FEATURED POST

Focusing on key populations affected by HIV: A smart investment for greater impact

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Economic DevelopmentTechnology

The future of Myanmar is online

By Wayan Vota, Senior Mobile Advisor, FHI 360

Ooredoo

Ooredoo is one of three mobile phone network operators expanding coverage and services in Myanmar. Photo credit: Wayan Vota/FHI 360

 
Today, Myanmar has similar mobile phone usage rates to North Korea, Eritrea and Cuba – less than 10 percent of the population. At the same time, technology restrictions in the country are easing. Three mobile operators are racing to roll out services, which will rapidly bring the 60 million people who live in Myanmar into a digital reality, practically overnight.

On August 6, 2014, FHI 360 convened a workshop in Yangon to explore the role of information and communications technology and development in Myanmar, attended by leading technologists and development experts from Myanmar and across the Asia Pacific region. The workshop centered on three questions that address technology’s impact on government, civil society, business and most importantly, people’s lives:

  1. What are the social and cultural impacts when a country goes online virtually overnight?
  2. What will the people of Myanmar find on the Internet of today? Or tomorrow?
  3. Who will benefit when all of the citizens of Myanmar have a digital voice?

While attendees touched on many points throughout the discussion, and did not always agree on the answers to our questions, we did find general consensus that by 2018, Myanmar will have a very different technology landscape. (more…)

HealthYouth

Celebrating youth: Revisiting voices from the Interagency Youth Working Group

Today, as we observe International Youth Day, we look back on the past eight years of FHI 360’s involvement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG), the only source of global information about preventing both unintended pregnancy and HIV among youth. Our work managing the technical content for the IYWG was conducted under USAID’s Preventive Technologies Agreement, which ends this month.

During this time, we have made many contributions. The IYWG tools and resources have been used by thousands — more than 30,000 people from 199 countries have visited our website, over 6,000 have participated in our e-forum discussions, and more than 1,000 have attended our annual technical meetings. Since 2007, we have distributed InfoNet twice monthly to approximately 5,000 individuals and developed 21 issues of YouthLens; 1,219 users follow us on Twitter; and 2,444 people like our IYWG and Answer the Call Facebook pages.

We are grateful to the many dedicated individuals who helped us produce, synthesize and disseminate evidence on youth sexual and reproductive health, and to our partners for sharing their work and supporting ours. To all who have helped us provide practical, evidence-based resources and tools in the service of improving the lives of young people around the world, thank you!

To mark the end of the IYWG, we are featuring a few of our favorites from the IYWG blog, Half the World. Though we will not be providing any new content, the website and blog will continue to exist as a rich resource for information on youth reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.


 

Living with HIV: A reflection on the past 25 years

Greg Louganis, a gold-medal-winning Olympic diver and author, provides an honest, inspiring account of his life with HIV.

 

 

 

 

Youth: Our best sexual health investment

Ward Cates, MD, MPH, president emeritus and distinguished scientist at FHI 360, makes a clear case for prioritizing investments in the sexual and reproductive health of the world’s youth.

 

 

 

Moving USAID’s Youth in Development Policy forward: What’s next for sexual and reproductive health?

Joy Cunningham, a senior technical officer at FHI 360, explains why a 2012 U.S. Agency for International Development policy is critical to young people’s sexual and reproductive health.

Health

Family planning and the post-2015 development agenda

Leadership in Family PlanningFamily planning is connected to all eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whether ending poverty and hunger, providing universal education or fighting HIV and AIDS.

As the MDGs come to a close and the world prepares for the post-2015 development agenda, a recent editorial in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization written by family planning experts from FHI 360 summarizes the growing evidence that continues to confirm the relevance of family planning to each of the MDGs. The editorial also explores why family planning is critical to the success of the new post-2015 global development goals.

Authors Tricia Petruney, Technical Advisor; Lucy Wilson, Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor; John Stanback, Scientist; and Ward Cates, Distinguished Scientist and President Emeritus show how family planning, an area of work traditionally found only within the health sector, is actually intricately intertwined with many other areas of development.

Read the editorial to learn more about how the integration of family planning across the development sphere is, as stated by the authors, “a best buy for development.”

Research

Maximizing the return on investment: Making research matter

By Rose Wilcher, Director, Research Utilization, FHI 360

Earlier this month, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) released a report that seeks to answer a compelling question: Does research drive international development?

Through an extensive literature review, the authors examined the evidence supporting the commonly held assumption that investing in research leads to positive impacts on socioeconomic development. One of the specific pathways they explored is whether investment in research leads to development through more evidence-informed policy and practice. While the authors provide several examples of how research has led to policy and program improvements, they also conclude that “there are significant gaps in the capacity, incentives and systems necessary to ensure that research is systematically used in decision making.”

To put it more simply, research can be a powerful development tool if the results are used. Generating new evidence or finding a new solution is half the battle. Only when that solution is adopted in policy and practice can research lead to impact. But, the reality is that no matter how compelling a body of evidence or research finding may be, information does not put itself into practice. As a result, large gaps or long time lags too often exist between what we know and what we do.

Obstacles to putting research into practice

The barriers to getting research into practice are well documented. They include limited end-user involvement in research, weak attempts to communicate research findings and advocate for their use, and research designs that fail to consider the potential for scale-up. Other barriers noted by the DFID report include the inadequate capacity of decision makers to understand and use research evidence and the lack of incentives to drive research utilization. Short of a miracle occurring, overcoming these barriers requires deliberate, planned and sustained efforts over time. (more…)

Economic DevelopmentHealth

Latest UN report warns human development is increasingly precarious

UNDP reportThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 2014 Human Development Report, entitled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, calls attention to the persistent vulnerability that threatens human development. According to the recently released report, 2.2 billion people are poor or near-poor, and unless policies and social norms systematically address their vulnerabilities, development will fail to be equitable or sustainable.

The report proposes multiple ways to strengthen resilience, such as the provision of basic social services and stronger policies for social protection and full employment.

“By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. Read the report.

GenderHealth

Research on key populations leads Botswana to smarter HIV prevention

By Mike Merrigan, Regional Technical Advisor and Kerry Aradhya, Science Writer, FHI 360

At approximately 18 percent, the prevalence of HIV in Botswana’s general population is one of the highest in the world. As a result, national HIV prevention efforts have focused more intensively on the general population than on other populations. Little is known about key populations, such as female sex workers and men who have sex with men, whose behaviors are both stigmatized and illegal in Botswana.

In 2012, the Botswana Ministry of Health used an integrated behavioral and biological surveillance survey to estimate population sizes and prevalence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among female sex workers and men who have sex with men. The study was historic. For the first time, it showed the HIV and STI burden among these two key populations and raised awareness about how they might have contributed to the generalized HIV epidemic.

The survey, carried out with technical assistance from FHI 360 through the Preventive Technologies Agreement (funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development), uncovered a population of more than 4,000 female sex workers in the three districts where the survey was conducted. Among these female sex workers, HIV prevalence was 61.9 percent, and the prevalence of gonorrhea and chlamydia were both higher than 10 percent. The female sex workers had a mean of more than seven partners per week, and condom failure, which includes condom breakage and being paid or forced not to use condoms, was common. (more…)

Health

Improving HIV testing in targeted populations in India

By Bitra George, FHI 360 Country Director, India

At the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia, staff from FHI 360’s India office will present a poster on a study that shows improved HIV testing among clients of female sex workers. The study contributes to evidence about what works to strengthen HIV prevention.

Why focus research on the clients of female sex workers?
Recent studies from India suggest that the purchase of sex from female sex workers is most predominant in higher HIV-prevalence states, such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. In India, there is a growing recognition of the importance of considering clients when looking to stop HIV transmission, and a number of prevention efforts under the national program have targeted these clients, most of whom are men.

Conducting surveys among clients of sex workers is challenging, because clients do not like to be identified. There is also little evidence that establishes clients’ risk of contracting HIV in India. To bridge this gap and to provide invaluable information on HIV trends and risk behavior, FHI 360 designed and managed the largest integrated biological and behavioral assessment (IBBA) for most-at-risk populations in India.

Collecting evidence to inform HIV programming
Conducted in 2006 and 2009, this cross-sectional survey interviewed approximately 10,000 clients of sex workers as part of Avahan (the India AIDS initiative). This program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gathered evidence to inform future HIV prevention programs in India. The IBBA survey was implemented by the institutes of the Indian Council of Medical Research, and technical support was provided by FHI 360. (more…)

Health

Focusing on key populations affected by HIV: A smart investment for greater impact

By Ward Cates, FHI 360 Distinguished Scientist and President Emeritus and Kimberly Green, FHI 360 Chief of Party, Ghana

A version of this blog originally appeared on The Lancet Global Health blog. We are reprinting with permission. You can view the original post here.

In an era of limited resources, HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts need to focus on the smartest investments. This means investing in programs that can have the greatest impact in halting HIV transmission and turning back the epidemic. From a public health perspective, the effective use of resources requires focusing on key populations who have the highest level of HIV infection and tackling the barriers that discourage and prevent them from accessing health systems and services. These populations are broadly defined as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons and persons who inject drugs.

As the world gathers at the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia, July 20–25, 2014, we have an excellent opportunity to share how investing in evidence-based strategies can change the trajectory of the epidemic once and for all. (more…)

EducationGenderYouth

Too young to wed: The high price of early marriage

By Carina Omoeva and Rachel Hatch, FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center

Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

Today, we celebrate Malala Day, a commemoration of girls’ empowerment and gender equality across all areas of human development. Like Malala Yousafzai, thousands of girls around the globe are dedicated to pursuing their education and choosing their life path yet are prevented from realizing their full potential. For the vast majority of these girls, the greatest barrier to schooling is not the bullets of terrorists — it is the day-to-day economic pressures and the unequal social expectations they face as they enter adolescence and young adulthood. It is a sad reality that in the 21st century, many girls are forced into marriage and starting a family as early as age 14, which brings their educational aspirations to a halt.

Teenage, Married, and Out of School, a new study by the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center, highlights the heavy toll early marriage inflicts on school participation among adolescent girls in nine countries of east and southern Africa. While the universally ratified 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), as well as national legislation in all nine countries, protect children against marriage before age 18, early marriage is still visibly present across the region. Some countries, such as Rwanda, have managed to bring this disturbing phenomenon down to a minimum, while marriage at age 14 through age 17 appears to be fairly commonplace in others (Figure 1). (more…)