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Archives for Health

NBA and WNBA Bring Nets to Senegal but Grab Mosquitoes, not Baskets

Submitted by: Susan Telingator

On Friday, August 6, USAID/Senegal was pleased to be a part of the effort to distribute long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito nets with the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets Campaign and NBA Cares programs in Rufisque, a suburb of Dakar. Teams of NBA (National Basketball Association) and WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) players, USAID staff, US Peace Corps volunteers, government health workers and media crews ventured out into the town after a short ceremony emphasizing the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net in order to prevent malaria.

The visit was especially significant for those players who were born on the African continent. NBA Vice President for Development, Amadou Gallo Fall (originally from Senegal), talked to residents in their native Wolof language, followed by NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo (originally from Congo), who spoke in French.

USAID’s President’s Malaria Initiative, which has a nationwide bed net distribution program here, provided technical assistance and coordinated logistics among the various groups. The organizations spent the rest of the weekend running their “Basketball without Borders” program, a four-day camp, which received 65 of the top 19-and-under basketball players from across Africa. This was the first time these events were held in Senegal.

U.S., Russia Explore Opportunities to Collaborate to End Polio

A. Sabin and M. Chumakov work on Oral Poliomyelitis Vaccine (Moscow, 1950s)

Submitted by Jonathan Hale
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia

Today, I am back in Moscow.  The Russian government has already made significant contributions to stopping the polio outbreak in Central Asia. Now we are exploring opportunities for further U.S.-Russian collaboration on this issue to work toward ending polio once and for all. I met with Dr. Mikhail Mikhailov, Director of the M.P. Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis. We were joined by the Institute’s Deputy Director, Evgeniy Tkachenko, and some of our USAID Health Office staff to discuss U.S.-Russia collaboration on the response to the polio outbreak in Central Asia.

As Dr. Mikhailov asked me to sign the Institute’s 50-year old guest book, I was struck by the long history of cooperation between its Russian scientists and our own American scientists. In the late 1950s, Dr. Albert Sabin, the American scientist who would later become famous for developing the oral polio vaccine (OPV), needed more subjects for his vaccine clinical trials since earlier polio vaccines had been used so extensively in the United States.

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia signs the guest book at the M.P. Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis.

Although this period marked the height of the Cold War, Dr. Sabin was allowed to conduct massive clinical trials in the Soviet Union, working with Dr. M.P. Chumakov, founder of the Institute. In the first five months of 1959, ten million children in the Soviet Union received the Sabin oral vaccine.  Shortly after, the Institute began manufacturing OPV for internal and international use. Later, Dr. Sabin would receive a medal of gratitude from the Soviet Union – one of the only Americans to do so. I hope more Americans can learn about this longtime U.S.-Russian cooperation that has literally saved millions of lives around the world.

Today, as Americans and Russians explore new ways to once again fight polio – this time in Central Asia – I look forward to deepening our collaboration with the Polio Institute and the Ministry of Health on this in the coming months.

Advancing Maternal and Child Health in the World We Live In

When the theme of the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda was announced, there was tremendous excitement among the public health community. “Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa” would be a real opportunity to bring to the fore some of the most critical issues in health and development. While specific diseases have gained the attention of world leaders and the global community in recent years, the essential challenge of improving the health status of women and children has often been neglected. This Summit would finally be an opportunity to engage in high-level discussion about how to improve the status of women and children on the African continent. As a Health Officer at the USAID/Uganda Mission, I was looking forward to participating in the conference in support of our U.S. Delegation, anticipating new opportunities to advance the agenda for moms and kids.

And then, two weeks before the opening of the Summit, everything changed. Terrorist bombings tore through Kampala on what should have been a joyful Sunday evening marking the close of the World Cup. Families and friends participating in the global celebration had their lives ended or forever altered by acts of horrendous murder.

Adjusting to our new reality of a terrorist threat in what is usually a safe and relaxed city was quickly overtaken by additional security concerns related to the AU Summit. Ugandans have had to simultaneously mourn while also preparing to welcome the continent’s leaders to their hometown. Grieving for many was cut short.

As I sat in the opening ceremony of the Summit on Sunday, hearing numerous Heads of State and our own Attorney General condemn the unspeakable acts of murder in Kampala, it became clear that the focus of the Summit would be Somalia. As I supported the U.S. delegation’s efforts through the Summit, Somalia and terrorism on the African continent was indeed the central theme of most meetings.

As a public health practitioner, there is of course disappointment that maternal and child health did not gain as much central attention at the Summit as had been hoped for. But the Summit made it clearer to me than ever to me why taking a development approach to advancing health in Africa is so essential. Taking a development approach means working in the real world with the real world problems that conflict, poverty, and even terrorism bring. We need to pay as much credence to applying health interventions to real-world settings as we do to the scientific research that helps us understand what might work in the first place. Conflict, poverty, and terrorism are a real part of women and children’s lives in Africa. While scientific research and innovations remain fundamentally important, we do not have the luxury of applying health interventions in a controlled setting. To advance health status in a sustainable way, we need to be vigilant of the harsh realities that women and children in Africa are facing. For although maternal and child health deserves a great deal of attention in its own right, we cannot separate health interventions that need scale-up from the realities that moms and kids are living in.

So, on the closing day of the AU Summit, I applaud the public health practitioners and advocates who soldiered on during the Summit to maintain some focus on maternal and child health, as it is an issue that deserves the highest levels of attention. But I also challenge us as a public health community to remember that terrorism and conflict are not simply distractions to our goals. This is, unfortunately, the world we are working and living in. These issues shape the lives of the women and children we are working to save. We need to work with local institutions to understand local issues, and transform evidence-based interventions into reality-based interventions. It is only by addressing the reality of conflict, poverty, and now even terrorism that our goals for improving health can be realized. With a development approach to improving health, women and children all over the continent, including Somalia, stand a better chance.

This Week at USAID – July 26, 2010

Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Management Drew Luten will testify before the Commission on Wartime Contracting on Subcontracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Administrator Shah and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations for an oversight hearing on corruption in Afghanistan.

Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill will participate in a briefing entitled: Innovation to Catalyze Development: Leveraging Research in Foreign Assistance, which is organized by the Global Health Technologies Coalition and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Administrator Shah will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere about: The Crisis in Haiti: Are We Moving Fast Enough?  He will also brief the Congressional Black Caucus about efforts in Haiti.

USAID – From the Field

In Zambia USAID has partnered with World Vision to implement The Community Based Prevention Initiative for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Youth and other Vulnerable Populations Program to strengthen community response and leadership for HIV prevention and improve the quality of life for orphans and other vulnerable, at-risk children.  USAID and World Vision will work with the Zambian government to strengthen community response and leadership for HIV prevention; improve the quality of life for orphans and other at-risk children through educational, psychosocial, food and nutritional support and by improving their access to health care, child protection and legal services.

The American people’s response to HIV/AIDS in Zambia has contributed significantly to the scale up of HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. Notable among the successes has been a significant number of community-based care programs for orphans and vulnerable children, care and support programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, increased access of pregnant women to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission services, establishment of a network of trained volunteer caregivers and peer educators, a significant number of Zambians accessing Anti-retrovrial Therapy and a decrease in the prevalence of HIV from 15.6 percent to 14.3 percent between 2001 and 2007.

In Indonesia a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Information Computer Technology (ICT) lab at the Al-Ahliyah religious junior secondary school (Madrasah) in Karawang, West Java.  The event highlights a public/private partnership to support quality and relevance of education through strengthening the use of ICT in education.  The school will receive a state-of-the-art computer lab, with equipment, software and educational resources from private sector partners.  USAID is providing teacher training and support, The Office of Defense Cooperation has also provided resources for construction of the lab building and donated staff time and resources.

How to describe the International AIDS Conference in Vienna?

Submitted by Robert Clay, Director of USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS

Robert Clay briefs VOA's global broadcast community. Photo by VOA

Over 20,000 people (a small city) all focusing on one of the greatest development problems of our time. The first thing that strikes you is the diversity of those at the meeting – from the famous (Bill Clinton and Bill Gates) to academia (professors and students) to civil society and advocates to multilateral and bilateral donors to pharma. There are talks, seminars, posters, demonstrations (even in the plenary sessions), exhibits, condom demonstrations, cultural events, marches, press conferences, and lots of reports and products to take home. At times, it reminds me of a village scene in India where I lived for 5 years – crowded, colorful, loud, unpredictable, widely diverse, and even wonderful food smells.

There is definitely a buzz in the air. The results of the USAID-funded CAPRISA 004 trial results has excited everyone – standing ovations and tears from those who have waited so long for good microbicide news. But also excitement at seeing other results since the last meeting two years ago and hearing insightful analysis on how to overcome barriers. There is personal excitement of seeing old friends and colleagues and making new contacts in this diverse setting.

But concerns are also there. Will the money dry up? Will leaders change negative policies that fuel stigma? Will we be able to stop the number getting infected? These are big issues and everyone here seems consumed in trying to solve these problems.

This has been intensive and on the last day you can see the tired and sleep deprived faces. I don’t think people could do this any longer – especially since so many want to get back to implementing all the new ideas. But after a good rest, I’m sure most will have renewed energy and determination from Vienna. I know I can’t wait to get back to work!

The President’s Commitment to Fight HIV/AIDS

Cross-posted from The White House Blog.  Originally posted by Gayle Smith on July 21, 2010 at 03:50 PM EDT

In light of the International AIDS Society conference being held in Vienna this week, many people have raised questions about the Obama Administration’s commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

First, consider the facts:

As a UNAIDS report documented just days ago, the United States provided 58 percent of all funds worldwide to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries.  Furthermore, while numerous developed countries were cutting back on their support for HIV/AIDS between 2008 and 2009, the United States actually increased its funding by more than 10 percent.  The fact that these increases were done during the worst recession in a generation and a deteriorating fiscal situation speaks volumes about the President’s – and our country’s – commitment to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Read more on The White House Blog

Evidence Shows Historic Breakthrough Can Save Lives

Carol is in her mid-20s and raising her young daughter on her own.  With very few economic options available to her she turned to commercial sex work when she was 21 years old. Every day she puts herself at risk of HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy. Because of a USAID-funded campaign, Carol knows she needs to use condoms to protect herself but as a commercial sex worker she does not always have the negotiating power to do so.

Often at USAID we support the ABC approach- abstain, be faithful, and correct and consistent condom use. While these methods can be effective in preventing HIV transmission, often it can be difficult for women to negotiate prevention interventions. With women representing nearly 60 percent of those living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, it is imperative to find a method of prevention that can be initiated by women.

Women participating in the CAPRISA 004 trial in the CAPRISA Vulindlela Clinic in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa

Women participating in the CAPRISA 004 trial in the CAPRISA Vulindlela Clinic in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa

For almost 25 years, USAID has been on the frontlines of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Our development programs have been cutting-edge, and have long put women at the center of programming. Gender, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, male circumcision, counseling and testing, nutrition, and HIV vaccine research are just some of the comprehensive array of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs administered through USAID.

Progressive programs continue today with the USAID-funded clinical trial, CAPRISA 004. The trial, which took place in South Africa, provided the first evidence that use of a vaginal gel, or microbicide, containing an antiretroviral drug (ARV) known as tenofovir can prevent HIV infection in women.

Tenofovir gel is a clear, colorless, and odorless viscous gel in single-dose plastic applicators

Tenofovir gel is a clear, colorless, and odorless viscous gel in single-dose plastic applicators

In the trial, tenofovir gel administered topically before and after sexual activity provided moderate protection in women at high risk of HIV infection. At the end of the study, researchers found that the use of 1% tenofovir gel by 889 women at high risk of HIV infection in Durban, South Africa proved the method to be 39 percent effective in reducing a woman’s risk of becoming HIV infected. The gel could be a unique HIV prevention tool for women who are not able to negotiate HIV prevention methods.

The successes of CAPRISA 004 ties in with the core principles of the U.S. Government’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). USAID is committed to a women- and girl- centered approach, creating a strong partnership with countries to sustain country ownership, and focusing on learning and accountability.

Once the results are confirmed through ongoing and future studies, USAID will work at every level to ensure women are able to access this unique form of prevention. This means Carol, and other women in developing nations, will have a form of protection against HIV that they can control and initiate. This new discovery puts the power of protection against HIV transmission in the hands of the woman and can ultimately save lives.

Long-Term Investments to Bring Real-Life Improvements to People of Pakistan

A summary map on the activities announced or underway in Pakistan.

During Dr. Raj Shah’s whirlwind two-day visit to Pakistan with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, the U.S. announced more than $500 million in new development assistance for Pakistan. 

The new projects include the completion of two hydroelectric dams in South Waziristan and Gilgit-Baltistan that will supply more than 34 megawatts of additional power to 280,000 residents in those areas, the renovation and construction of three medical facilities, economic growth programs and seven projects to improve water distribution and efficiency in the country. Much of the assistance will be delivered by USAID.

The United States shares with Pakistan a vision of a future in which all people can live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Dr. Shah spoke with press about USAID’s role in Pakistan, saying that “Our commitment is broad and deep,” and one that encompasses programs ranging from health and energy to economic growth and agriculture. 

Read the rest of this entry »

USAID’s HIV Knowledge-Sharing Technology Offers Access to Latest Strategies in HIV Programming

Health was one focus of last week’s Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation conference, which highlighted the central role innovation and technology play in USAID’s mission to achieve high-impact development goals, including HIV service delivery. While recent breakthroughs hold promise for a future HIV vaccine, USAID is using information technology today to share innovation and successes in HIV programming, enhancing local, national, and regional responses to the pandemic.

The Agency’s Office of HIV/AIDS is leveraging advances in web technology to identify, document, and disseminate promising HIV practices through the AIDSTAR-One Promising Practices Database. This unique knowledge-sharing portal allows HIV program implementers to share their recent successes in resource-constrained settings with other programs across countries, regions, and continents, leading to rapid replication of cutting-edge HIV program strategies. For example, an AIDSTAR-One database user recently identified lessons learned from an Ethiopian HIV prevention program for adolescents to design a similar project in Kenya. AIDSTAR-One’s HIV Prevention Knowledge Base is another knowledge-sharing tool that provides quick access to current HIV prevention research, examples of successful programs, and tools and resources to help design and implement a range of HIV prevention programs.

Administrator Shah pointed out that quickly moving research to implementation is at the heart of USAID’s development strategy. The Office of HIV/AIDS is working to achieve this through Project SEARCH’s promotion of greater use of evidence in the design and implementation of HIV prevention programs in countries most affected by the epidemic. This approach allows USAID to evaluate effectiveness and focus its resources on strategies that deliver strong results.

As HIV researchers, program planners, and implementers from across the globe gather in Vienna this week for the XVIII International AIDS Conference, USAID stands with its partners to reflect on the progress made to combat global HIV and rejuvenate our collective efforts to minimize the impact of this devastating disease. USAID is dedicated to providing global technical leadership to prevent the spread of the virus and to support the efforts of host country governments to provide prevention, treatment, and care for communities most in need.

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