Unitaid News From the UNGA high-level week ¦ September 2019


1. An historic political declaration cites innovation as key to universal health coverage

2. A sweet anniversary with our partners MTV Shuga

3. Rwanda & PIH join Unitaid to embrace innovation for universal health coverage

4 A salute to nurses and midwives with partner Jhpiego

5. The threat of superbugs on display

An historic political declaration cites innovation as key to universal health coverage

Special event on Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All. 24 September 2019 United Nations, New York. Photo: UN

At the action-packed UNGA in New York City, leaders in global health came from all over the world to discuss, plan and form new alliances to rise to the towering challenge of universal health coverage.

Monday began with a historic political declaration on universal health coverage, followed on Tuesday by the endorsement of a cooperation plan by 12 of the world’s leading global health agencies, including Unitaid.

“The Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All is about 12 agencies inspiring each other and working collectively to help countries accelerate toward universal health coverage,” Unitaid Chief of Staff Sanne Wendes said during a high-level event where the plan was unveiled in the presence of President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg and other world leaders.

Unitaid’s contribution to the alliance will be its special expertise in working with partners to pilot new health tools, medicines and ways of working.

In this video, heads of agencies explain the GAP plan:

Link to our GAP statement: https://unitaid.org/news-blog/unitaid-joins-global-leaders-to-pledge-deeper-cooperation-for-universal-health-coverage/#en

Unitaid at centerstage: our co-hosted events with Jhpiego, MTV & PIH

A sweet anniversary with our partners MTV Shuga

In Africa, adolescents and young adults are far more likely to become infected with HIV than other groups. Too often, they lack solid information on navigating the epidemic. But now there’s a decade of hard evidence that creative, innovative communication such as MTV Shuga really does make an impact in helping young people protect themselves.

“We know this content is really getting through to people and changing their attitudes and behaviors,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish told a gathering on the sidelines of UNGA. “Viewers are twice as likely to get tested for HIV, and rates of chlamydia among viewers have dropped 58 percent.”

Since it first aired ten years ago, the African TV drama and “edutainment" campaign has reached hundreds of millions of households in 72 countries with stories of young people contending with HIV and self-testing, partner abuse, prevention and other day-to-day problems.

The UNGA event co-hosted by Unitaid and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation brought together Côte d’Ivoire Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan, South Africa Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, Bob Bakish CEO Viacom, American rapper/radio personality Sway Calloway, South African actress Stephanie Sandows and other special guests.

Unitaid is now investing in a new French-language version, MTV Shuga: Babi, that is being shot in Côte d’Ivoire for release later this year.

The producers are scheduling Babi episodes on self-testing to coincide with another Unitaid-funded project, ATLAS, which is distributing about 500,000 self-test kits in West Africa. Unitaid has invested nearly US$ 100 million to create a market for HIV self-testing throughout Africa.

See emcee Sway Calloway here:

See a promotional trailer for MTV Shuga here:

Rwanda, PIH & allies embrace innovation for universal health coverage

The Rwandan government, Partners in Health (PIH) and Unitaid joined special guests Wednesday to discuss the role of innovation in driving universal health coverage.

Representatives of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame were on hand to describe the country’s work to emerge from war and build a health system that now covers more than 90 percent of the population.

"Rwanda has worked closely with Partners in Health and Unitaid in building our health system. Those very meaningful partnerships have had such a positive impact on the lives of Rwandans,” said Valentine Rugwabiza, the country’s Ambassador to the United Nations, delivering an address prepared by President Kagame. “Rwanda’s health outcomes are undoubtedly due to innovation. In fact, Rwandans embrace innovation. Rebuilding a country almost from scratch without a user manual makes one look at risk differently. The mind is open to solutions.”

Unitaid investments are working directly in Rwanda to fight malaria, cervical cancer and tuberculosis and are also operating on a global level to break down barriers between the latest innovations and the people who need them. In July, Unitaid and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health signed an agreement to collaborate on better and more affordable health solutions for the people of Rwanda and beyond. The memorandum of understanding positioned Rwanda as a “champion of innovation acceleration in health” and provides a framework for the country to increase access to health innovations that tackle the most pressing public health problems.

Among the many special guests for the evening were World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros, an energetic proponent of innovation for universal health coverage, Unitaid Executive Board Chair Marisol Touraine, DFID Permanent Secretary Nick Dyer, Lesotho Minister of Health Nkaku Kabi, Sierra Leone Minister of Health Alpha Wurie, incoming UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador James Chau.

Left to right, are: Winnie Byanyima, incoming executive director of UNAIDS, Alpha Wurie, Sierra Leone minister of health, Nkaku Kabi, Lesotho minister of health, and Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer, Partners in Health. Photo: Carol Masciola

See more about Unitaid’s work in Rwanda here: “Rwanda: Innovating for Impact”

A salute to nurses and midwives

Reaching universal health coverage would be impossible without nurses and midwives. Health systems depend on them to deploy health innovations on the ground and to train community health workers to use them.

Unitaid joined special guests at an event led by partner Jhpiego to celebrate nurses and midwives and explore ways they can be better supported in their work toward universal health coverage.

“Nurses and midwives will be absolutely necessary to address thousands of health challenges the world’s population is facing,” Untaid Board Chair Marisol Touraine told the gathering. "We can and we must do more. You can be sure Unitaid will support you and find new paths to provide health care to everyone.”
Untaid Board Chair Marisol Touraine. Photo: Carol Masciola

Unitaid’s Robert Matiru spoke on a panel about the success of the TIPTOP project, a Unitaid-Jhpiego initiative that employs community health workers to bring malaria prevention and prenatal care to pregnant women. Four sub-Saharan African countries are participating in the five-year project, whose longterm goal is to create a model that can be used in other malaria-endemic countries.

A new video was presented at Jhpiego’s event, in honor of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife (2020). Click here to view it: https://www.jhpiego.org/story/2020-year-of-the-nurse-and-midwife/

Using art to communicate the danger of superbugs

Health organizations have been struggling for years to convey the danger of drug-resistant infections to the public. Although antimicrobial resistance is one of the world’s leading health threats, the problem often doesn’t seem immediate to people, or really that serious.

This inflatable structure by Goldberg Aberline studio shows drug-resistant gonorrhea, staph and tuberculosis. Photo: Carol Masciola

On the sidelines of UNGA, the Night Celebrating Global Antimicrobial Resistance Fighters offered original ways—from graphic novels to survivors’ stories to interpretive dance—to show the causes of superbugs and ways people can fight back.

Unitaid has been a leader in the fight against antimicrobial resistance; it invests more than 60 percent of its US$ 1.3 billion in projects that fight drug-resistant infections, as well as mosquitos that are resistant to older insecticides.

The event’s special guests included filmmaker Michael Wech, who suffered a drug-resistant infection that inspired him to make the film Antimicrobial Resistance Fighters (2019).

See the the trailer here: