Archive for the ‘HIV/AIDS’ Category

Co-founder of Project Medishare and a physician at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Dr. Arthur Fournier was among the first doctors to treat patients with AIDS and to recognize the socioeconomic forces driving the epidemic. In The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-year Journey into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti, Dr. Fournier offers his memoir regarding his dedication in battling the AIDS epidemic in Haiti and how he, along with dedicated colleagues, founded Project Medishare for Haiti, Inc.

This book does more than chronicle the story of a horrible disease, it also tells the history of how Project Medishare began serving the people of Haiti. The Zombie Curse would make a great gift this holiday season!

“Fournier sends out a cry from the front lines about the overwhelming role poverty plays in the spread of AIDS. His awakening came in the early 1980s when, as a faculty physician at the University of Miami Medical School, he saw AIDS spreading through the city’s Haitian population. He tells stories of patients—men, women and children—with clear signs of AIDS (believed at that time to be a disease of gay men and drug users) and how they were stigmatized by medical personnel. The author became completely committed to understanding this illness, and with supportive colleagues he traveled many times to Haiti and co-founded Project Medishare, devoted to improving Haiti’s health-care system. He was especially successful in the town of Thomonde, establishing an initiative to train physicians and nurses. Fournier offers brutal descriptions of the poverty that fuels AIDS in Haiti, a country where malnutrition reigns, young women are forced into prostitution and orphanages abound.”

—Publisher’s Weekly

This book would make a great gift to anyone who has volunteered with Project Medishare or anyone who is interested in the organization’s efforts in Haiti. The hardcover book can be purchased for $27.95 or order an autographed copy for $50.

All proceeds from each book purchased through Project Medishare’s online store will go to benefit Project Medishare’s efforts to improve the healthcare infrastructure in Haiti. Click here to order your online copy today!

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By David Serota

Today was our first proper heath fair, in the impossibly remote town of Baille Tourrible, and it was a day I will remember forever.

After a hearty breakfast of mais Moulin we packed into trucks and traversed a 2.5 hour mountain road to the health fair location. I did not know cars existed that could drive over such extremely rocky, steep terrain. With sore necks and stiff legs we were greeted in the beautifully quaint Baille Tourrible by hundreds of people waiting patiently in an organized line to be registered by the Health Agents. I was consistently impressed with the patience and cheerfulness of the patients, most of whom had waited months and traveled hours by foot for a meager few minutes to state their case in front of a doctor.

After a day where we saw over 200 patients in less than six hours, I cannot stress enough the incredible compassion, dedication, and understanding of the doctors and medical students for each and every person they interacted with. With just a few minutes before we had to pack up and get home before sundown, a very beautiful and young woman came up to Dr. Augustin and I at the adult medicine station. Her main complaint was fever but our first observation was a large pregnant-looking belly. When questioned, she replied that she was not pregnant and had gotten her last period a few weeks before. Upon interacting with her for just a minute, we noticed something different in her than any other patient today. No matter how ill all of our other patients were, they all beamed with life, energy, and smiles. This woman was completely emotionally flat and undeniably depressed. She could not open her mouth very far, but shining a light in, we saw thrush on her tongue, a strong indicator of HIV infection that has already progressed to AIDS. While most patients were content with being told a diagnosis and given a treatment plan, it was clear that this patient would walk away neither happy nor cured.

Her depression was not unfounded. Haitians know as well as physicians that oral thrush strongly suggests HIV infection, and infected patients are highly stigmatized. While this was surely the saddest case I saw today, the attentiveness and care provided by Dr. Augustin was equally inspiring. He took her aside and inquired more about whether or not she was sexually active, also asking again if she was pregnant (which seemed likely). He spoke to her as an equal, never speaking down to her like many of the physicians I’ve seen in the US.

This was a patient that we could not cure, and that we could not even prescribe medicine to, but the doctor still took the time, under an immense time-crunch, to listen to her. I learned that even in a situation where we want to identify problems and administer fixes as fast as possible, it is perhaps even more important that we provide an ear to listen to problems that nobody else will listen to. Even though we didn’t permanently fix many of the problems we saw today, we gave people the confidence and assurance that their problems were important and that they could live a productive, happy life.

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By Jennifer Browning

For World AIDS Day today, Project Medishare will have a memorial in remembrance of those who have succumbed to the disease. The memorial will take place in Casse/Lahoye. Following the memorial, four small group sessions will be held in four densely populated areas. This afternoon various youth groups will perform presentations involving theater and dance. The youth presentations will focus on the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS, as well as abstinence and faithfulness. Education materials will be distributed throughout the day.

Last year during World AIDS Day, Project Medishare received a $1.25 million grant through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The award, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention activities, is part of a $4.8 million grant to Cross International, a South Florida-based interdenominational Christian humanitarian agency.
Project Medishare, as part of the PEPFAR program, has enrolled 250 children from all regions of LaHoye. The children receive health services, psychosocial support, birth certificates to orphans and vulnerable children, as well as training for caregivers on parenting, health and other topics. In addition to providing these services, through the PEPFAR grant, Project Medishare provides financial support for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in order to help them start micro enterprise and other income generating activities.

Thus far, we have provided 49 children with primary school tuition and 34 children with birth certificates. Thanks to the PEPFAR program, 10 individuals have publicly declared their HIV positive status. In response to this, Project Medishare has started a PLWHA support group with these individuals which is slowly growing to more members.

In order to provide education regarding HIV/AIDS, Project Medishare hired and trained 16 peer educators to educate and mobilize the local youth. In addition, 10 health promoters from various locations in LaHoye have been trained to educate, mobilize community members as well as elected officials in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

**This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Cross International and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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By Jennifer Browning

The Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (GHESKIO) was featured in the August 20 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine where follow-up data was released regarding the detailed outcomes of GHESKIO patients after five years of receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

Prior to using ART in Haiti (2003), 90 percent of AIDS patients died in less than a year and all were dead at the end of two years. The article reports finding that patients followed after receiving ART had a 90 percent survival rate after one year and a 79 percent survival rate after five years. The findings outcomes are comparable to the most advance hospitals in the United States.

GHESKIO physicians began there battle with AIDS in Haiti in the late 1970s.

“GEHSKIO physicians would not have dreamed that this day would have been possible less than thirty years from the days when the disease was barely defined, let alone thought survivable,” Projects Administrator Sandra Camille, Projects Administrator at GHESKIO said. “We are grateful to all partners, colleagues, and supporters and continuing our work together towards the realization of an HIV/AIDS free Haiti.”

Click here to read the 5-Year Survival of Patients with AIDS Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy in Haiti. (August 20, 2009)

Click here to read the Antiretroviral Therapy in a Thousand Patients with AIDS in Haiti. (December 1, 2005)

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By Jennifer Browning

While recent reports from the Associated Press explain how Haiti is finding ways to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS, there is still concern that the current economic crisis could hinder the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Media Global’s Amy Lieberman reported that nations in East and Southern Africa are beginning to feel the impact of fallen export trade markets and donor lending systems.

“The Global Economic Crisis and HIV Prevention and Treatment Programmes: Vulnerability and Impact,” a report from UNAIDS, , the United Nations program addressing the disease, and the World Bank reports 22 of the 71 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and the Asia-Pacific expect to witness a disruption of HIV prevention and treatment programs over the next year.

While there has been progress regarding the provisions of drugs and HIV-related deaths are decreasing, the current economic crisis could slow down this progress according to René Bonnel, a World Bank specialist on HIV/AIDS and the economy.

The official rate of infection in Haiti today is 2.2 percent among people ages 15 to 49, according to UNAIDS. While this is still far higher than in the developed world, it’s lower than the Bahamas, Guyana and Suriname, and much lower than sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate averages about 5 percent. That number increases to 24 percent in Botswana and 33 percent in Swaziland.

In December, Project Medishare received a grant through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and are currently continuing programs in the central plateau in regards to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education.

Read the full MediaGlobal article here.

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By Leo Moore

SAVANNE PERDU, Haiti—As a third year medical student at the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), my interests lie primarily in combining clinical practice and public health research in the fight against HIV/AIDS. HIV is currently a major killer in the African-American population in America as well as among the Haitian people. Although I was aware of this before arriving in Haiti, never did I imagine that I would actually have to diagnose a patient here.

Today, a 27-year-old woman arrived in the clinic complaining of loss of appetite, diarrhea, and weight loss over the past year. During her history, she admitted to having unprotected sex with multiple partners. On physical examination, I also noticed muscle wasting. These were classic signs of a patient with HIV. Project Medishare Program Coordinator Gabriele Denis and I decided to test the patient for HIV. Upon testing her for HIV, her test revealed a positive HIV status.

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By Jennifer Browning

For a country that was unscientifically stigmatized in the early 80’s as a breeding ground for the AIDS virus, Haiti is coming out on top regarding HIV infection rates.

According to UNAIDS, infection rates in Haiti dropped from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent among expectant mothers in the last 15 years. Today researchers are testing all adults, putting Haiti’s official rate at 2.2 percent.

Two organizations receiving much of the credit are Boston’s Partners in Health and Port-au-Prince’s GHESKIO, widely considered to be the world’s oldest AIDS clinic.

Haiti’s success in the fight against AIDS has been attributed to education, coordinated use of AIDS drugs as well as behavioral changes including increased condom.

In December, Project Medishare received a $1.25 million grant through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The award, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention activities, is part of a $4.8 million grant to Cross International, a South Florida-based interdenominational Christian humanitarian agency.

The grant’s goal is to encourage faith-based and local organizations to partner with the U.S. government’s global AIDS initiative. Cross International is working with Project Medishare and four mission partners to begin a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness and care program targeting teens, AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. The three-year project will reach an estimated 5,000 orphans and vulnerable children, providing them with care and medical services. Project Medishare will focus its work on one of Haiti’s poorest regions, the central plateau.

Read Jonathan Katz’s article regarding Haiti’s plummeting HIV/AIDS infection rate here.

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