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Malawi: Hardest Hit by HIV April 12, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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Malawi HIV/AIDS prevention campaign

In the sub-Saharan inland country of Malawi, one million of its population of 14 million are infected with HIV/AIDS, the primary cause of life expectancy being only 43 years.

Additionally, over two million orphaned children lost both parents to AIDS and have become a burden to the country for basic needs and education. Orphanages feed whoever shows up, often 2,500 children each day at each site.

Being the fourth poorest country in the world, this agricultural subsistence population suffers from the deadly loop of poverty-disease-poverty. The constant struggle is for Malawians to stay healthy enough to go to school or work the fields, but most people are too sick to work or must care for sick family members.

Malawi, Africa

Between 1985 and 1993, HIV prevalence increased in women over the age of 15 from 2% to 30%. President Banda ruled for 30 years and refused to acknowledge the disease or help prevent it through education. In 1994, President Muluzi took office and put HIV at the top of his agenda including a more liberal climate making discussions about disease prevention more likely without the fear of persecution. By 2002, 70% of hospital deaths were due to HIV/AIDS or related opportunistic infection.

The prevalence rate hovers at 11%(rural) -17% (urban), whereas the global average is 1%. However, a world-wide response to Malawi’s condition has resulted in financial assistance, increasing the availability of testing, counseling, and antiretroviral drugs with an emphasis on reducing mother-to-child transmission.

Madonna founded RaisingMalawi.org in 2006 to aid the vast number of orphans with obtaining food and nutrients to avert severe malnutrition, skills training and education, and medication. Here is how one orphanage is coping:

One Love, a campaign established through the Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication, addresses in 10 African nations the harmful aspects of multiple sexual partners. The National Strategic Framework (NSF) has implemented several prevention and care programs, a National AIDS Policy was established, and today it is illegal to knowingly transmit the virus.

An increase in prevention education, funding, training, (healthy) human resources, transportation to and from medical facilities are still required in Malawi to decrease disease prevalence.

Sesame Square, Kami & Shuga Battle HIV February 16, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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Sesame Square educates young Nigerians about HIV.

Combatting cultural beliefs, and to some extent customs, has been a major hurdle for public health workers educating African villagers about the prevention and spread of HIV.

Entertainment is proving to be one avenue for change, and not among adults. Kami, the newest Muppet from Sesame Square (the Nigerian version of Sesame Street), represents one of the 1.2 million AIDS-orphaned, HIV-positive African children. She’s a five-year-old who contracted the disease as an infant from a blood transfusion.  The show was created specifically for the two- to four-year-old Nigerian audience, taking into account many of the widely held Muslim cultural norms.  In addition to its regular educational programming, the show addresses not how HIV is contracted, but ways it affects Kami daily, and related medical care.

MTV’s Shuga, from the Staying Alive Foundation, targets this issue among 16-24 year olds. The three-part dramatic series follows a group of students in Nairobi and is definitely not squeamish about addressing disease transmission. Funding efforts continue to produce a second series.

In order to reach teens with no TV or Internet access, information about the events and facilities airing the show was texted, social-networked, and short clips were included which could be viewed on cell phones. At these venues mobile HIV-testing was available. Cell phone use in sub-Saharan Africa is quickly growing, with 350 million in use as of 2008.

The younger audience seems more receptive to the behavior change necessary to reduce the spread of HIV. Sixty percent of youth watched the shows and most retained an understanding of the message. One reason the shows are popular is because they use local producers, writers and actors. Now this is healthy.

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