exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

racing and pacing and plotting the course

by Jen at 3:00 pm on 12.10.2008 | 7 Comments
filed under: born free campaign

i finished in about 2:13. i take ten minutes off that time which was spent waiting for the loo at mile four. (the one gripe i have about the organisation of the race is that there were nowhere near enough toilets! they had us using the parks public toilets, which with 6 stalls for the women, was just a disaster.)

it was a warm, sunny, beautiful day, and i felt fantastic the whole way through. i ran the last three miles flat out, just feeling stronger and stronger. i had the *best* playlist, which kept me going.

a few pics from j’s mobile (sorry if they’re skew! taking photos while running is harder than i thought!)

heading for the start line
running past buckingham palace
big ben
houses of parliament
london eye
10 miles

thanks again to all those who sponsored me – it really lifted my spirits during the race to know how many people believed in this cause!

this song has nothing to do with anything, except that it kicked in at mile 12 and sent me flying

phantom planet – do the panic

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the opportunity for a future

by Jen at 2:17 pm on 11.10.2008 | 1 Comment
filed under: born free campaign

so tomorrow is my run! the weather is (fingers crossed) supposed to be good, if a bit warm for my liking. there will be 12,500 people running through the streets of london, and i’ll be one of them, plodding along in my blue unicef t-shirt. i am proud to do my part for this important cause, and great organisation.

so in my last installment, let me tell you a little bit more about why i’m running.

when i last left off on this topic, i told you about how many children are still dying of hiv in underdeveloped countries. how 90% of children born with hiv will die before they reach the age of 5. horrible, *preventable* deaths.

but hiv affects children and mothers in these countries in so many other ways.

– pregnant women are not getting the opportunity to be tested. they can’t prevent hiv tranmission to their children if they don’t know. in west and central africa, only 2% of pregnant women are getting tested.

– babies must be tested early to get treatment early. in poor countries, they must often wait until the age of 18 months to test for hiv. but there is a test available which can be done at just 6 weeks.

– it’s recommended for hiv positive mothers that they do *not* breastfeed their child, as this can be a route of transmission. however in many areas, there are either no available/affordable milk substitutes, or no safe water sources.

– only 10% of hiv+ children will get the medications they need. hiv progresses rapidly in infants. children whose immune systems are most vulnerable, are not getting the care they need, and they are dying. this no longer happens in rich western countries, where hiv positive children usually live well into adulthood.

– when hiv+ mothers don’t get the appropriate healthcare and medicines, their children end up as aids orphans. there are 11.6 million aids orphans today in sub-saharan africa. entire generations of children grow up without parents. some have to become carers for their dying parents. when the parents die, older siblings are often forced to take on the role of parent and hold their families together. on top of the grief of losing their parent, aids orphans are far more likely to grow up poorer, miss out on education, and be stigmatised by the community.

so much of this is so preventable. in the u.s., for example, there were just *38* pediatric aids diagnoses in 2006.


that’s because pregnant women routinely receive testing, treatment, and care to prevent hiv transmission in 98% of all cases. babies who are born with hiv are tested early and receive appropriate care and medication. the mothers receive treatment and followup to stay healthy. they have the highest quality healthcare and support available to them and their children. they will get to see their children grow up.

shouldn’t every mother and child have these opportunities?

that’s what the “born free” campaign is all about, and that’s why i’m running. every child should have the opportunity for a future, and we really can help. it doesn’t have to be this way. we’ve come so far and made so many advances against this virus in our own countries, and yet so many little children are still needlessly facing death every day.

so many people have sponsored me already, but i’m still short of my goal. please consider sponsoring me, no matter how much or how little. it’s really, truly appreciated.

with heartfelt thanks,

edited to add: oh wow!! i’ve just reached my goal!! i am so, so, so thrilled! thank you all so much! i can’t thank you all enough – it means so much to me, and i’m just so happy to be able to do this for something i believe in so strongly.

thank you thank you thank you!!

1 Comment »

born free campaign, part 2

by Jen at 12:17 pm on 21.09.2008Comments Off
filed under: born free campaign

as part of my commitment to run the royal parks half marathon, on behalf of unicef’s “born free” mission, i’ll be doing a weekly series here to publicise why i feel so strongly that this intiative deserves your support. please consider sponsoring me at my justgiving page, or simply click the widget in my sidebar. a big thank you for anything you can contribute.

born free: unite for children, unite against aids

i’ve been incredibly busy lately, and not had much time to blog. but with only 3 weeks left, and only 50% of the way to my fundraising goal, i need help. if you’ve thought about donating before, but haven’t yet, please consider it again now! if you haven’t considered it before, let me tell you why your help is so important.

when i last left off on this topic, i wrote about how out of the people living in sub-saharan africa only 9% of hiv positive women, get the antiretrovirals that can prevent transmission to their babies.

yet in the u.s. and europe, small children dying of aids is nearly unheard of now. in these areas, mother-to-child transmission rates are less than 1%. this is because with access to proper healthcare and medication, 98% of hiv positive mothers *do not* pass on the hiv virus to their newborn babies. we are so lucky to live in countries where mothers can protect their newborn children from becoming statistics.

the picture in the poorest countries is much more dire. the kind of rampant devastation this disease is wreaking on the vulnerable and poor is truly awful, even just in words. that innocent children are suffering in such numbers from something so preventable, is just unfathomable.

– in 2007, there were 2.1 million children with hiv, and 90% of those live in sub-saharan africa.

– in 2007 alone, almost half a million children were infected with hiv and did not receive care or treatment.

– mother-to-baby transmission accounts for over 90% of hiv in children.

– 50% of these children will die before the age of 2, and most are dead before they reach the ripe old age of 5.

every minute of every day, a baby is born with hiv, and a child dies of hiv-related causes

**but this is preventable!** testing and medications can save babies from a death sentence.

just 68p will buy antiretrovirals for a mother and baby at birth. (that’s just over a dollar at today’s exhange rate!) think about how much good your donation can do for these children – if they only get the chance to be born free of hiv, they can go on to live long and healthy lives, instead of likely dead by five years old.

such a small amount can make such a life and death difference. so won’t you consider giving, even a pound/dollar or two?

(in my next posting, i’ll be talking about other aspects of preventing mother-to-child transmission, and the impact hiv has on babies’ and children’s lives.)

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born free campaign, part 1

by Jen at 3:12 pm on 25.07.2008Comments Off
filed under: born free campaign

unicef’s “unite for children, unite against aids” campaign has four primary aims:

- provide treatment for children with hiv
- prevent hiv amongst young people
- protect and support children orphaned or affected by hiv/aids
- prevent mother-to-child transmission of hiv

as part of my commitment to run the royal parks half marathon, on behalf of unicef’s “born free” mission, i’ll be doing a weekly series here to publicise why i feel so strongly that this intiative deserves your support. please consider sponsoring me at my justgiving page, or simply click the widget in my sidebar. a big thank you for anything you can contribute.

born free: unite for children, unite against aids

i clearly remember when i first became aware of aids. i say aids, because we didn’t yet know what was causing it, hadn’t yet named and shamed the virus that would be called hiv. it was 1984, i was about 12 and my dad, who worked with cancer patients and would later become an aids educator, was watching a pbs show on this disease which was causing gay men (and it was only gay men at that time) to contract and die from a rare form of cancer called kaposi’s sarcoma. i had no idea at the time, nor did anyone, that hiv/aids would become one of the largest and most ruthless killers in human history. i only remember that these men were dying in agony, alone.

during the 80s and early 90s, we began to hear about hiv/aids everywhere – activists, politicians, celebrities. there were fundraisers and marches and ribbons and safe sex campaigns. it thoroughly permeated the cultural consciousness. almost everyone became aware of what it was, how it was contracted, how it could be prevented. there were movies made, and public figures speaking out. yet still, people were dying.

remember all that?

then suddenly, about 10 years ago, they discovered the miracle drugs called antiretrovirals.

and now, more than 25 years since the beginning of this epidemic, more than 25 million people worldwide have died of aids – it is the second most deadly epidemic this world has ever seen, second only to the plague. in spite of everything, the numbers keep rising year after year, faster and faster.

so why is it not still part of our everyday awareness?

the answer to that is that in most western countries, people have largely stopped dying. thanks to antiretrovirals, most people today can manage their hiv infection as a chronic illness, not a death sentence.

and we all got on with thinking about other things, like terrorism and global warming.

yet today, there are more than 33 million people infected with hiv, more than ever before. but nearly 70% of people infected with hiv, and 75% of people dying of aids live in sub-saharan africa – the world’s poorest region.

sub-saharan africa makes up only 11% of the world population, but bears the overwhelming majority of infections and deaths. eight countries in this region have hiv infection rates between 15-25%. that’s one in four people. imagine if that were happening in america or europe today?

the aids epidemic we westerners were all able to put out of our minds, has not gone away. in fact, it’s more devastating than ever, with whole generations being affected – it’s just changed location to somewhere we don’t see, and don’t often think about. once again, this disease has shown its penchant for opportunism – preying on the poorest and most vulnerable.

and to an even greater extent, it’s preying upon women and children. *more than 60% of people living with hiv in this region are women.*

and only 9% of pregnant hiv-positive women get the antiretrovirals that can save their babies – because if born with hiv, most of these babies will not live to see their second birthday.

yet every minute of every day, a baby is born with hiv. how do we prevent this?

(more to come in further postings…)

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putting (your) money where my mouth is

by Jen at 3:23 pm on 24.07.2008 | 4 Comments
filed under: born free campaign, this sporting life

those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that the hiv/aids epidemic is a cause near and dear to my heart.

and you’ll also know that i’m a long-time runner.

so this coming october, i’ll be combining the two and running the royal parks half marathon, on behalf of unicef’s “born free” campaign working to prevent mother-to-child transmission of hiv in poorer countries.

i’m pretty nervous – not about the running, but about the fundraising! having completed 3 marathons previously, i’ll be challenged to stretch myself in other ways for this cause. this comes from a girl who was kicked out of the local brownies troop at a young age for my inability to sell girl scout cookies, mind you.

so i’m turning to you, dear internets. i’ll be using this blog regularly between now and 12 october to speak out on why this issue is so incredibly important, and i’ll be asking for support in the form of donations/links to my justgiving page/encouragement.

please help any way you can.