Transcript of WHO podcast - 16 July 2007
HIV/AIDS and women's leadership; success at Kenya AIDS clinic
Misha Kay: You're listening to the WHO podcast for the week of 16 July 2007. I'm Misha Kay.
This week we focus on:
- Women, leadership and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with reports on the outcomes of the first ever WYCA International Summit on Women's leadership and HIV/AIDS;
- How success breeds even more demand at an HIV/AIDS comprehensive care clinic in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
More than 1500 women gathered in Nairobi recently for a summit on women's leadership on HIV and AIDS. They came from countries where the advances in care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS have been substantial and others where the epidemic can hardly be discussed. Where fear, stigma, and discrimination still prevail and keep women living with HIV on the unsafe margins of society. But no matter where they came from, the women at the summit rallied around one key message—women's leadership is critical to the response to this epidemic.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, joined other UN leaders, including Dr Peter Piot, the head of UNAIDS and Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, the UN Deputy Secretary-General.
Dr Chan said that access to AIDS treatment has made a measurable change with more than 1 million people in sub-Saharan Africa now benefiting from this treatment.
Dr Margaret Chan: We are still running behind this devastating and unforgiving epidemic. For every person starting treatment, another six people will become newly infected within a year. How can we catch up? We need to ask this question. How can we catch up? I believe there are three critical pathways to follow. First, we must steam ahead with full power in the quest for universal access to treatment and care. It is the only fair and humane course to take. Second, we must seize every opportunity for prevention. This is the only way to catch up.
Misha Kay: And Dr Chan told the summit that this is her most important point.
Dr Margaret Chan: Women must be in the driver's seat. We know enough to reach this conclusion. Women can turn the tide in this epidemic. Women are best placed to make existing tools work better. You, in this room, including so many HIV-positive women, are the living proof of this.
Misha Kay: The summit concluded with a 10- point call to action which includes developing the leadership of women and girls, ensuring women are involved in decision making, an end to violence against girls and women, promoting better access to sexual and reproductive health services and education, ensuring safe testing, care, treatment and support services, and the need for more resources.
The levels of global funding to fight aids have never been higher. And more people than ever now have access to prevention, care, and treatment. As more and more people are reached, the demand for services grows. WHO communications Officer Christine McNab recently visited the Mbagathi Comprehensive Care Centre in Nairobi. The centre has made a huge difference to the lives of men, women and children. But as she finds, with success comes more hurdles, and more opportunities.
Christine McNab: This small room in the Mbagathi Comprehensive Care Centre is full of young children playing, reading and watching television. Janet Ndale cares for these children and points out the toys books and other fun in the room. She also describes the very serious work at this centre.
Janet Ndale: We are able to identify the children who have needs and we are able to take care of them.
Christine McNab: The centre, run by the Kenyan Ministry of Health and Médecins Sans Frontières, Belgium, is now treating 1100 children living with HIV/AIDS. This is a massive increase. Just a few years ago, this clinic was only able to provide medicines for AIDS-related illness. But with AIDS treatment costs out of reach, clinic workers could ultimately only stand by as most of the patients died. The MSF doctor in charge, Joelle VanVingum, tells a senior group of leaders about progress at this clinic.
Dr Joelle Van Vingum: The last time we were here was because the death rate was over 80%. So we started by doing testing and OI drug diagnosis and treatment. Then in 2003, we started with ARVs.
Christine McNab: A global effort began in 2003 to decrease the price of antiretrovirals, or ARVs, and increase access to treatment. MSF joined forces with the Kenyan Ministry of Health.
Dr Joelle Van Vingum: So far we have examined 8300 patients and half of them are on ARVS and 1100 of them are children.
Christine McNab: The centre is full of people waiting for services. There isn't a spare seat in the room. Sister Niago, a health-worker here, says it's hard to find enough hours in the day to keep with up demand.
Sister Niago: Human resources are still a problem here. Nurses, clinic officers, the counsellors-- it's a problem because we don't have enough. Should we have enough, maybe, the work would not be difficult to finish.
Christine McNab: One solution has been to decentralize services so that people can get the care and support they need closer to their homes. But Mbagathi is popular not only because of the treatment and care it offers. Emily, a young woman who bravely presented her story to the UN visitors, says people want to come to this clinic because they are comfortable here.
Emily: We have this course because HIV is not as clear. We talk about it freely. We are very much open. We don't fear it. Why? Because we have information. We have knowledge and with knowledge, a clinic is power. At the clinic we have that power. And if we can disseminate this information to every centre, then I think we will be able to fight this HIV disease in this country.
Christine McNab: Emily also points out that while she is grateful for the free treatment, the cost for medicines for other infections which often affect people living with HIV are still very high. And the people who work at and are served by this centre know that these services must continue. For without antiretroviral treatments, the people here simply won't survive. Sustainable funding, well into the future, is on everybody's mind.
Dr Margaret Chan, the head of WHO, told people at Mbagathi that sustainability is an issue that WHO and its partners are taking very seriously. And she said that the Centre should be very proud of everything that has been achieved so far.
Dr Margaret Chan: The fact that you are overloaded with demand of service perhaps is a sign of your success. We always say that: when you are successful, you become the victim of your success, but we are there with you to find ways to address and how to get your success in other parts of the country.
Misha Kay: Thanks for listening to the WHO podcast. For more information about HIV/AIDS, as well as other global public health issues, visit the WHO website at