueled by robust economic growth and better governance and service delivery in many countries. These gains have been supported by USAID’s investments in improved agriculture, health care, and democratic institutions, and our increased focus on women and a new generation of African thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each of which are delivering transformational results. In concert with partners throughout Africa, we are working toward ending poverty and providing millions a foothold in the global economy—and helping to realize the promise of the world’s most youthful region.

Women in Senegal. Photo credit: USAID

The President will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania–some of USAID’s most important development partners–but his messages are relevant for the entire continent. USAID with thousands of grassroots organizations, communities and local businesses in 42 African countries to achieve these shared goals. Some examples of these partnerships are featured in this collection of stories about our work in Africa.

Throughout the President’s trip, our teams on the ground will provide regular social media updates. Be sure to follow Administrator Shah on Twitter (@rajshah) as he accompanies the President and join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica! Follow us also on Facebook and our Impact Blog for real-time stories from our missions in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you throughout this trip and beyond.

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