April 5, 2017
Written by Team EGPAF
This article originally appeared on Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Reposted with permission.
World Health Worker Week is an opportunity to mobilize communities, partners, and policy makers in support of health workers in your community and around the world. It is a time to celebrate the amazing work that they do and it is a time to raise awareness to the challenges they face every day. Without them, there would be no health care for millions of families in the developing world.
It is also important to acknowledge the critical workforce shortages that exist around the world, particularly in Africa where it is estimated that one million additional health workers are needed to meet the continent’s needs. Below are stories of passionate and dedicated health workers who are committed to ending pediatric HIV/AIDS.
Catherine Sie Akoua Kouassi, Community Linkage Advisor, has been working with EGAPF in Cote d’Ivoire since 2006. She has been at the forefront of the epidemic in her country well before her employment with EGPAF. Cathy has tirelessly demonstrated her passion for ending AIDS and is well respected in the field by her peers. She has been a strong advocate, designer and supporter of Cote d’Ivoire’s community strategies efforts. Cathy tested HIV-positive in November 1998.
Emma Dzonzi Nyirenda is an HIV-positive peer educator in rural Malawi. She has been trained to counsel other women about prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) and has formed a support group for people living with HIV in her village.
Immaculate Akinyi Onditi, an HIV-positive mother of three HIV-free children refuses to be stigmatized by the disease — choosing instead to inspire others.
Loness Kadaya and Victoria Bliati are HIV-positive. They both volunteer at Ntcheu District Hospital, located in the Central Region of Malawi, as Expert Clients, a position at health facilities designed for openly HIV-positive leaders in the community. When explaining what her position entails, Loness answers, “As Expert Clients our main task is to follow-up and encourage fellow clients to make sure they are retained on care.”
Elise Ngabouloup, the head nurse of the neonatal unit at the Chantal Biya Foundation Mother and Child Center in Youndé, Cameroon, has a close relationship with her patients. Many of the infants arrive weighing two pounds or less and remain with her for as long as two months as they grow healthy. Mothers stay with their babies for this entire period, sleeping in a dormitory integrated into the unit. This hospital is a godsend for low-income families in this sprawling capital city.
Tina Louise Dassé has been working as a community counselor since 2009 for Femmes Active, a local organization that works with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) at General Hospital of Koumassi in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s, Project Djidja. Louise has seen patients of all ages, social statuses, and genders—women, children, men, families, young, old—pass through the HIV testing and counseling services she provides.
Stephen Koitumet, the HIV community facilitator who works with the local health center, who has arrived by motorbike. Koitumet was assigned to the Aitong Health Center two years ago through the Pamoja Project. He is a lifeline to the villages surrounding the Aitong Health Center, about 9,200 people.
To reach the target of diagnosing all (or at least 90% of) people living with HIV, Malawi is scaling up provider-initiated testing and counseling. In order to meet facilities’ needs for more staff dedicated to HIV testing and treatment services, Malawi organized a small group of lay citizens to be trained as HIV diagnostic assistants to focus on identification of people living with HIV, and linkages to care and treatment.
Julius is a HIV testing counselor whose job entails linking people who test positive for HIV, to treatment. Through counseling, he helps patients who suffer from shock and denial after learning their HIV status to better understand the benefits of treatment and starting anti-retroviral therapy.
Margaret Awong’o lives in Lochorekaal, a village of about 20 families in northwest Kenya, not far from the South Sudan border. Margaret is the village’s traditional birth attendant; a position that holds much respect. Margaret serves as a lifeline between her village and the health center.
Aurelie Panzu, a field supervisor for EGPAF-DRC, contracted HIV when she was working as intern after completing her studies in nursing. She inadvertently pricked herself with a needle she had used to inject an HIV-positive patient. Auerlie continues her work with HIV infected individuals.
Esther is an HIV testing counselor and Anna is a linkage officer. Communities in Turkana, Kenya face many public health challenges as a result of food scarcity, distance from health facilities, and the nomadic culture. Through the Pamoja Project EGPAF has focused on overcoming these challenges by adding HIV services to local health centers, training peer counselors within communities, and initiating community-based testing and counseling by health workers like Esther and Anna.