Combating HIV/AIDS Through Innovative Commerce – Huffington Post
Unique programs, such as the President’s Emergency Fund For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) started by President George W. Bush and continued by President Barack Obama, have helped drive global progress against the disease, particularly in some of the most hard hit countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program has expanded availability of affordable medications, regular testing, and consistent access to medical care. Studies indicate early use of antiretroviral therapies (ART) can help HIV-positive people live longer and healthier lives. Still, some of the most vulnerable populations, including women aged 15-24, continue to see HIV/AIDS infections rise because of physiological vulnerabilities, sex-trafficking and sex work, sexual violence, and child/forced marriages.
While working on a PEPFAR grant through a Catholic Relief Services implementing partner, St. Joseph Shelter of Hope in Voi, Kenya, I saw first hand the economic vulnerability of women forced into sex work and their increased exposure to not only HIV infection but also other diseases that can lead to AIDS for women already living with HIV. Finding alternative economic opportunities and access to healthy and safe jobs for young women is critical to fight AIDS. PEPFAR and other pediatric HIV/AIDS programs are also essential to the efforts to completely eliminate the mother to child transmission of HIV either in the womb or through breast milk. Early HIV detection, ART access, and adherence to the drug therapy remain essential to prevent new generations from contracting HIV.