Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Ethiopia, the beat goes on, in music and health

Global youth dance at the beat making session at the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa. Credit: Laura Hoemeke/IntraHealth

This was originally published in the Huffington Post on Dec. 11, 2013.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- In November, in a chilly outdoor amphitheater at the African Union headquarters here, Stephen Levitin, aka Apple Juice Kid, asked an audience of mostly young Africans and North and South Americans to suggest the best type of beat.
"Afro beat," one young African called out.
"Slow and sexy Afro beat?" Levitin asked. "Or fast and danceable?"
The consensus was fast and danceable. Then a percussive sound was chosen, and several of the young people -- each in his or her mother tongue -- recorded brief health messages of personal relevance to them.
And when they combined it all, the result was an original song. The group jumped to its feet and danced away the chill. Not a PowerPoint slide was to be seen anywhere.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ethiopia: An emerging family planning success story

Delegates at the International Conference on Family Planning pose for a photo in front of DKT Ethiopia's coffee ceremony tent.

This was co-written with Andrew Piller and originally published on Impatient Optimists on Dec. 10, 2013.
When global family planning practitioners gathered in November for the Third International Conference on Family Planning, there was a timely relevance for meeting in Ethiopia. Over the last two decades, Ethiopia has become a family planning success story, one of only a handful of countries in Africa to achieve that status.
 Positioning of population and family planning at the center of development is critical.In 2000, Ethiopia’s contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods was only 6.3 percent, which, at that time, was lower than any other country in Eastern and Southern Africa except Eritrea. By 2011, the rate had increased to 27.3 percent. Over the same period, the total fertility rate (the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime) had decreased from 5.5 to 4.8.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Young people should lead efforts to improve sexual health

Members of a youth group in Addis Ababa meet regularly to debate sexual and reproductive health issues. Photo: Sheikh Rajibul Islam/duckrabbit

This was originally published on Impatient Optimists on Nov. 19, 2013.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- A young Ethiopian woman went to a health clinic and found out she was pregnant. She was asked to take an HIV test and found out she was HIV positive. She told her husband she was pregnant but not about being HIV positive, and she suggested they be tested together. He refused, and said he would leave her if she got tested. She decided to have an abortion and went to a health professional who advised her against it. At that point, she decided to have her baby despite the fact that she had no support from her husband. 

That story was acted out in a session at the International Conference on Family Planning held here from November 12-15, but is based on a true story. It is one of many such storylines being played out in real life by the five million young people aged 15-24 living with HIV, especially by young women living with HIV, young sex workers, young men who have sex with men, young transgender people and young people who use drugs. This is true because they are the people least able to access sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning. They also face stigma and discrimination based on age, gender, HIV status and sexual orientation.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reaching most vulnerable young people with family planning, HIV services

More than half of Ethiopia's population are young people under the age of 24. Credit: Sheikh Rajibul Islam/duckrabbit

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post on Nov. 11, 2013.
Ethiopia -- where international advocates will open their biennial International Conference on Family Planning on Nov. 12 -- has succeeded in bringing down the unmet need for family planning from 36.6 percent of currently married women 15-49 in 2000 to 26.3 percent in 2011. But the unmet need is greatest among those aged 15 to 19. In that age range, almost one-third want contraception and cannot get it.
The great need of young people for integrated family planning, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV prevention services is not limited to Ethiopia, and is one of the great challenges facing conference participants. This is particularly true of youth from marginalized groups such as people living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who inject drugs, who may be particularly vulnerable to sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, and other reproductive health issues.