Tagged: AIDS

  • A great international exchange program goes beyond sharing knowledge and ideas. It empowers participants to become agents of change in their own communities. Through Felix Masi’s participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), he received leadership and media training from US Government officials and prominent youth and non-profit leaders. This training motivated him to document the story of a community’s personal response to the global AIDS epidemic.

    Felix, a Kenyan-born American, used the ideas he gained through IVLP, funded by the U.S. Department of State, to share the story of a challenge he witnessed growing up in Kenya. In rural Western Kenya, many children lose their parents to AIDS, and grandmothers often assume the burden and care for the orphaned children. His documentary, “A Grandmother’s Tribe,” tells the story of resilience and sacrifice in the face of a lost generation.

    Further leveraging the skills honed during his exchange program, Felix founded Voiceless Children to help teach Kenyan caregivers life skills that promote self-sufficiency. To date, Voiceless Children has helped provide education and shelter for over 40 families in Western Kenya and Kibera, Kenya’s poorest slum. We are proud of program alumni like Felix, leaders who use these exchange programs to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills that benefit not only themselves but also their communities.

    Please join us on Thursday, May 10th at 5:30pm in FHI 360’s Globe Theater for a screening of “A Grandmother’s Tribe,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Felix and other distinguished speakers. A special viewing of a follow-on video that tracks the progress of the grandmothers will also be shown. Please RSVP here.

    Homepage banner image from Borderless Productions.

  • The Stories Behind the Statistics

    “The Stories Behind the Statistics” is a series put together for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s blog “Impatient Optimists” by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG). The IYWG, housed here at FHI 360, provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people. The following posts were originally posted on “Impatient Optimists” and are reposted here with permission. All photos courtesy of the Gates Foundation.


    • Young People and HIV

      Last August, during World Youth Day in Madrid, I was conducting outreach to encourage Catholic youth to use condoms. It was there that I heard one of the most frightening things ever: One young man told me that an HIV-positive person had no right to have sex...

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    • Family Planning for Young Women

      I lead a support group for mothers ages 12-19, in Kenya. Most of the mothers I work with are out-of-school youth; many live on the streets, work in the informal economy, or are orphaned. As a part of our support program, we provide weekly peer-to-peer sessions focusing on uptake of antenatal care...

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    • Youth Reproductive and Sexual Health

      By the end of today, 2,500 young people will become infected with HIV and 1,400 girls and women will die in childbirth...

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  • Innovation is key to expanding contraceptive choice

    Contraceptive technology has come a long way, but there is still much more work that needs to be done to increase women’s access to safe and effective contraceptive choices.

    Since Margaret Sanger overturned anti-contraceptive legislation in 1936, making it legal for doctors to provide diaphragms and spermicides to women, researchers have been working to develop improved contraceptive methods. Oral contraceptives were introduced to the public in the 1960s and paved the way for future innovation. Today, contraceptive hormones are delivered in a variety of ways, including through implants, long-acting injections, patches and vaginal rings.

    Yet there is still a gap in contraceptive technology that FHI 360 is working to fill – an effective, safe, easy-to-use, and low-cost vaginal contraceptive.

    FHI 360 has developed a new vaginal insert, made of soft, non-woven textile materials that can contain different types of vaginal gels. What makes this insert innovative is that it virtually eliminates leakage of the vaginal gel, a critical issue for both effectiveness and acceptability. The insert is packaged as a single-use, ready-to-use product, pre-moistened with medicated gel. Depending upon the type of gel, the device could be used to prevent pregnancy or HIV or to treat vaginal infections.

    Currently, the only over-the-counter vaginal contraceptives that are available are detergent-based spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 or similar agents. Detergent-based spermicides are irritating to vaginal tissues and with frequent use can cause ulcerations that could increase the risk of HIV infection.

    The insert could be used with new non-irritating spermicides such as BufferGel® (developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University) or with a ferrous gluconate formulation (developed by researchers at Cornell University). So far, the Hopkins and Cornell researchers have used other delivery methods, including diaphragms and vaginal rings, for their formulations. The FHI 360 insert could also be used to deliver microbicide gels, considered to be one of the most promising interventions to emerge over the past decade to prevent HIV infection in women.

    Results of a pivotal study, presented on September 17 at the Reproductive Health 2011 conference, showed that the combination of BufferGel and the new SILCS® diaphragm—a one-size-fits-all device—was as effective as a diaphragm with nonoxynol-9 gel. This is a double dose of innovation—a new, non-irritating spermicidal gel and a new one-size-fits-all diaphragm—and it’s great news for women.

    In 2009, we conducted a Phase I study to assess the acceptability of the FHI 360 insert among women and their male partners in Durban, South Africa, using the device saturated with 10 mL of an FDA-approved vaginal lubricant. We recruited 40 women, who first inserted and removed the device at the clinic and then at home. For home use, we asked women to discuss the product with their male partner and—if their partner agreed—to wear it during intercourse.

    Participants found the insert easy to place in the vagina and easy to remove with minimal to non-existent leakage. Most men (34) agreed to have intercourse with the device in place. Participants reported that the insert was comfortable during intercourse. Most women said they would be willing to use the insert for contraception or preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and most men said they would approve of their female partners using it if it became commercially available.

    Once again, we have the potential to advance women’s health in the U.S. and around the world. This is what innovation is all about – improving lives.

  • In Kenya, where more than half of young people are unemployed, 22-year-old Boniface Kirang’a has watched many friends in Flax, his hometown near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, get involved in petty crime, partying and drinking alcohol.

    But Kirang’a escaped the traps of crime and substance abuse. He went through a two-year automotive mechanic training through APHIAplus (AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance), a USAID-funded FHI 360 program to improve health in 16 Rift counties. Today, Kirang’a is a self-employed car repairman.

    As part of its comprehensive commitment to health, APHIAplus prevents and treats communicable illnesses such as HIV, AIDS or tuberculosis; assists families affected by HIV; runs programs to reduce hunger; and develops economic opportunities for the region’s residents.

    Like many Kenyan youth, Kirang’a had struggled to stay in school. His father was diagnosed with HIV, and when his condition worsened, the family lost vital income.

    “My father started being sickly in 1999,” when Kirang’a was 10 years old. “He had two butcheries, but he shut them down because of his illness. He died in 2003. After my father died, we returned to our original home in Nyahururu [in central Kenya]. We lived in my grandmother’s home. Life was hard because we were many in the family,” he said in Kiswahili.

    When the family returned to Eldoret, Kirang’a stayed with a relative until he finished primary school in 2004. The uncle “could not educate me after that. He had seven children of his own. I started keeping chickens, which I sold to buy food and clothes. I also worked as shamba boy,” tending crops in cleared forestland.

    But Kirang’a’s uncle got him a scholarship from the Mission Sisters of Mary Immaculate, a community-based organization that partners with APHIAplus. With the bursary, he was able to go to the polytechnical institute, said Kirang’a.

    Since graduating from the institute, Kirang’a joined a group of mechanics in the fast-growing town of Eldoret. He’s doing his share to make sure that young people have chances to learn and develop skills. With his knowhow and earnings, he is saving to build his mother a house and pay for his younger brother’s school fees. In the future, he plans to hire three apprentices from the mechanics institute.

  • Small beginnings, big impact

    I have always believed in the power of microcredit to change lives. A visit to rabbit farmer George Kihanya’s home in the Kenya Rift Valley District convinced me beyond all doubt. Kihanya’s success shows that if well implemented, community-based credit and savings schemes can turn around the lives of many rural families.

    In 2002, Kihanya was caring for his ailing mother. Newly married, he eked out a living growing maize, beans and potatoes.

    Kihanya’s fortunes changed after he started keeping rabbits. Now, he earns on average Sh60,000 (US$650) a month.

    Kihanya was introduced to rabbit farming during a course organized by the Catholic Relief Services, one of the partners in the APHIAPlus program led by FHI.
    Kihanya was chosen by his local church to be trained as a community health worker. He, along with other volunteers, was trained on how to prevent diseases, including HIV, and to link vulnerable children and families to HIV treatment, care and support. Volunteers also learned about farming and other activities, including rabbit farming, to improve food security for their families and communities.

    Inspired by Kihanya’s success, scores of families in the community are now earning money by raising rabbits.

  • Fatuma: A beacon of hope for families affected by HIV

    I first met Fatuma Juma about a year ago in her home town of Nakuru, Kenya, a two-hour drive northwest of Nairobi. A 42-year-old single mother of three, Fatuma is naturally talkative and laughs a lot. Within minutes of meeting, we were chatting like old friends reunited. Fatuma told me how she overcame the shock of finding out she was HIV-positive to become a pillar of hope for many in her community.

    Six years ago, Fatuma had a persistent cough. She visited the local public hospital where doctors discovered she had tuberculosis. Health workers advised her to take a test for HIV. She was HIV-positive.

    She lived in denial until she met social workers in APHIAPlus, a USAID-funded program implemented by FHI in collaboration with the Kenya Council of Imams and Ulamas.

    The social workers counseled and helped her to join a support group. Fatuma was trained as a peer educator and community health worker.
    Due to her positive attitude and willingness to help others, Fatuma has established a reputation as a good counselor. Working with others in the program, she helps families, especially the children, get health care and other services such as education and business skills. Her inspiring story is one of triumph and resilience against major odds.

  • Early symptoms of lung cancer

    Lung cancer is increasingly becoming one of the leading killers of not only smokers but, a symptoms of lung cancer large segment of the population in many countries around the world, with alarming incidences in China and India.

    Malignant lung tumors have been on the rise 10-15% since the 1900’s. In the 1950’s a British Doctors Study was published that provided strong evidence that there was a link between lung cancer and smoking. Studies that documented the early symptoms of lung cancer in 1964, prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to recommend that people actually stop smoking.

    While it is true that other causes have been linked to lung cancer, such as exposure to radon gas, first acknowledged in miners in the 1870’s, asbestos and certain viruses, cigarette smoking has been determined to be the leading cause. There are some 60 known carcinogens in cigarette smoke. Over 91% of lung cancer deaths around the world have been attributed to smoking. The lifetime risk of cancer developing in male smokers is 17%. Women that engage in hormone therapy and that smoke are at even higher risk of developing early symptoms of lung cancer.

    When a person stops smoking their chances of lung cancer drastically symptoms of lung cancer in women begin to lower, the body is able to repair some of the lung damage and repair itself. One of the problems for non-smokers is that of passive smoking, which is described as inhalation of smoke from someone who is smoking. Studies conducted in the U.K, Europe and the United States consistently show that there is a relative risk to those exposed., with rates as high as 10-15% being reported in patients that have never smoked. Some research suggests that indirect smoke inhaled is often more dangerous then the smoke inhaled through the cigarette itself.

    Some of the early symptoms of lung cancer may include bone pain, fever, and weight loss; more common symptoms are wheezing, hoarse voice, coughing up blood, shortness of breath and chronic coughing. Tumors are common as well, often malignant and can easily lead to metastasis to include cancer of the brain, bone, liver, kidneys, and nearly all areas of the body. There are a small percentage of people who do not suffer any noticeable early symptoms of lung cancer; approximately 10% diagnosed have their cancer detected coincidently through a routine chest x-ray.

    The use of CT imaging provides the most through examination and extent of the disease,

    Abnormal findings warrant biopsy or bronchoscopy symptoms of lung cancer in men to determine the stage of the lung cancer. The histological type determines the stage of the cancer itself and any treatment alternatives. It is recommended that periodic checkups with your physician or physician’s assistant be mandated to minimize and treat early symptoms of lung cancer before it can spread or become fatal.