Providing patients with easy access to HIV care
In 2009 the GAIA Vaccine Foundation accomplished something extraordinary – we received permission from the Malian national AIDS agencies (the HCNLS – Haut Conseil National pour la Lutte contre le Sida, CSLS – Cellule Sectorielle de la Lutte contre le Sida and the DRS – Direction Régionale de la Santé) to establish the first HIV care TB/HIV outreach program in the village clinic which was built in Sikoro in 2008. We are now able to treat HIV+ patients on site rather than having to refer them to the hospital for ARV medication.
The Hope Center Clinic is the first village-level HIV clinic to offer free HIV care in Mali, and has become a model for the “decentralization” of HIV care for the rest of West Africa. With our program now in place, we are on track to serve 600 to 1,000 patients, almost five times as many patients in need over last year! Because of our work, West African doctors and policy makers have been inspired to expand their efforts to offer more HIV treatment at the village level. Such local treatment has proven to be one of the best means of preventing AIDS transmission now, while we wait for the vaccine to be developed.
One patient, One story
Morry is a man who came to Hope Center Clinic for the first time the day before of our opening on June 21, 2008. We were going out as he was coming in, but he was emaciated and looked so ill that we had to stop and ask about him. He was a new patient who had recently heard about the Clinic. He had also heard that we distribute food each Friday to HIV positive patients, so he was coming for a meal.
On that day in June of 2008, Morry appeared on the brink of death, but as of today, while he is still very thin, his weight, his health, and his life have greatly improved. Here is his story:
When Morry came to the Clinic for food, he told us that he had been diagnosed with HIV, and that he was really really sick, and rapidly losing weight. We immediately brought him to see the Clinic HIV physician who started Morry on HIV medication. When Morry found out that it was HIV causing him to lose weight, he shared that information with his nephew who had been taking care of him. Unfortunately, due to his own fear of HIV, Morry’s nephew immediately turned him out on the street. Morry was homeless, had no source of income, and was too weak to work. The Clinic staff offered Morry a sum of money to help meet his immediate needs, and fed him again that day.
From that time on, Morry has been a patient at the Hope Center Clinic. Initially, even after Clinic doctors put him on a course of HIV treatment, he kept losing weight. After further examination, Morry tested positive for TB, so the Clinic doctors started him on TB medication as well. He has now been cleared of TB and has gained five pounds. Not bad! But improvement is still needed… Morry’s CD4 T cell count was approximatly 35 when he came entered the Clinic, and it has now improved. Overall, Morry is doing so much better now that it is hard to recognize him as the same person.
Morry is getting married again! We, of course, have to counsel him to tell his wife about his medical status. He’s afraid – even terrified – that she too will abandon him as his nephew had done, because of his HIV. The Clinic staff has reached out to Morry, and we anticipate that his wife will stay by his side and will not abandon him.
This is just one story of a life made enormously better, because the GAIA Vaccine Foundation was able to open a clinic in the village where Morry lives. There are many more stories from Clinic patients like him, each facing the challenge of HIV.
There’s a wonderful feeling at the Hope Center Clinic right now. We believe that getting people the care they need, will make all the difference in the world – it will lower HIV transmission rates, make people more aware of the epidemic, and help prevent babies and young kids from getting infected. Maybe there can be one corner of the world where we can beat back HIV and get it under control. This is hard work. This is good work. GAIA Vaccine Foundation is proud to be involved, to have done something to help stop HIV. Overcoming HIV is a monumental task, but we’re doing it right here in Sikoro, on our small patch of earth.