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Adventures in Wildlife Screening: Monitoring Wildlife Farms to Prevent Disease

Ever tried porcupine? How about wild boar? While such unusual fare may not be to everyone’s taste, there is a huge demand for wildlife meat in Vietnam, and farming of wildlife for human consumption is becoming more common. This brings wildlife into close proximity with humans and domestic livestock, resulting in a greater risk of disease crossover. Approximately 75 percent of the diseases which affect humans were sourced from animals, and of these, 72 percent originate from wild species. Recognizing the potential threat of new pandemics, USAID partners with Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to build capacity for monitoring diseases in wildlife farms.

A Predict project trainer advises how to properly collect samples at a wildlife farm in Vietnam’s Dong Nai province. Photo credit: USAID Vietnam/Laurel Fain

A Predict project trainer advises how to properly collect samples at a wildlife farm in Vietnam’s Dong Nai province.
Photo credit: USAID Vietnam/Laurel Fain

I recently participated in a surveillance training conducted by USAID’s Predict project in Dong Nai province, one of Vietnam’s top wildlife farming provinces with more than one thousand wildlife farms housing hundreds of individual wildlife species. Myself, wildlife farmers and participants from the Department of Forestry Protection (Vietnam’s park rangers) and the Department of Animal Health (farm inspectors), whose job it is to inspect farms and restaurants to make sure they’re not illegally farming or killing endangered species, gathered to learn about the most common and dangerous diseases affecting wild animals when they are enclosed, how to protect ourselves and the public from contamination when monitoring farms, and proper biosafety precautions that should be in place on livestock farms. We also learned how to collect and prepare samples for analysis by the regional laboratory. I was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of the training participants, who all demonstrated a strong understanding of the importance of this work in protecting against infectious diseases.

As part of the training, we went out into the field to practice our new skills. My team visited one farm that produced non-endangered species of wildlife to be served in the family’s restaurant next door, including wild boar, turtles, porcupines, civets, snakes, and rats. Farm owner Mai Thi Thanh was very interested in hearing advice from the team on improving her systems, and expressed pride and concern about keeping her stock healthy. The trainees excitedly collected samples from every animal present, with some expert supervision from our trainers. The second farm we visited belonged to one of our own group of trainees, who was eager to show us his farm and to hear our suggestions for improving hygiene on his farm. He raised mouse deer, porcupine, and wild boar that had been interbred with domestic breeds.

Finally, back to classroom to compare notes: between both groups, we collected 162 samples from bears, several types of primates, rats, two species of porcupines, boars, deer, and civets. We learned from the regional laboratory specialists how these samples will be analyzed for a wide variety of infectious diseases, and brainstormed on future training needs and next steps.

I feel quite fortunate to have been able to observe this process up close, and could honestly congratulate the group on their dedication to keeping the rest of us safe from emerging pandemic threats. The participants from the Animal Health and Forestry Protection departments can now add this health feature to their normal surveillance for illegal wildlife trade. We’ll all be very interested to hear the results of the tests done on these samples and on the more than 5,400 samples previously collected by the USAID-supported project in Vietnam this year.

Read more about USAID Vietnam’s work to prevent infectious diseases.

Empowering Moms Through mHealth

This blog post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

My heart smiled the moment the four women entered the meeting room where I had been waiting. I stood to greet them and the babies they carried, eager to hear their stories. The young mothers sat in the chairs across from us and soon the babies were all up on the table, their proud moms making certain that we could see their precious little ones. The youngest baby was 4½ months old, the oldest 14 months. They were all adorable.

USAID harnesses the power of mobile phones to achieve results.

Credit: USAID

The conversation was lively. One young mother, Letty, described her pregnancy. Living in Johannesburg, she was far from her home country, Zimbabwe, and far from her mother,aunts,grandmother or anyone she trusted to give her the advice and information she craved.The cost of phoning these trusted relatives was prohibitive, so Letty found support when she enrolled to receive text messages via her mobile phone from MAMA, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. “I’m here. I’m alone. The SMS messages helped me a lot. They helped me feel that someone is there,” Letty told me.

MAMA South Africa was launched with the support of global partners USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation, the mHealth Alliance, and BabyCenter. In addition, Vodacom joined the South Africa partnership, offering MAMA’s mobile website, askmama.mobi, free-of-charge to its 25 million customers. The goal of MAMA is to deliver health messages that moms need at specific milestones during pregnancy and during the first year of their baby’s development.

An existing South African mHealth partnership helped bring MAMA South Africa to life: Cell-Life, Praekelt Foundation and WRHI at the University of the Witwatersrand. Through MAMA, new and expectant mothers receive messages that address important topics such as nutrition during pregnancy, how to prepare for childbirth and recognizing signs of trouble which, if unheeded, can lead to difficulties in labor and delivery.

I sat across from these four women who had benefited from the MAMA partnership and listened carefully as they described their experiences. For these mothers, the SMS messages calmed their fears. One of the women, Faith, said that she had enrolled in the program when she was five months pregnant and had found reassurance in the MAMA texts. “The messages sometimes tell you, ‘This is normal’ and then you don’t worry,” she said. Letty added that when her baby was up all night, she received a message that said “Your baby may be teething” and this convinced her that nothing was wrong with her baby.

Another mom, Ntando was seven months pregnant and already had one child when she enrolled in the MAMA program. On the day of our meeting, her baby boy was already five months old. “The way we raised the first one is different from the way we raise this one.” She looked at her son and then added a comment about MAMA. “They’ll help me raise this one,” she said.

The third woman, Memory, signed up to receive MAMA messages when her baby was five months old. She said that she appreciated the help in “how to say ‘no’ to my son.” Memory also told us that she found the messages so helpful that she shares them with a friend who does not have a phone.

Faith visits the MAMA website with her husband and they learn together. Her praise for MAMA struck a particular chord for me – “I like them because they don’t just take care of the baby, they also take care of the moms.”

As our time together drew to a close, I thanked Letty, Memory, Faith and Ntando for taking the time to meet with us. Many of their comments have stayed with me, but none more than this one: “You feel like you are alone, and these SMS messages make you feel loved.”

The MAMA partnership is based on the power and promise of mobile phones in empowering mothers to make healthy decisions for themselves and their babies. What a wonderful added – and unexpected — benefit that MAMA also makes moms feel loved.

How Data Drives Decisions at USAID

This post originally appeared on Impact magazine

Impact magazine interviews Ellen Starbird, Director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health, USAID.

IMPACT: How does USAID assess the effectiveness of its health investments?

ELLEN STARBIRD: USAID assesses the effectiveness of its health interventions by looking at trend data in health indicators that are related to the programmatic interventions that we support. For our family planning and reproductive health programs, contraceptive prevalence, improvements in birth spacing and increasing age at marriage are all measured by surveys, including the Demographic and Health Survey. Changes in these indicators can be related to our investments. USAID uses evaluation findings to inform decisions, improve program effectiveness, be accountable to stakeholders, and support organizational learning. Research tests the effectiveness of possible interventions and is used to identify high-impact practices for our family planning and reproductive health programs. Pilot studies and introduction studies test the effectiveness of interventions in specific contexts or countries. Those interventions that best “fit” a particular context (i.e., level of program development, epidemiological context, resources available, etc.) are selected.

IMPACT: USAID has a long history of using a “logical framework of results” to monitor health programs. Could you describe this framework and how it is used to facilitate decision-making?

ES: The logical framework is an important part of project design, as it identifies and briefly describes the problem the project intends to address and the expected outcomes of the project. The framework includes inputs, outputs, outcomes and impact. USAID uses Project Monitoring Plans to monitor at each step in this process. These plans examine answers to questions such as: Are inputs being delivered as planned? Are inputs leading to the anticipated outputs? Are outputs leading to the desired outcomes? If not, is the problem failure to deliver the input, or is the problem that inputs are delivered but for some unanticipated reason are not leading to the expected outcome?

IMPACT: USAID recently conducted a thorough review of its evaluation practices and developed a new policy on evaluation to guide the organization. What does USAID want to learn through implementation of this policy, and what does this mean specifically for health programs?

ES: USAID conducted this review to ensure that effective evaluations were taking place and guiding programmatic decisions. There was a concern that over the last several years fewer evaluations were being done, and the agency wanted evaluations to play a more prominent role in program decision-making. By implementing the new policy, USAID hopes to get a better understanding of the success with which its programs are implemented (process evaluations) and the impact of those programs (impact evaluation). This means that our health programs will put more focus on the implementation and impact of its projects, and that this information will guide future programming decisions. Ultimately, this creates a quality-improvement process, capturing experience to develop increasingly effective programs.

IMPACT: Can you share a recent example of receiving surprising results from work our office has been supporting? How did these results shape the decisions you and your colleagues had to make?

ES: In recent years, results from the DHS, especially those from Africa, showed an unexpected level of interest in and demand for long-acting contraceptive methods. These findings led us to expand our efforts to make these methods more widely available in an acceptable, accessible and affordable ways. Another example is that survey and qualitative research have identified a substantial demand for contraceptive information and services among youth in developing countries. M-Health is providing access to information on methods and source of supply to youth via electronic communication. Information collected on these programs indicated that youth are interested in a wide variety of methods, including natural methods, injectables and longer-acting methods.

IMPACT: What are some challenges you anticipate in generating meaningful data for decision-making post-2015?

ES: As we continue to make progress, what and how we measure will also have to change. In the area of family planning and reproductive health, for example, we’ll need better measurement around costs, as well as better understanding of how to measure choice and rights. The current data collection mechanisms in place will need to be adapted for such advances, or new ones will need to be developed.

Webinar to Highlight How Extension, Technology, and Behavior Change Combine to Improve Agriculture and Nutrition

This blog post is by John Nicholson, SPRING Knowledge Management Manager, JSI Research and Training Institute, and Kristina Beall, SPRING SBCC Project Officer, The Manoff Group.  SPRING is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and helps to strengthen country efforts to scale up high-impact nutrition practices and policies.

Leveraging the power of social capital and technology, Digital Green has pioneered the use of low-cost, community videos as an agriculture extension tool that allows farmers to record and share successful techniques with other farmers in their community. The work began as a part of Microsoft Research India’s Technology for Emerging Markets team in 2006, eventually spinning off into the non-governmental organization (NGO), Digital Green. This young, dynamic NGO has already helped produce over 2,600 videos that have been shared with more than 150,000 rural households across India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Ghana. Digital Green’s grassroots approach — producing context-specific videos by the community and for the community—improves the efficiency of existing agricultural development efforts by a factor of ten times, per dollar spent.

Example of Digital Green video production

Example of Digital Green video production

USAID’s global nutrition project, Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING), is partnering with Digital Green in Odisha, India, to test the feasibility of adapting this video-based methodology specifically to promote high-impact maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and hygiene practices. Under the SPRING/Digital Green model, a local NGO partner – VARRAT – has worked in Keonhjar District of Odisha to produce 10 videos that showcase key nutrition and hygiene behaviors, often celebrating early adopters of these important nutrition practices. Videos are shared among small community women’s groups on a weekly basis using portable, battery-operated pico projectors. A robust suite of analytic tools, coupled with feedback from community members, then provides Digital Green and its partners with timely data to better target both production and distribution of videos. The collection of 10 nutrition- and hygiene-specific videos produced under this collaboration can be viewed along with the corresponding adoption analytics on the Digital Green website.

On December 17th, SPRING will host a webinar examining the Digital Green work through a multispectral lens, focusing on their unique approach and the growing partnership to scale-up technology to improve both agricultural and nutrition outcomes. Visit the SPRING website for more information and to register for the webinar.

This webinar is part of SPRING’s continuing collaboration with the Bureau for Food Security and Bureau of Global Health to identify promising approaches to better link nutrition and agriculture.

Saving Lives of Children, Unburdening Economies & Shrinking the Malaria Map (for Good)

Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality by half in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Malaria Report 2013 published by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Nearly 70% of these lives saved were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden, and among children under 5 years of age – the group most affected by the disease.

A girl is protected from malaria by an insecticide treated net.  Photo by Maggie Hallahan

A girl is protected from malaria by an insecticide treated net.
Photo by Maggie Hallahan

We celebrate the dramatic progress that has been made in reducing the burden of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.  This progress is due to partnership — of national governments, international donors including the U.S. and U.K., The Global Fund, The World Bank, the private sector, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, local leaders, civil society, philanthropists, and many others.  But host country governments, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and The Global Fund deserve special praise for fueling this remarkable progress against malaria.

The United States malaria program through PMI continues to be a “game changer” in the global fight against malaria.  Launched in 2005 by former President George W. Bush, PMI has been embraced and expanded by the Obama administration. A collaborative interagency effort that is led by USAID and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PMI has supported malaria activities through more than 200 nonprofit organizations, approximately one-third of which are faith based. These groups often have strong and effective bases of operations in underserved rural areas where the burden of malaria is greatest.

In the eighth year of the initiative, the financial and technical contributions made by the USG are major catalysts in the remarkable progress that has been achieved in many countries to reduce the devastating burden of malaria on child mortality.

The Global Fund and PMI’s commitment to effective coordination maximizes our impact on the global malaria burden. Each program has its own unique strengths which contribute to the effectiveness of the partnership and significant success on the ground.

While we celebrate the good news revealed in the WHO World Malaria Report which states that the risk of malaria is declining and more children are surviving, the gains are fragile and could be reversed without continued support. More needs to be done. Millions of people with suspected malaria still do not receive a diagnostic test, and many people with confirmed infections do not receive appropriate treatment with a quality assured antimalarial drug.

Our goal must be to continue to shrink the malaria map and ensure our successes are not reversed, even as we continue to face challenges such as artemisinin-drug resistance and insecticide resistance. In malaria endemic countries, we must leverage higher domestic investments from the public and private sector. And we must engage regional banks to support investment for regional Global Malaria Action Plan needs.

We must continue to engage the private sector in endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa to identify opportunities for corporate engagement in support of domestic malaria prevention, control, and elimination needs.  And we must continue to use smarter and more creative financing to maximize the impact of our investments and promote innovative approaches to address key bottlenecks in the development, introduction, and scale-up of global health technologies and interventions.

Investing in malaria has a powerful return on child survival. Healthy kids are at the heart of every nation’s prosperity and its sustainable development. Healthy children are more likely to live longer, stay in school, and be productive members of their society, generating benefits that reverberate through future generations.

In the Washington Post, Michael Gerson wrote, “In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the American image is now defined by the Peace Corps, PMI and by PEPFAR, the American AIDS relief plan. It is a form of influence that is hard to measure or weigh. But people remember when you help to save their children.” I can attest to this powerful truth.

Empowering Health Workers to Improve Service Delivery in Uganda

Agnes Masagwayi has a fierce determination to give her community the best possible care. But as a clinical health officer in Mbale District, Uganda, she knows how difficult it can be.

Agnes Masagwayi. Photo Credit: Sarah Dwyer, IntraHealth International

Agnes Masagwayi. Photo Credit: Sarah Swyer, IntraHealth International

Until recently, Agnes’s working conditions were very challenging. Her health facility often lacked running water. Essential drugs ran out. Space for maternity care was so limited that women often had to deliver their babies on the floor. And there weren’t nearly enough health workers to meet the community’s demand for care. (In Uganda there are only about 14 doctors, nurses, and midwives for every 10,000 people, yet the World Health Organization recommends a minimum threshold of about 23 per 10,000 people.)

However, working conditions started to improve when Agnes and her district health officer joined 18 other districts in the Human Resources for Health (HRH) Leadership and Management Program, a six-month course aimed at improving health services in Uganda. This training was just one part of Uganda’s efforts to improve health services by focusing on health workers.

Two USAID-supported projects led by IntraHealth International—the Uganda Capacity Program and CapacityPlus—lent a hand. In addition to improving health workforce leadership and management, the projects are working with country stakeholders to strengthen health workforce information and use the resulting data to advocate for more health workforce funding.

Agnes provides integrated HIV and family planning counseling to client. Photo credit: Carol Bales, IntraHealth International.

Agnes provides integrated HIV and family planning counseling to client. Photo credit: Carol Bales, IntraHealth International.

These efforts are paying off. Not only did the Government of Uganda allocate funds to hire more than 8,000 new health workers across the country, thanks to successful advocacy, but existing health workers like Agnes are making key improvements in their facilities. Newly empowered by the leadership training, Agnes realized that “really it is ourselves who need to plan, prioritize, know what problems we have and the available opportunities for addressing them.” Here are a few of the changes Agnes and her colleagues made at their facility:

  • Running water is always available. “We acted as a team and lobbied with the district and partners,” Agnes says, proudly pointing to some big tanks outside the clinic.
  • A new maternity ward provides space for women to deliver. Agnes and her team prioritized the construction of a building to accommodate mothers.
  • Drug management helps prevent stockouts. A new system provides key data for Agnes and her colleagues. “You can forecast for your drugs using the available data,” she says.
  • New housing is available for health workers. Nearby housing constructed by the district will help attract new health workers to the area.
  • Service delivery improved. ”Client care has improved in this facility so much,” Agnes beams.
Happy clients at Agnes’s facility. Photo Credit: Carol Bales, IntraHealth International

Happy clients at Agnes’s facility. Photo Credit: Carol Bales, IntraHealth International

The district as a whole has made progress. Out-patient services have doubled, and over half of all mothers in the district (56 percent) are now delivering in the health facilities, up from 39 percent. The district even rose in the national rankings for health service delivery, from 22 to 6 (out of 111 districts in the country in 2012). And perhaps one of the greatest successes is that more health workers have joined Agnes. “The district has recruited 205 health workers,” she says.

Meet Agnes in our new video, “That’s Improvement!”: Uganda Focuses on Health Workers. Check out our special website section to learn more and access tools that Uganda has successfully used. And join the conversation—follow CapacityPlus on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

LGBT Rights in Jamaica: A Conversation with Maurice Tomlinson

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight  USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Regina Jun, Gender Advisor for the Bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke with Maurice Tomlinson, who is an Attorney-at-Law, law lecturer on sexual rights, and HIV/AIDS advocate. He is leading an initiative, on behalf of AIDS-Free World, to have the region’s anti-sodomy laws repealed.

In 2012, Maurice was awarded the inaugural David Kato Vision and Voice Award. Maurice is featured in the Abominable Crime, a documentary that explores the culture of homophobia in Jamaica. 

Photo of Maurice Tomlinson. Credit: Maurice Tomlinson.

Photo of Maurice Tomlinson. Credit: Maurice Tomlinson.

Q1: How have the situations for the LGBT persons changed in Jamaica?

For the past 4 years, AIDS-Free World has been working to eliminate homophobia in Jamaica. This includes working with civil society groups on the island to document and respond to human rights violations against the local LGBT population. In that time, we have seen a near 400% increase in the number of reported homophobic attacks. In the last few months alone there have been several brutal assaults, including murders and home invasions.

Q2: Why is the violence against LGBT persons such an important issue in the Caribbean?

Violence against LGBT persons in the Caribbean has been identified as a significant reason that the region has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. This violence drives LGBT citizens underground, away from effective prevention, treatment, care and support interventions. Jamaica, where homophobic violence is most acute in the region, has the highest HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide at 33%.

Q3: What projects are you currently working on in the Caribbean?

I am working on several court cases challenging anti-gay laws across the region. These include the first ever domestic challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, as well as a case before the region’s most senior tribunal, the Caribbean Court of Justice, to strike down the sections in the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad which ban the entry of gays.  As part of a team, I conduct LGBT sensitivity training with police across the region and also train civil society groups on how to effectively document and report human rights violations against LGBT citizens.

Q4: What are some of the positive changes you have seen so far?

We have seen unprecedented editorial support for LGBT rights by the major newspapers across the Caribbean. There have also been positive statements from politicians — especially Minsters of Health — who underscore the need to repeal homophobic laws in order to address the region’s HIV epidemic. Mainstream civil society groups are also taking greater interest in and actively advocating for the human rights for LGBT persons.  Further, the polling pioneered in the region by AIDS-Free World on the levels and drivers of homophobia points to a small but important movement towards greater tolerance for LGBT citizens.  Finally, while the number of police attacks against LGBT persons has decreased, they still occur too frequently, especially involving LGBT citizens from the lower socio-economic strata.

Q5: In your opinion, what can be done to increase acceptance of greater sexual diversity in the Caribbean?

The visibility of LGBT persons will help to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about sexual minorities. Once persons realize that someone they know and quite possible care deeply about is gay, this will help to humanize the issue of homosexuality.  It is easier for people to hate what they do not know. That is why AIDS-Free World has produced and tried to air tolerance ads showing positive images of LGBT persons.

Furthermore, political leaders continue to be very influential in the young nations of the Caribbean region. They can help to encourage more rational discussions about homosexuality by making unequivocal statements condemning homophobia.  Such statements would help neutralize some of the more virulent anti-gay pronouncements being disseminated by powerful religious fundamentalists across the Caribbean.

Like Maurice, USAID is committed to advancing the rights of the LGBT community, including providing support to local LGBT advocacy organizations to extend democratic governance and respect for human rights to all individuals, and creating blueprints for increased access of comprehensive healthcare services to transgender and transsexual persons. Learn more about USAID’s work against gender-based violence

Women are Women: Responding to the Health Needs of Female Sex Workers

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Mpiluka is a 29-year-old bar worker in Iringa, Tanzania. A single mother to an 11-year-old girl, she supplements her low monthly salary by selling charcoal and sex. Mpiluka fears the heightened risk of HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), and unwanted pregnancy that she knows exists among female sex workers. But the harsh realities of sex work in this setting – the social, economic, and physical complexities of the negotiation of sex – make it difficult for her to use condoms as protection. Some men dislike condoms, offering double or triple the price for sex without. Others become violent if she insists. Recently, when Mpiluka confronted a client on condom use, she was beaten with a rock and robbed. The likelihood that Mpiluka has faced violence from her husband or boyfriend and that her daughter might also face violence in her life is significant.

Thank you for following our #16Days campaign.

Thank you for following our #16Days campaign.

Mpiluka’s story is not uncommon, and reveals the complex intersection of violence, reproductive health, and HIV faced by sex workers around the world. Historically, female sex workers of reproductive age have been considered a key population for HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs, and are 13.5 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women of reproductive age. While some prevention and treatment programs for sex workers do exist, they focus primarily on individual-level risk factors for HIV acquisition and transmission.  Unreliable access to contraception and reproductive health services remains a significant challenge for many sex workers, like Mpiluka, who face high levels of sexual and physical violence. Evidence has shown that these factors are related to increased risk of HIV.

Over the past five years, the Research to Prevention (R2P) project, funded by PEPFAR through USAID, has demonstrated a clear need for policies and programming that address the multiple levels of influence on HIV risk among female sex workers, including their risk of violence and need for comprehensive reproductive health services. One study of female sex workers in four West African countries revealed high levels of sexual and physical violence experienced across these settings, including 45 percent in Togo to over 70 percent in Burkina Faso. Fifty-one percent of female sex workers in Togo who did not want to become pregnant were not accessing a reliable method of contraception, often due to discrimination and fear experienced by the women seeking health services.

The recently launched WHO guidance on prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for sex workers in low-and middle-income countries is informed by evidence for interventions that address these broader needs. Interventions that address violence and empower sex workers are primary recommendations for sex worker programming, and reproductive health is a standard component of the clinical package outlined in global implementation guidance. The guidance harmonizes and strengthens a robust response for sex workers globally and forms the basis for USAID and PEPFAR programming.

As we mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, it is important that we remember women like Mpiluka. It is not enough for HIV programs to address individual-level factors in HIV transmission among female sex workers; they must also acknowledge the high risk of violence and varied reproductive needs of these populations around the globe.

Video of the Week: USAID and Nelson Mandela

This is a video of Nelson Mandela announcing a partnership with USAID on the AIDS Response Partnership in Durban, 2000. We continue to join with the world as it mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela.

Vice President of Ghana Oversees Launch of Online System to Fight HIV-Related Discrimination

On December 2 at World AIDS Day observations in Ghana, His Excellency Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur presided over the launch of a new web-based system for reporting HIV-related discrimination. The system will support people living with HIV and other key populations in upholding their rights and fighting discrimination.

In Ghana, as in many other countries, HIV-related discrimination remains an unfortunate reality. People living with or affected by HIV experience unfair and unjust treatment that affect many areas of their lives, from employment to travel to health, and often act as a barrier to accessing potentially life-saving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice's launch of Ghana's new discrimination reporting system. Photo credit: Health Policy Project/Futures Group

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice’s launch of Ghana’s new discrimination reporting system. Photo credit: Health Policy Project/Futures Group

Using the new discrimination reporting system, individuals and organizations will now be able to report such discriminatory treatment directly to Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Cases of HIV-related discrimination can be reported online at http://drsystem.chrajghana.com/ or via SMS. Following case submission, a CHRAJ point of contact receives the complaint and has ten days to respond to the person who submitted the complaint. While mediation is the preferred method of handling complaints, CHRAJ also has investigation and litigation authority as well.

The creation of the system reflects a growing appreciation that discrimination faced by people living with HIV and key populations — including men who have sex with men, sex workers, and people who inject drugs — undermines human rights and quality of life.

Managed by CHRAJ, the discrimination reporting system is the product of a partnership among CHRAJ, the Ghana AIDS Commission, and governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Health Policy Project. Reflecting this partnership, Vice President Amissah-Arthur was joined at the launch event by Commissioner of CHRAJ Lauretta Vivian Lamptey, Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission Dr. Angela El-Adas, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Gene A. Cretz, and other dignitaries.

In his remarks, Ambassador Cretz noted: “the U.S. government is proud to work with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Ghana AIDS Commission in building systems that ensure that those affected by HIV-related stigma and discrimination have legal recourse in seeking support in protection of their rights.”

The reporting system improves accountability by fostering greater collaboration among CHRAJ, the Ghana AIDS Commission, and civil society organizations. In addition to serving as a reporting mechanism, features of the system such as case tracking enable registered organizations to monitor the progress of complaints. This will not only help those who have experienced discrimination gain access to redress if their complaints are legally actionable; it will also help link them with relevant social services.

More broadly, capturing cases of discrimination will provide an important source of data on discrimination for policymakers and advocates alike, arming them with information to take further action to fight HIV-related discrimination in the future.

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