NAC: Uncategorized

WhatsApp Deployed as AIDS, TB Raise S. Africa’s Coronavirus Risk

By Antony Sguazzin , Pauline Bax , and Janice Kew
March 23, 2020, 6:00 AM GMT+2

About two weeks ago Praekelt.org, a non-profit foundation that runs a WhatsApp service on maternal wellbeing for South Africa’s Health Department, proposed setting up a similar program to keep people informed about the coronavirus.

After a team from the department and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases provided the content and with help from WhatsApp, the service launched on March 4. It now has two million users in South Africa and about 100,000 inquiries an hour.

“In a time of pandemic you have to make decisions really quickly,” said Gustav Praekelt, the 49-year-old founder who started and ran a company that set up information services for mobile-phone companies and banks.

While the coronavirus was slow to arrive in South Africa, cases are gathering pace with at least 274 people infected. The government acted quickly by closing schools, restricting travel and banning large gatherings.

With the most number of people with HIV in the world and widespread tuberculosis, it has reasons to be concerned.
The WhatsApp service is just one example of the actions taken ahead of an expected surge in the disease. It’s simple — just type ‘Hi’ to the number and you are offered a menu, an then artificial intelligence gives instant information on the latest news about the virus, where to get treatment, symptoms and scams.

People infected with HIV, which damages immune systems and causes AIDS, are more likely to die if they contract Covid-19, according to the assumptions of medical professionals. People with HIV make up a large proportion of the 300,000 South Africans with tuberculosis, a disease that diminishes lung capacity.
In addition, there are gold miners with lungs shredded by silica shards and those in poor respiratory health due to pollution from coal-burning power plants. All of these add to the burden the health system will face. Extreme poverty, and the attendant problems with sanitation leave many at risk, while high obesity levels have boosted the number of diabetes sufferers.
“We have a large population that’s vulnerable due to their health status,” said Atiya Mosam, a public-health specialist at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand. “Our uniqueness is really the high burden of diseases such as TB and HIV as well as being one of the most unequal societies in the world, which could cause a large and quick spread of the disease.”

That’s both a threat and an advantage in the coming battle: South Africa’s health system is used to dealing with epidemics. The high number of people with tuberculosis, for instance, has given health professionals experience with contact tracing and isolation wards.
‘Epidemic Preparedness’
“At multiple levels we have epidemic preparedness in place,” said Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and a professor of Global Health at New York’s Columbia University. “We are quite well placed as a country to take this on.”
The country has as many as 7.8 million people infected with HIV, including 2.5 million who aren’t taking anti-retroviral treatment and about half a million with very weak immune systems, said Karim, whose organization is funded by the European Union and the U.S. and South African governments.

Preparations for a spike in demand for acute medical care are underway, even though they’re complicated by the fact that the bulk of resources are in the private sector.Of the nation’s almost 60 million people, about 16% have private insurance. They’re served by 70% of the nation’s doctors and consume almost half the spending on medical care, according to the health department.

Private hospitals are taking in some of the coronavirus sufferers from state hospitals. The three biggest companies — Mediclinic International Plc, Netcare Ltd. and Life Healthcare Group Holdings Ltd. — are in talks with the government about providing assistance. Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd., a drugmaker, is prioritizing production lines such as antibiotics and anesthetics to ease the burden a wider outbreak may bring.
While the public sector has about 800 intensive care unit beds, according to Mosam, Life Healthcare alone has 8,225 acute-care beds in 49 hospitals, according to Charl van Loggerenberg, the company’s general manager of emergency medicine.

Clearing Beds
Mining companies have also offered the use of their hospitals for members of the general public affected with the coronavirus.
Beds are being cleared and some elective surgery is being put off, according to Karim. The government has the capacity to test 5,000 people a day and will ramp that up to 30,000 by mid-April, said Zweli Mkhize, the health minister. Quarantine centers are being set up.
The country’s preparedness has been noted.
The World Health Organization noticed Praekelt’s service and on Friday launched it in English on WhatsApp with a Swiss number. Other languages will follow.
It already has 8.5 million users, said Praekelt.

OAFLAD seeks to improve women’s health

Tendai Rupapa in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
WOMEN across Africa stand to reap immense benefits from the meeting of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development(OAFLAD) underway here to find ways of improving their health, status and contribution to the economies of their nations.
The 2020 theme for OAFLAD is, “Gender Equality and Women Empowerment: A Pathway to the Africa We Want”, and it speaks to the need to unlock potential for African women.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa is the vice president of OAFLAD, a post she got in recognition of her unwavering efforts in improving the health and welfare of women.

The meeting of the First Ladies is taking place on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit. An invitation extended by Amai Mnangagwa to other African First Ladies to visit Zimbabwe for a two-day conference on bilharzia has since been accepted.
Yesterday, the OAFLAD members held a closed-door meeting to brainstorm on recommendations presented to them by the technical advisory team.
They are expected to convene again today for their 24th Ordinary General Assembly where they will deliberate on key issues and agree on a roadmap that will guarantee gender equality.
According to experts, an increase in awareness for women’s liberation, changes in practices and media advocacy with respect to their representation, have as yet failed to yield the desired results in Africa mainly because of the resistance to change that is firmly entrenched in patriarchal ideologies.

Feminists argue that oppression of women is rooted in class structure, unpaid labour, sex and reproduction. Women in Africa have always been noted for activities such as procreation, child care and household chores.
The roles of women have been limited to the home while economic and cultural issues are at the mercy of men.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development.
UNDP says girls and women have made major strides, but they have not yet gained gender equity.
The organisation further highlighted that disadvantages facing women and girls were a major source of inequality adding that women and girls are discriminated against in health, education, political representation and labour market with negative consequences.
In a banner on display here, Amai Mnangagwa has captured the imagination of various guests through her message: “We should stand against intimidation of women for their choice to control their health and fertility.”

The statement is loaded and addresses the treatment of women across Africa.
Driven by a passion to economically empower women in Zimbabwe, Amai Mnangagwa has, through her Angel of Hope Foundation, offered educational scholarships to girls so that they can realise their dreams.
She has also helped women across the country to start income-generating projects.
The First Lady has also gone out of her way to involve experts and hold counselling sessions to infertile couples, a challenge which society ascribes to women.
She encourages women to take up leadership positions even at workplaces so that their voices are heard.
Amai Mnangagwa also roped in experts and lawyers to address communities on the issue of inheritance as a way of empowering mostly women.
Most families have been left wallowing in poverty following the death of the breadwinners whereupon relatives grab property from the families.
Widows and orphans have had houses, vehicles and other valuables snatched from them by greedy relatives who also often chase them away from their matrimonial homes.

African First Ladies laud progress against HIV, urge more efforts

Kigali, 2 December 2019 – Six African First Ladies today renewed their commitment to ending childhood AIDS in Africa by 2030 and keeping their mothers healthy. This came during a high-level meeting organized by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) on the sidelines of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) in Kigali, Rwanda.
The event was an opportunity to reflect on the unique national, regional and global leadership role that African First Ladies play in the fight against HIV.
The First Lady of Rwanda, HE Madam Jeannette Kagame welcomed the participants to Kigali and spoke about the 17-year journey OAFLAD has made since it was established. She said “Celebrating our gains should also lead us to a deeper analysis of our journey thus far.”
The First Lady of Congo and OAFLAD President, HE Madam Antoinette Sassou N’guesso opened the meeting by saying, “Under our leadership we have seen successes in the fight against HIV and AIDS … I would like to assure our partners and the population that the First Ladies …. will continue to lend their strong support to the fight against HIV and AIDS.”
The high-level meeting celebrated successes in the HIV response and the transformative leadership of the First Ladies, but also highlighted challenges such as the slowing momentum in cutting new HIV infections and the large funding shortfalls.
The speakers included the First Lady of Botswana, HE Madam Neo Jane Masisi, First Lady of Chad, HE Madam Hinda Deby Itno, First Lady of Ghana, HE Madam Rebecca Akufo-Addo, First Lady of Niger, HE Madam Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byayima.
They stressed that social determinants of health such as gender violence, child marriage, gender inequality, poverty continue to contribute to HIV among adolescent girls and women.
Two years ago, OAFLAD and the African Union launched the “Free to Shine” campaign which reinforced the political commitment of African nations to end childhood AIDS and keep mothers healthy. OAFLAD and WHO signed an agreement in February 2016 to work together to end AIDS, enable political commitments to eliminate cervical cancer and stop maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths in the African region by 2030.
“Since its establishment in 2002, the Organization has been a trailblazer in Africa in raising awareness on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, mobilizing resources, promoting strong community leadership and networks to advocate for people living with HIV,” said Dr Tedros. He also congratulated the First Ladies on their new strategic plan which emphasizes Universal Health Coverage and a healthier population in Africa.
The new OAFLAD strategic plan for 2019–2023 aims to contribute to the health and well-being of children, youth and women through advocacy, resource mobilization and strategic partnerships.
On the continent, Eastern and Southern Africa are leading the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, with an average of 92% of pregnant women receiving anti-retroviral therapy. Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Rwanda are among an ever-increasing number of countries making great progress in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission with a more than 70% decrease in children 0–14 years acquiring HIV from 2010 to 2018.

Zimbabwe’s unsung hero fights HIV/AIDS

Man who lost parents to AIDS, volunteers to ease suffering of other victims in capital Harrare
Jeffrey Moyo

EPWORTH, Zimbabwe
Benson Hungwe, 32, has dedicated his life to helping patients suffering from HIV and AIDS in the Zimbabwean capital.
The alleys of Epworth, a slum settlement east of Harare, echo with stories of people who are too poor to seek treatment for the disease they have contracted.
Hungwe for much of his life juggled between taking care of his siblings and completing his medical education after the death of his parents from AIDS.
He is now a revered medical practitioner and the hope for the local community of Epworth.
“With help from well-wishers and undertaking menial jobs, I did succeed to feed my brothers and also continue my education,” he said.
But, everybody is not so lucky, he confesses. For him, the fortunate part was that his parents had not passed HIV to their children.
After getting himself a job, Hungwe moved from Epworth in pursuit of an improved standard of life to Braeside, a suburb east of Harare. He would visit communities in Epworth often, helping out HIV and AIDS patients.

“Lot of people are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Epworth; I know this because I have grown up in the area and I mingle with local HIV/AIDS support groups here made up of both young and old living with the disease, volunteering my time counselling them and helping source some nutritious food stuffs for them,” Hungwe told Anadolu Agency.
“I know the pain of watching a loved one dying from AIDS; I watched my parents dying during our days in Epworth; I’m a living testimony of how AIDS hurts,” said Hungwe.
Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV and AIDS prevalence in the sub-Saharan Africa. A staggering 1.3 million people, comprising 12.7% of total population, are living with HIV as of last year, according to the UNAIDS.
Hungwe said he at times helps out in the fight against AIDS through voluntarily working with some non-governmental organizations.
In 2006, Doctors Without Borders in particular, working in partnership with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care, established the Epworth Clinic, which has focused on the treatment of more than 30,000 HIV patients.
Over the years, Hungwe said he has seen the pressure mounting on healthcare facilities like Epworth Clinic, and felt he had to step in and assist.

Over the years, Hungwe said he has seen the pressure mounting on healthcare facilities like Epworth Clinic, and felt he had to step in and assist.
Thanks particularly to efforts by many individuals like Hungwe, today, the number of people who are HIV positive in Zimbabwe has reduced to 15% although major gaps in treatment remain, according to the National AIDS Council.
“I don’t seek popularity, but my work should leave an indelible mark, not for pay or recognition, but for the good of humanity,” said Hungwe.
World AIDS Day is being marked on Sunday to stress the role of communities to fight the deadly disease.

 

 

Zim Global Fund details revealed

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter

Zimbabwe has paid US$300 000 to the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in addition to another US$200 000 which was paid a fortnight ago for its 2017-2019 commitment.

The country has so far paid US$800 000 leaving a balance of US$200 000 on its commitment of US$1 million made at the 5th replenishment meeting held in 2017.

Responding to emailed questions yesterday, National Aids Council (NAC) operations director Mr Raymond Yekeye said the country will continue mobilising local resources to ensure that the balance is paid off by year-end, before mobilisation of further resources for the latest pledge of US$1 million is commenced.

“As of Friday, October 11, 2019, NAC had processed payments of US$800 000 to the Global Fund leaving a balance of US$200 000 which we hope to have cleared by the end of this year.

“The last payment of $300 000 was submitted to our Bank on Friday to bring the total to $800 000 and it is our hope that it should be reflected in the Global Fund account by the end of this week,” said Mr Yekeye.

Mr Yekeye said the country will continue mobilising foreign currency using the interbank rate to raise a further US$1 million recently pledged in Lyon, France during the Global Fund’s sixth replenishment meeting.

He said since the replenishment period stretches for a period of three years, the country will make all necessary arrangements to ensure that it fulfils its pledge.

Currently, the Global Fund approved a grant of more than US$ 502 million towards programming of the three diseases.

HIV and TB at risk of ‘epidemic rebound’ as funding gaps increase, MSF warns

Countries across the globe are at risk of witnessing an HIV and tuberculosis “epidemic rebound” because of a decline in funding, experts have warned.
In a 56-page report published on Monday, global aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières said that a rapid shift in funding models for HIV and TB is putting a decade of progress in jeopardy.
The diseases continue to kill more than two million people every year, with 10 million new TB infections in 2017 and 1.7 million new HIV cases last year. Only five countries have met targets to reduce HIV deaths by 75 per cent by 2020.
But investment in essential prevention, diagnostic and treatment services is falling as the financial burden is shifting from international donors to affected countries.
According to MSF, this transition is taking place too quickly – with developing countries struggling to compensate for shortfalls.
In 2018 funding for HIV programmes from domestic and international sources fell for the first time in more than a decade, dropping by roughly $1 billion (£800 million) in low and middle income countries.

The gap for TB programmes is also growing – according to UN figures, the shortfall has now reached $3.5 billion (£2.8 billion).
The MSF report, titled ‘Burden sharing, or burden shifting?’, is based on nine countries where the organisation runs HIV and TB programmes: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.
It calls for an urgent “reality check” and funding boosts to prevent disease resurgence – as well as a new assessment to determine how much more money affected countries can realistically commit to TB and HIV programmes in the immediate future.
“This recent downward trajectory in funding comes at a critical juncture for the HIV and TB response,” said Dr Mit Philips, one of the contributing authors of the report.
“While gains made in countries such as Mozambique are at significant risk of backtracking, there is an even higher risk that countries in regions such as West and Central Africa, which are already lagging behind in the HIV and TB response, may see the situation deteriorate even further,” he said.

The report comes ahead of a major funding conference in Lyon later this week. The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis will host its three-yearly “replenishment” event, where it will ask for $14 billion (£11.4 billion) from donors for 2020 to 2023 – an increase of $1.1 billion from 2016.

The fund says the money will help save 16 million lives, cut the mortality rate from HIV, TB and malaria in half and build stronger health systems.
“Every day, MSF teams… witness how patients are suffering and dying from these treatable diseases,” says Dr Maria Guevara, another of the report’s contributing authors. “The number of people on lifetime HIV treatment keeps on expanding, but the money available to support them keeps on shrinking.
“Donor countries must urgently reverse the recent decline in HIV and TB funding and adapt their approach to the challenges facing their partner countries. Failing to fix this will undermine past achievements and may lead to an epidemic rebound that will cost many lives.
She added: “The Global Fund replenishment conference should mark a crucial moment in mobilising the necessary resources to prevent the response from veering further off track.”

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