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Creating an HIV-Free Generation

Photo by Sydelle Willow Smith

Photo by Sydelle Willow Smith

Just this week, UNAIDS announced that targets of MDG #6 (Millennium Development Goal) have been not only achieved, but exceeded. The UN’s MDGs are the world’s time-bound and target-oriented goals for eradicating poverty by improving the health, education and equality of humans around the world. MDG #6 calls attention to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDs, Malaria and other diseases by 2015.

“The world has delivered on halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic…” – Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Efforts to halt the spread of new infections have resulted in a global decrease of 35% from 2000 to 2014. UNAIDS reports that epidemics have ceased or even reversed in 83 countries where nearly 83% of the world’s HIV population lives. In addition, significant strides in reducing HIV among children of pregnant women have been made. From 2000 to 2014, access to antiretroviral treatment increased 73% among pregnant women living with HIV. As a result, the annual rate of new HIV infections among children fell 58% globally. And just last month, Cuba was named the first country to eliminate mother to child transmission by WHO.

Yet, with significant progress made on achieving MDG #6, it is important not to lose sight of those who fall outside of the UN’s target. While MSF currently treats 341,600 women, men and children living with HIV/AIDS in projects of more than 20 countries, over 50% of the 37 million people living with HIV are still unable to access treatment. And while MSF provided PMTCT (preventing mother-to-child transmission) to approximately 18,489 women in just 2013, there are still an estimated 700 children newly infected every day – many of which, lack access to proper treatment, (MSF, 2013).

“Despite this tremendous progress, more than 220,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2014… The majority of these children don’t have access to the treatment they need—only 32 percent of the 2.6 million children living with HIV had access to ART in 2014. Without treatment, half of these children will die before age 2, and 80 percent won’t live past age 5.” -EGPAF 

Many pregnant women living with HIV will do anything possible to prevent transmitting HIV to their unborn babies. Because Tomorrow Needs Her examines the barriers many of these women face in getting proper PMTCT treatment and the efforts they make to create an HIV-free life for their children.

#tomorrowneedsher #womenshealth #PMTCT

Because Tomorrow Needs Her focuses on some of the impediments to women’s health, exposing injustices that disproportionately affect women and girls around the world.

Obstetric Care, Or Lack There Of: Women Face Abusive Treatment During Childbirth

Photo by Lynsey Addario

Photo by Lynsey Addario

Every day nearly 800 women and girls die from pregnancy-related causes – many of which are entirely preventable. With proper access to quality medical supplies and trained medical staff, many of these lives could be saved. Yet, every day pregnant women and girls find themselves facing obstacles to seeking emergency care – among them being a very real mistrust or fear of health facilities.

Reports show that many women across the world have experienced abusive and disrespectful treatment at health facilities during childbirth. For these women, this mistreatment has left a painful mark on their memories, families and communities – deterring many from seeking skilled medical attention during life-threatening obstetric emergencies.

“Such treatment not only violates the rights of women to respectful care, but can also threaten their rights to life, health, bodily integrity, and freedom from discrimination.” -WHO
In a recent study of 34 countries, evidence showed that women at childbirth facilities often experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse (such as slapping, pinching or hitting), verbal abuse and discriminatory treatment based on age, sex, race, and socio-economic or HIV-status. This abuse exacerbates the suffering of many women who have already travelled hours or days in pain to seek help for themselves and their babies.

“Many of the complications facing these young women are worsened because of delays seeking professional assistance with their delivery.” -MSF
In an effort to ease their suffering, MSF prioritizes high-quality and respectful obstetric care in 131 projects where national health systems have been debilitated by conflict and disaster. In 2013 alone, MSF assisted in 182,234 deliveries around the world from Yemen to Burundi. Because Tomorrow Needs Her examines why countless women in these settings are at times unable or unwilling to seek emergency care, even in times of extreme pain and distress.

#tomorrowneedsher #womenshealth #obstetricemergencies

Because Tomorrow Needs Her focuses on some of the impediments to women’s health, exposing injustices that disproportionately affect women and girls around the world.

Not So Collateral: Sexual Violence Targets Women and Girls in Conflict

Patient consulting at the family support centre in Port Moresby following inter-partner violence

Photo by Yann Libessart/MSF

For women and girls, war and instability leads to an increased risk of sexual violence. This includes the strategic use of rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and pregnancy as weapons of control. Such brutality threatens both the health and lives of women and girls around the world.

Nearly 19 countries and 45 armed groups are suspected of conflict-related sexual violence, as reported by UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura. These include government, opposition and religious extremist groups varying from Syria to Sudan to Myanmar. At the same time, this hostile environment often translates into domestic abuse and cultural stigma for women and girls at home.
“…women and girls are abused on and off the battlefield, by strangers and by family members, not just as an accident of war but also in a deliberate strategy to terrorize and humiliate…”

Since 2005, MSF has treated more than 100,000 survivors of sexual violence around the world. In Central African Republican, this includes nearly 500 survivors of abuse in just 2014 – some below the age of eight.

Women and girls bear the double burden of abuse both “on and off the battlefield.” Used as a weapon of war, sexual violence disproportionately targets women and girls in conflict –making them not so collateral.

Because Tomorrow Needs Her focuses on the impediments to women’s health, exposing injustices that disproportionately affect women and girls around the world.

#tomorrowneedsher #womenshealth #sexualviolence

Join our Webcast on Fistulas June 25!

fistula-webcast_invite-image_email-website 2

Women living with a fistula frequently live as outcasts, rejected from family and community. The physical pain, combined with the social implications, can make life unbearable. On June 25, as part of MSF’s ongoing Because Tomorrow Needs Her project on women’s health, three fistula experts will discuss why women continue to develop this preventable condition, the impact fistulas have on women, their families and their communities, and the options that exist for treatment and prevention.

Viewer participation is encouraged via a chat feature available during the webcast.

Find out more.

#endFistula #TomorrowNeedsHer

Mass Rape in South Kivu, DRC

South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Eddy Van Wessel

South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Eddy Van Wessel

MSF treated 127 women who were raped after an attack on the town of Kikamba on May 1.

“The attackers looted homes, assaulted men, and raped a large number of women in the early morning hours after the attack. They also took roughly 30 children as prisoners, using them to carry stolen goods before releasing them.”

“Large-scale sexual assaults linked to armed groups are, unfortunately, not exceptional within the DRC context,” said Francisco Otero, MSF head of mission in South Kivu.

Read the story

Breathe: The Story of Saleem

MSF doctor Wong Poh Fei provides treatment to a newborn in Afghanistan. Photo by Sandra Calligaro

MSF doctor Wong Poh Fei provides treatment to a newborn in Afghanistan. Photo by Sandra Calligaro

From MSF’s field blogs, Dr. Wong Poh Fei describes working to save a very sick newborn in Afghanistan:

“I felt a lump form in the back of my throat as she tried to console me in return, after I had just explained to her that her baby was very sick and that although we had tried our best to help him, I was not sure he would make it.

She was a petite woman; mother of two – who had just given birth to her third child. Tears welled up in her eyes but she held them back. I put my arms around her and said no more. It was an unspoken understanding that a sick newborn’s life is fragile in this country and that the loss of a child (or children) is a common occurrence in many women’s lives. But that still does not take the pain away from a mother, whose maternal instincts are to nurture and protect her children.

Read the blog entry

Sexual violence as a weapon of war in Syria

From Foreign Policy’s article, published March 18, on the “rampant” sexual assault happening now in Syria, The Women in the Middle of the War:

“Those who rape and violate women in Syria do so by taking advantage of certain social taboos that make it difficult for women to talk about what happened to them. They fear being ostracized by their communities, or even by their families. In areas controlled by religious extremists, women who are violated also fear for their lives, as being sentenced to death

Sexual assault is not an accidental consequence of war, but a strategy for control.
is a possible consequence for being forced to participate in certain sexual acts. These possibilities are a form of social control that can be leveraged during chaotic situations like the one in Syria right now. Sexual assault is not an accidental consequence of war, but a strategy for control.”

Read the story

Watch the video from the Because Tomorrow Needs Her panel discussion

On March 4, 2015, Nina Strochlic of the Daily Beast led a discussion with MSF field workers, and one of Because Tomorrow Needs Her photojournalists, on women’s health care.


Martina Bacigalupo studied photography at the London College of Communication. She lives in Burundi, where she works as a freelance photographer, often in collaboration with international NGOs. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Sunday Times Magazine, Le Monde, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Liberation, Internazionale, and has been shown in several international venues, including PARIS PHOTO 2013, UNSEEN Amsterdam 2014, and AIPAD New York 2014. She won the Canon Female Photojournalist Award in 2010 and the Fnac Award for photographic creation in 2011.

Dr. Séverine Caluwaerts is a obstetrician-gynecologist and one of the referent gynecologists for MSF. Prior to joining MSF, she spent a year of her residency in South Africa, where she cared for a large population of HIV-positive women. She has completed assignments for MSF in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Burundi, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. When she is not on mission, she works with HIV-positive pregnant women in Belgium and is involved in teaching medical students and midwives.

Catrin Schulte-Hillen has worked for MSF as a midwife, project coordinator and project manager in conflict and post-conflict contexts in Africa, Latin America, and the Balkans. She is the leader of MSF’s reproductive health and sexual violence care working group. Prior to that, Schulte-Hillen was a program director for MSF-USA and worked for several years as a health advisor and consultant for MSF, the European Commission, and other NGOs. She is a licensed midwife and holds a masters of public health degree, a license in applied epidemiology and statistics, and a degree in business administration.

Africa Stewart is a wife and mother of three who graduated with honors from the Johns Hopkins University. She completed her medical degree and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Drexel University and Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Stewart joined MSF in 2011 and has completed assignments in Sudan, South Sudan, and Nigeria. She is an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and specializes in obstetric fistula prevention and repair. She continues to serve her local communities with adolescent outreach and education.

Nina Strochlic, moderator, is a reporter at the Daily Beast, covering women’s rights and international development. She’s reported from South America, Southeast Asia and Central Africa, most extensively in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has written for Vice, Marie Claire and National Geographic Traveler.