Health is a human right for refugees, too

Although media coverage of refugees seeking safety in Europe has waned in the recent months, the hardships faced by them have not. A new report shares that worldwide displacement has hit levels unprecedented on record published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has stated. This means that now, “one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum”. With half of these refugees being children, the need for comprehensive aid is crucial.

The 1951 Refugee Convention, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 28th of July, 1951 and entered into force on the 22nd of April, 1954, states that “the Contracting States shall accord to refugees treatment as favourable as possible, and, in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances”. The Convention defines a refugee as someone who “is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion” (ibid). Importantly, this is different from the term “migrant” which media sources have used interchangeably with “refugee”.  The situations they allude to are massively different. Migrants refer to anyone moving from one country to another, and may include individuals well-off seeking better opportunities. Hungary, Turkey, and Greece are all state parties to the 1951 Convention, and thus have the responsibility to uphold the provisions set forth in the legal instrument to which they have demonstrated their allegiance. The rights accorded to refugees include the right to housing (Article 4), the right to education (Article 22), and the right to public relief and assistance (Article 23)”.

This public relief and assistance importantly includes the right to “access health services equivalent to that of the host population, while everyone has the right under international law to the highest standards of physical and mental health”. This is especially critical for women and children, vulnerable populations in the midst of the mass movement of displaced peoples. Although the majority of refugees and migrants entering Europe are not women, 13% are, and 4,200 of these women are likely to be pregnant, and 1,400 are at risk of sexual violence.  The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) plans to distribute 70,000 dignity kits to women along the Balkans route to provide basic hygiene and healthcare items, and “mobile clinics will be set up at strategic points, staffed with gynaecologists and nurses along with materials for safe-deliveries and prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases”. While the UNFPA will also “boost the capacity of governments and civil society groups in the affected countries to provide quality health services for women and to prevent and manage sexual and gender-based violence,” a large part of the responsibility to ensure the health of the refugee population rests on the shoulders of the hosting countries. In light of the refugee rights violations in Hungary, the need for accountability of these nations is critical. Furthermore, the need to stem the conflicts in the countries from which people are fleeing is of utmost importance. Officials and analysts say that “sharp falls in international funding from United Nations countries,” are largely to blame for the “deterioration of the conditions that Syrians face in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey”.health-care

While the important political discourse regarding the shared responsibility of refugee aid continues, let us not forget that each day the basic human rights of these people must not be overlooked. The right to the highest standard of healthcare is among these universal rights and the responsibility of nations, whether they are members of the 1951 Refugee Convention or not, to provide this to asylum seekers is a matter of both legal integrity and moral. 

Written by: Prima Manandhar-Sasak


A Refresher on Healthcare in the 2016 Presidential Election

Amidst the ubiquitous poll numbers and televised debates that draw widespread attention to the 2016 presidential candidates, lies the issue of healthcare. With a variety of stances present in the field, it’s important to consider the potential plans that will shape the healthcare system in the years to come. Whether attune to or averse to the political landscape of the country, the policies shaped by the next commander-in-chief will impact us all. Here is a summary of the vision current front-runner candidates have for healthcare in America.

Within the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have quite the difference in their philosophy on the fate of the current Affordable Care Act. Secretary Clinton believes in keeping the majority of the Act [1]. Among her proposed policies include initiatives to put a limit to out-of-pocket drug costs [ibid]. Senator Sanders, on the other hand, has proposed a single-payer healthcare system that would essentially be a Medicaid-for-all system [2], though he too is seeking to address high prescription drug costs. The Republican group of candidates, on the other hand, has expressed a pronounced desire to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Donald Trump believes in open competition and letting individuals shop for insurance, though in 2000 he supported universal healthcare [3]. Senator Cruz in 2013 led a government shutdown in an effort to defund the Affordable Care [ibid], and seeks to repeal the entire Act. Senator Rubio has opposed the Act, saying it stifles entrepreneurship [ibid].

On the subject of vaccines, there is more concurrence. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders favor vaccinations [3], saying they are supported by science and electing not to vaccinate is dangerous, respectively [3]. Donald Trump says he’s for vaccines, but believes in “smaller quantities to avoid autism” [ibid]. Senators Cruz and Rubio believe in vaccinations [ibid].

In light of global health issues, the candidates have differing levels of commitment. In 2014, to combat Ebola Secretary Clinton proposed putting resources into Africa, and in 2007 pledged to support $50 billion towards AIDs relief in the US and around the world [3]. Senator Rubio said that only the US could combat Ebola, and that the World Health Organization could not [ibid].

In deciding which candidate is most fit to be the next leader of our country, we must ask what we believe to be the ideal and pragmatic health system ourselves. Do you believe in a centralized or decentralized system? A president that will place global health issues high on the priority list? These are all questions to consider the next time you hear from the 2017 presidential hopefuls.

American Election
American election campaign fight as Republican Versus Democrat represented by two boxing gloves with the elephant and donkey symbol stitched fighting for the vote of the United states citizens for an election win.

Written By: Prima Manandhar-Sasaki

  1. “Presidential candidates on healthcare.” New York Times. n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016
  2. “2016 presidential candidates on healthcare.” Ballotpedia. n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
  3. “Health Care.” On the Issues. n.d. Web 16 Feb. 2016

HIV, the End is Near

_79427583_c0200994-hiv,_artwork-spl.jpgAfter four years of secretly battling the devastating virus known as HIV, Charlie Sheen has publicly admitted that he is infected with the often fatal disease. The recent public shock brings back daunting memories of a virus that until recent years was subject of controversy. Flash forward to today, in 2015, as possible cures are not out of reach.

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus is unlike most other viruses the body can fight off. Instead, the virus lives on our body for the remainder of life targeting T cells which are critical in help fighting illnesses as simple as the flu or cold. Overtime, as the immune system is damaged by the virus, HIV becomes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). However, with medication, HIV can be prevented from becoming AIDS. One can become infected with HIV through direct contact with bodily fluids – possibly through sexual contact with an infected person, the sharing of syringes or other exchanges of bodily fluid.

Charlie Sheen isn’t the only public figure who is known to have been diagnosed with the disease. Arthur Ashe, world-renowned tennis player of the 90’s was also diagnosed with the disease after receiving a blood transfusion from a contaminated needle, unfortunately passing shortly after his diagnosis. However, not all diagnoses of HIV result in death or AIDS; Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for 20+ years.

From the past 30 years we have learned a lot about the virus, and stigmas of the disease are no longer valid. According to Global Citizen, the stigma of HIV being a “gay disease” for example, is inaccurate. During the 70’s and 80’s, HIV largely affected men who were gay, however, medical advances found no direct link between homosexuality and the likeliness of acquiring this disease. Additionally, over the years, diagnoses like that of Arthur Ashe and Magic Johnson, a former basketball player, made the global community realize it is more than just a “gay disease”.

Furthermore, the disease is no longer the “death sentence” it was years ago. Medical advancements have found preventative measures one can take to lower the risk of transmission and treatment that stabilizes and someone who has HIV. Efforts to raise awareness for the disease have been impressive in recent years. Both President George Bush and Barack Obama expressed their support for HIV/AIDS awareness and both have taken measures towards taking the first steps in treatment and cure research.

In recent years, conversations about an HIV cure are is becoming reality. Just in 2013, a toddler born with the disease was treated with an antiviral drug that successfully eradicated the disease from the baby who was given the drug just thirty hours after birth according to a report by CNN.  

According to a CBS report, the major challenge of eradicating the disease is finding a cure that, long after treatment, reduces the amount of HIV to an untraceable level. While this treatment still needs work, a relatively new method of curing called “shock” given to the infected individual that “shocks” the virus. In a sense, it removes the virus from the body through shock therapy.

As a global community, we have come a long way towards understanding the disease and finally having a hopeful future for those with the virus.


Written by: Amina Rana

Social Media Etiquette

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Once students start applying for graduate school, they begin to worry about the content they have shared over social media during their undergraduate career. However, as a freshman with extremely high hopes of getting into medical school, I was advised to embellish a “filter” for my Facebook.

The first question that came to mind when I was warned about this issue was, “should I just delete my Facebook to begin with?” However, I was worried about how I would communicate with my study groups, how to stay up-to-date with the various clubs and how to share necessary data with my classmates. Being involved in studies and the student community are imperative in a student’s application.

However, the pros of having a facebook do not necessarily outweigh the cons. A single inappropriate post and/or picture can negatively alter your application, no matter how hard you worked on making it pristine. So, what is it exactly that you should stay away from doing? Imagine someone, such as a family member, an employer, or even an admissions representative scrolling through your Facebook page: what wouldn’t you want them seeing? Those are the specific things that you should refrain from sharing, posts that would put you in a bad light. It is completely up to you about the image you wish to portray, just remember, everything on social media is open for judgment!

Also be wary of pictures and posts others might tag you in! Imagine this. You spend the weekend at home, studying diligently for the exam that you’ll be taking on Monday. However, your best friend calls, begging you to log onto Facebook and look at a link she sent you. After logging on, you notice that your old friend posted a group picture of you and a few friends from high school at a place you just would not want the admissions committee to see. You have been tagged in this picture for two days now, and you didn’t know about it because you were avoiding all distractions. At this point, anyone could have seen it already! For reasons such as these, you should make sure to never forget to control who can tag you in posts and whether they can be uploaded to your page without your approval.

With this advice stored somewhere in the dusty files of your brain, you should remember to always be cautious with your social media posts, not only on Facebook! They should be filled with meaning, just as your books are with notes.  Even the most responsible of students may slip up on social media networks, however, with just a bit of caution and insight, you too can tackle the graduate school application process without worrying of being denied over something as benign as a single Facebook post!

Make sure to post prudently, and good luck to all! 9i4e7ebkT

Written by: Angelica Rozenfeld