PROGRAM PRIORITY: HIV/AIDS, TB, AND MALARIA
PROGRAM PRIORITY: HIV/AIDS, TB, AND MALARIA
HIV/AIDS As of 2007, 33 million people were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS around the world, with an estimated 2.7 million new infections that year. The WHO and UNAIDS estimate that 67% of all people living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where health systems are weak and access to HIV treatment is inadequate to meet the need. Young people (ages 15-24) account for 45% of new infection. In many countries, groups living on society’s margins – such as ethnic minorities, the poor, and orphans and other at-risk children and youth – face significantly higher rates of infection and mortality from HIV/AIDS. Stigma and discrimination often make it difficult for people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS to access information, services, and support, amplifying the impact of the disease.
Due in part to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, tuberculosis – a preventable, treatable disease – remains an urgent global health crisis. TB is associated with poverty, via factors such as overcrowding, malnutrition, and migration. Structural, social, political, and economic inequalities faced by populations most vulnerable to TB contribute to diagnostic and treatment delay. The WHO reports that one-third of the world’s population is currently infected, there were over 9 million new cases in 2006, and nearly 2 million die every year from TB.
Malaria takes hundreds of thousands of lives every year, with over 80% of deaths from malaria occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and children, who in many cases have limited access to prevention and treatment services, face the highest burden. It is estimated that nearly 200,000 infants and 10,000 pregnant women in tropical areas of Africa die every year from malaria. Effective prevention and responses, such as insecticide-treated bed nets and artemisinin-based combination therapy treatment, exist, but reach only a fraction of the most vulnerable and affected communities.
HEALTHRIGHT INTERNATIONAL’S RESPONSE:
Fighting stigma and building lasting access to prevention, treatment, and care
HealthRight has worked since its founding to address the burden of infectious diseases among excluded and at-risk communities. Our programs take a rights-based approach to addressing HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, addressing the discrimination that fuels these epidemics while enabling community providers to deliver prevention, treatment and support services as part of a comprehensive effort, including:
- Training local providers and health workers to introduce prevention, treatment, and support services and build the foundation for sustainable programs
- Education and awareness-raising efforts to bring accurate information to those at-risk, and to help dispel myths and misinformation.
- Community mobilization, helping local actors develop tools to build access to care and advocate for expanded services
- Efforts to reduce stigma against infected and at-risk individuals and the communities most affected by HIV/AIDS and TB
- Direct treatment and support services, saving lives and helping retain infected and affected individuals and families in care
SUCCESSES AND RECENT INITIATIVES
In Chiapas, Mexico, HealthRight has trained hundreds of indigenous community health promoters to educate their communities about TB and its treatment, and conduct community-based case finding, diagnosis, and treatment.
In the Northern Rift Valley of Kenya, HealthRight has brought comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment services to an area of over 750,000 people who previously had little access to care. The project has enrolled over 2,100 individuals in HIV care and treatment, and has partnered with over 20 local health centers and dispensaries to make testing and treatment available to rural and isolated communities.
Since 1994, HealthRight has been working to meet the needs of street and at-risk children and youth in Russia. HealthRight conducted research with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that exposed the extent of the crisis in St. Petersburg – over 37% infection rates among street-involved youth. In response, HealthRight introduced comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, and care services through drop-in centers, street outreach, supportive housing and other services, reaching hundreds of youth.
In Romania, HealthRight partnered with the Ministry of Health to develop and implement national TB education initiatives, reaching tens of thousands of people across Romania. HealthRight also trained and supported Roma Peer Health Educators to conduct intensified community education, combating stigma and building access to TB services in Roma communities, which have a high burden of TB and have long faced unequal access to public services.
In Russia, Ukraine, and most recently in Viet Nam, HealthRight’s MAMA+ Project has worked to preserve family support for children born to HIV-positive mothers, by building access to a continuum of health and social services for mothers and their families, while combating discrimination against those living with HIV. In Russia and Ukraine, these programs have nearly eliminated institutionalization of children born to HIV+ mothers, and promoted mothers’ and children’s retention in care and support programs.
In the Northern Rift Valley of Kenya, HealthRight is working to address the devastating impact of malaria on pregnant women and newborn children. In 2009 alone, HealthRight and its local partners have distributed over 34,000 insecticide treated bed nets to women and families in malaria-prone areas.