Responding to Zika: Prevention is Better Than the Cure

The Beautiful Risk

Today, H.E. Oh Joon began the briefing with introducing its agenda concerning the need for international cooperation and building preparedness in the face of the public health crisis due to the rise of the Zika virus and cited possible contributing factors to the outbreak, including climate change.  Then, Dr. Menabde and Dr. Espinal spoke of the WHO’s and PAHO’s objective of investigating and responding to microcephaly and other neurological disorders related to the Zika outbreak by enhancing surveillance measures to monitor the spread of the virus, communicating with communities to dispel stereotypes about the virus and encourage safe sex among pregnant women and their partners, and researching the virus’ consequences.  Next, Dr. Kachur mentioned the CDC’s need for forming better monitoring systems for the virus, enhancing laboratory systems, training workforces, and establishing more field offices to further investigate the disease, as well as creating better tests to differentiate symptoms of the Zika virus from other diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Additionally, Dr. Henriques spoke of the evolution of the virus in Brazil since the beginning of 2015 and mentioned that the rise in cases of microcephaly is what alerted health professionals to the possibility of a Zika outbreak.  He also stated that although the government is dealing with many unanswered questions concerning the current scientifically unproven link between microcephaly and the Zika virus and the future consequences of the disease, Brazil’s Ministry of Health’s main priority is to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito carrying the virus and support women and children.  Finally, Mr. Wahba cited that there are 503 cases of the Zika virus in Haiti and that development, human rights issues and underfunding are impediments to helping achieve progress in this matter within the country.

Meeting: Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 2016 Session: Briefing on the Zika Virus

Date/Time/Location: Tuesday, February 16, 2016; 15:00-17:00; Economic and Social Council Chamber

Speakers: His Excellency Ambassador Oh Joon, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from the Republic of Korea; Dr. Natela Menabde, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Office at the United Nations (UN) in New York City; Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO); Dr. Patrick Kachur, Principal Deputy Director of the Center for Global Health at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Cláudio Maierovitch Pessanha Henriques, Director of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance at the Ministry of Health in Brazil; Mr. Mourad Wahba, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations (UN) Stabilization Mission in Haiti and the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator, and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Port-au-Prince

Written By: WIT Representative Shubhangi Shukla

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: BBC News

Taking Steps to End AIDS by 2030

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Today, there was a meeting on the modalities and organizational arrangements of HIV/AIDS, held by the General Assembly. The Co-Facilitator began with a statement on the necessity to find common ground in Paris by the 4th of December. Next, the meeting was decided to be titled as Organization of 2016 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. The following conclusions were made throughout the meeting: PP3, which is a proposal to determine the modalities by December 2015; PP5, which is welcoming the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, emphasizing its other goals and targets of the Agenda; PP4bis, proposed by Africa Group, was recognized to support that AIDS remains an urgent global health and development challenge and the persistent challenges in the fight against this disease.

It was requested that the President of the General Assembly finalize the organizational arrangements for this meeting and draw a list of relevant civil society, private sectors, and academic institutions and NGOs who may participate in this meeting by March 2016. According to the World Health Organization, HIV currently affects almost 78 million people, with 39 million deaths since the beginning of the epidemic, and 37 million people living with HIV by the end of 2013. As the disease progresses, the committee invited intergovernmental organizations and entities and non-governmental members of the Programme Coordinating Board of the Joint Programme to participate and consider initiatives in support of the discussions and outcomes. Various alterations were made in the wording of the texts of the proposals, some statements being made by the United States, the European Union, and Canada, to clarify the goals being presented by the Organization. With the resolutions made today, the Organization hopes to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.

Meeting: High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Date/Location: Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015; 10:00-13:00; Economic and Social Council Chamber

Speakers: Co-Facilitator of the Economic and Social Council Chamber for the Organization of the 2016 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

The Emotional Impact of an AIDS Diagnosis

Countries with The Highest HIV AIDS Prevalence Rates

 

Following a brief introduction, the documentary “It’s Not Over” was screened. It followed three people – Sarang, Paige, and Lucky – and their experiences surrounding HIV/AIDS to illustrate the human stories behind the disease.

South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world. Locals estimate that 80% of the Khayelitsha population has HIV, and that 1 in 3 adults use drugs there. This drug use can make the body weaker and more susceptible to HIV. A lot of women contract HIV from rape, which is a constant there. Lucky’s friend Sisi says that as a woman living in South Africa, “anything can happen at anytime.”

Some interesting statistics from the film: If on a full effective HIV treatment regimen, HIV patients can lower the chance of spreading the disease by 96%. Out of 400,000 sex workers in Mumbai, up to 75% are thought to have HIV.  2.3 million people are infected with HIV per year.

After the screening, the four speakers answered questions from the audience. Ms. Flynn noted that half of the new infections occurring were in people under 24. Ms. Rawl wants people to learn the basic facts about the disease and understand that having it doesn’t define a person. “It’s not the health aspect of being HIV positive that’s hard…it’s the stigma.”  She is still encountering students in schools whose sexual health classes aren’t teaching them that saliva is not one of the bodily fluids that transmits the disease. To the people who aren’t sure of how to open up about it to those around them, she suggests opening with a general comment about HIV and seeing the reaction in the room. If those people don’t know about HIV, then educate them first and then tell them.

Meeting: Panel discussion on and screening of the documentary entitled “It’s Not Over” (in observance of World AIDS Day (1 December) (co-organized by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands, the United States Mission, MAC AIDS Fund and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS))

Date/Location: Monday, November 30, 2015; 16:00-18:15, Conference Room 4

Speakers: Andrea Flynn – Moderator, MAC AIDS Fund; Paige Rawl – Author, “Positive”, Subject, “It’s Not Over”; Lotte Dijkstra – Dutch Youth Ambassador for Sexual Reproductive Rights and HIV/AIDS; Andrew Jenks – Director, “It’s Not Over”

Written By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick