World AIDS Day Guest Post: A global strategy for health

by Ben Simms is Director of STOPAIDS and writes here in his personal capacity as an LCID Member

Today is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to remember the 1.5 million people who died of AIDS in 2013, and the 39 million who have died in the last 30 years.

World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of one of Labour’s proudest moments in government. Ten years ago, as Labour were planning the 2005 G8 Summit in Scotland, AIDS related deaths were at their peak, with 2.4 million people dying in 2005 alone. Just 700,000 people were accessing treatment.

Ten years on, 13.6 million people are alive today thanks in large part to the commitment to deliver Universal Access made at Gleneagles.

With renewed leadership, financial and political commitment, a further 21 million lives could be saved by 2030. And if we achieve that we will be looking at the end of AIDS as a public health threat.

This is surely a prize worth having, and a success story worthy of silencing even the most diehard critics of overseas development.

The response to AIDS is a story that resonates naturally with Labour as the party that founded the NHS, went on to put global health at the centre of an independent Department of International Development, and is now setting its sights firmly on Universal Health Coverage for people of all nations.

To achieve this goal Labour must take the initiative and drive the discourse on international development at the General Election. Ending AIDS will require ongoing UK investment, but UK leadership must go beyond aid. We will need to overcome the structural and systemic barriers which impact on the health and wealth of developing countries. To achieve this, three lessons (at least) need to be learnt from the past decade responding to HIV and AIDS.

First, Labour need to look at access to medicines. Between 2000 and 2011, the total cost of treating someone living with HIV has fallen from $10,000+ a year, to just $350 a year. Not because of the goodwill of pharmaceutical companies, but because, in defiance of them, we have seen the growth of competition from manufacturers of generic medicines. Labour must take a strong stand against initiatives such as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and other trade agreements that pose a threat to future access to medicines in Europe and the developing world.

Intrinsically related to this, as the current outbreak of Ebola reminds us, we need to prioritise non-commercial funding of R&D for diseases of the poor. Until we do people will continue to die in their millions from diseases we could cure, but choose not to.

Compulsory reading this World AIDS Day will be the ‘Access Denied’ report launched today by Pamela Nash MP as Chair of the APPG on HIV and AIDS. The report highlights multiple access to medicine challenges facing the next wave of the AIDS response.

Second, Labour needs to define and measure its commitment to Universal Health Coverage in ways that ensure every person has access to quality healthcare. We have learnt from 30 years of responding to HIV and AIDS, that having a fully staffed clinic and a well-stocked pharmacy mean nothing if you are a gay man, transgender woman, sex worker or drug user and are prevented from accessing services because of fear, stigma or persecution. This World AIDS Day, we should turn out thoughts to Uganda in particular, where its parliament are on the cusp of re-introducing an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would make it illegal to run an LGBTI-sensitive health service.

Third, if we are serious about wanting countries to develop and fund a greater proportion of their own healthcare, Labour needs to be serious about addressing the underlying drivers of global poverty and inequality. Our development policy must reflect the complexity of the modern world – where inequality within countries is greater than between. There is a need to build a new model of responsible capitalism to replace that which has savaged the developing world and resulted in the greater flow of resources from south to north – for example through corporate tax evasion and the flow of health workers.

All of the above will require Labour to adopt a strategy for global health in government. But it must be a strategy built on the lessons of how we have responded to HIV and AIDS, one that embraces a vision of overseas development which never forgets the impact of effectively targeted funding, but also remembers the foundations of a better society are social justice and human rights.

For more information go to: stopaids.org.uk

New TV series ‘Corrie goes to Kenya’ to highlight ability of theatre to promote understanding of HIV and AIDS in Africa

by Sarah Kennedy, LCID Member and Director of Development for S.A.F.E.

Tonight UK charity S.A.F.E. will feature in the first of two one-hour documentaries on ITV1: Corrie Goes to Kenya. In these programmes, four Coronation Street actors work with the S.A.F.E. team in Kenya who use theatre to challenge the misinformation and ignorance surrounding HIV/AIDS.

These programmes will take complex development issues and information about HIV/AIDS to a mainstream television audience in a visual and accessible way. Corrie Goes to Kenya will also demonstrate the ability of the UK arts sector to raise awareness about complex international development issues.

This exclusive new two-part series sees four much-loved Coronation Street stars – Sue Cleaver, Ryan Thomas, Brooke Vincent and Ben Price – take a break from the cobbles of Weatherfield to work in an entirely difference context: bustling Mombasa, where they will work with S.A.F.E.’s Kenyan actors to spread information about HIV.

 The episodes will follow the team as they create and perform a series of soap-like plays as street theatre in Coast Province. There will be moving scenes as the Corrie team visit villages and meet people suffering from HIV and AIDS. They will also meet those whose lives have been changed thanks to S.A.F.E.’s accessible education through theatre, in a country where over 70,000 people lose their lives to the disease every year.

Corrie Goes to Kenya highlights the continued stigma and misinformation that surrounds HIV/AIDS across Africa, as well as the difficulties in overcoming these challenges in a country where most people do not have access to a TV and only 85% of adults are literate. S.A.F.E. beats the odds by delivering life-saving information through accessible, mobile street theatre.

Over two decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there remains in Kenya widespread discrimination and misinformation surrounding the disease. People die of ignorance, with little or no access to information about transmission, prevention or treatment.

  • Worldwide, there are 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and 22.5 million of those live in Sub-Saharan Africa (UN AIDS Report 2009).
  • Kenya has a population of 40.5 million with a national HIV prevalence rate of 6.3%.
  • Myths, superstitions and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS are especially rife in Coast Province, where Corrie Goes to Kenya was filmed. Some of the most disturbing misconceptions include that transmission is a result of witchcraft, and that a cure of HIV/ AIDS is by having unprotected sex with multiple uninfected partners or virgins.

After performances, S.A.F.E. and its partners deliver services such as HIV testing and counselling, condom demonstrations and distribution, and workshops with the most at risk. This model has significant impact: for example, S.A.F.E. has recorded a 76% increase in awareness of and willingness to use condoms after performances[1]. To deliver these educational performances costs just 88p per beneficiary and £2 a month can reach a family with lifesaving information about HIV/AIDS. More information about S.A.F.E.’s work can be found at www.safekenya.org.

The first episode of Corries Goes to Kenya will be aired at 9pm on ITV1 on Friday 17 August 2012. See www.safekenya.org and www.itv.com/coronationstreet for more information. A trailer of the episode can be viewed at http://www.itv.com/coronationstreet/news/corriegoestokenyatvtrail/

Follow on twitter @safe_kenya and #corriegoestokenya

London turned red for World AIDS Day

by Matt More

Last night, landmarks around the world were turned red to commemorate World AIDS day. In London, County Hall and the London Eye were illuminated to raise awareness of (RED)’s goal of an AIDS free generation by 2015.

In 2008, approximately 430,000 children were born with HIV, roughly 18% lower than in 2001. This figure fell further in 2009 as UNAIDS estimated that approximately 370,000 babies were born with HIV. Under the last Labour government, DfID played a significant role in helping to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV. LCID calls on the Coalition Government to continue this commitment to combat HIV and AIDS globally, and ensure that the goal of an AIDS free generation is achieved by 2015.

World AIDS Day

HIV & AIDS Clinic in India. Credit: David Taylor

The good news first. We can cautiously say that 2010 has been a year of better news for those working on the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The latest UNAIDS report tells us ‘new HIV infections have fallen by nearly 20% in the last 10 years, Aids-related deaths are down by nearly 20% in the last five years, and the total number of people living with HIV is stabilizing’.

More people are getting access to treatment, thanks in large part to the last Labour Government, who made the UK the second biggest bilateral AIDS donor. 5.2 million people in low and middle income countries have access to treatment, up from 700 000 in 2004, but 10 million more are still waiting. So not as many as we need – but more mothers are now alive to work to contribute to their communities as well as care for their children. More young people are receiving safer sex messages and support. And furthermore, we are beginning to win the fight against stigma and the Pope has made new dramatic statements on the role of condoms in preventing the spread of the virus, which will help health workers and educators in their prevention programmes.

A friend living with HIV with whom I worked at the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa has come through TB and opportunistic infections to find a treatment programme that works for her and is enjoying life now with a son born free from the virus thanks to an effective Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme.

So lots of progress, but as a great article in today’s special edition of The Independent shows, we need to be clever and adopt a cross-issue approach if we are to make headway in achieving an Aids free world.

For example, we know that keeping girls in school is key in helping them avoid contracting HIV– a Zambian study found that AIDS spread twice as fast among uneducated as among educated girls. Yet keeping them in school means we must intervene on many levels – as the Indie article shows, one of the main reasons girls stop attending is because they have no access to private toilets or sanitary towels. Providing these basic services and empowering the women of the future is a priority if we are to keep them in school and protected against HIV infection. It is not acceptable that 60% of all children out of school are girls.

The sector must look at cross cutting themes in our efforts to stop the HIV epidemic – education, sanitation and water for all, gender empowerment and well operating health systems. LCID welcomes Harriet Harman’s focus on women’s rights in her approach to her international development work and we ask that she continues to look at cross sector tactics in development if we are truly to improve the lives and futures of women and girls worldwide.

Serena O’Sullivan

Ahead of World AIDS Day, David Cairns writes for Progress

Tomorrow, 1 December, is World AIDS Day. Ahead of the day, David Cairns has written for Progress about his experiences meeting an inspirational woman in Nairobi, Kenya. This woman, who spoke out about her HIV, found that her son was sacked from his job, even though his employers knew he was not HIV positive.

Stories like this are all too familiar, as we well know. To stop it, considerable work has been done across the world, but more has to be done. Summing up, Cairns says:

The government needs to give a clear signal now that the UK remains committed to working through the Global Fund, which is the most effective, multilateral partnership operating today. Failure to do so would be an abdication of the international leadership position that, under Labour, the UK built up over the past decade and give others the excuse to reduce their own contributions. If this happens the fight against HIV and AIDS will get a whole lot harder.

You can read the article in its entirety over on the Progress website.

By Tim Nicholls

Fantastic opportunity to visit South Africa with ACTSA

Are you an active member in a youth or student movement? Are you interested in Southern Africa Issues?

Action For Southern Africa want you to be part of their 2010 Youth and Student Delegation to South Africa.

You will gain an in-depth knowledge on Education issues, HIV/AIDS, Civil Society, South Africa Government, South Africa’s relations with the UK and more.

You will also have the opportunity to meet student leaders, trade unionists, NGOs and Government Ministers; as well as to visit HIV/AIDS projects, Urban Townships, rural areas in Swaziland, Robben Island, Manzini and more

The trip is from 27 August to 9 September with pre and post briefings in Lond on the 22 July and 7 October. Flights, accommodations, meals, insurance, and visas are paid for by ACTSA. Applications are due 21 June 9am. Telephone Interviews will be held 1 and 2 July. If you would like to apply click on the link http://www.actsa.org/page-1444-delegation.html

Check out ACTSA’s World Cup actions

The World Cup is on the very near horizon and brings with it more than just the promise of good football. This tournament, which begins in a fortnight, will be held in South Africa and is the largest tournament ever held on African soil.

There is more to this World Cup than football. Though South Africa has made huge strides since the downfall of apartheid, there still remains a society that is racked with inequality, poverty and illness. The scourge of HIV/AIDS is taking its toll on every section of society, yet it is the poorest that feel the pain the most.

Action for South Africa (ACTSA) have launched a ranges of resources and we really encourage you to take a look!

They are calling for action too. They are calling on the British Government to help eradicate mother to child transmission of HIV by the next World Cup in 2014. So much has been done in the developed world, but not enough elsewhere. Help them get this done by taking their e-action!