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Through SOTENI's innovative and effective AIDS Barefoot Doctors (ABD) program, community members can become leaders in the fight against the disease. ABDs are not physicians, but community health workers who provide home-based care and group therapy and education to people living with HIV/AIDS.
ABDs become partners in preventing their own generation from succumbing to AIDS. They support SOTENI's focus on epidemiology—the science of prevention—by educating others, and they care for those who are HIV-positive.
History of ABD
In early 2006, the first cadres of ABDs began providing home-based care, support, and disease-prevention messages to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and members of their households in SOTENI Village of Hope (SVH) Mituntu and SVH–Mbakalo. SOTENI's ABD program then expanded to a third Village of Hope, Ugunja, in 2010. To become ABDs, trainees receive education in first aid, elementary primary care, household hygiene, community public health, HIV prevention, referrals to local healthcare providers, programmatic reporting, and business practices. The trainees include orphans and PLWHA.
In April 2008, SOTENI International received a grant from the M.A.C. AIDS Fund to restart the ABD program in SVH–Mituntu and SVH–Mbakalo. The funding covered six ABDs for each SVH for one year. Nine of the original 24 were retrained and three new ABDs were recruited. From July 2008 to June 2009, the 12 ABDs made 4,755 home visits and conducted approximately 370 group education sessions.
The M.A.C. AIDS Fund again supported SOTENI's ABD program through the end of 2009 in SVH–Mituntu and SVH–Mbakalo. From June to November 2009, ABDs made 2,056 home visits to 123 PLWHA, and conducted home programs and forums that reached 2,826 people. Henry Mwami, an ABD in SVH–Mbakalo, reports that the program has "created a new sense of confidence in the PLWHA and the community."
From April 2008 to November 2009, 12 ABDs made a total of 5,347 home visits to 127 PLWHA. The ABDs also conducted 328 education sessions to schools and community groups that aimed to change perceptions of HIV/AIDS and end risky personal behaviors that foster the disease. The African Medical and Research Foundation and the Kenyan National AIDS Control Council are funding ABD programs in 2010-2011.
SOTENI acquired three important grants that are facilitating the ABDs' work:
In SVH–Ugunja, the ABDs started in early 2010. After bringing the community on board and undergoing training, these paid health workers provided services to 50 PLWHAs. They then trained 50 family members to provide care for a HIV positive family member. In conjunction with the above, they trained the clients and caregivers on kitchen gardens.
SOTENI Kenya received a grant of sixteen thousand British pounds from Positive Action Children Fund for Community-led HIV/AIDS Prevention Project (CHAPP) in SVH-Ugunja, Nyanza Province of Kenya. CHAPP is a one year project that commenced in September 2011.
The project target area has one of the highest prevalence rates in the country, estimatedat 24% (Siaya District Development Plan 2008-2010). Mothers on antenatal care (ANC) are estimated at 35%. At the time of birth, many children are exposed to HIV infection. Infections occur during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. If a mother takes antiretroviral (ARVs) during pregnancy, it reduces the chances of transmission. These compelling epidemiologic indicators make it necessary to develop a referral framework with health facilities that is necessary in expanding access to PMTCT services and lowering the new infections. Also, deep seated cultural beliefs promote new infections, and militate against meaningful bargaining for safer sex for women. The CHAPP Project will focus on -
1. Increased awareness among women of reproductive age about transmission, counseling and testing (CT), PMTCT, HIV/ARV and reproductive health/family planning services.
2. Increased usage of CT services. While many people are worried about contracting HIV/AIDS, they may understand that certain behaviors put them at risk for contracting HIV. HIV testing can be an important part of prevention efforts.
3. Establishing an infrastructure among women in Ugunja that will coordinate and work with SOTENI's ABDs and local health professionals with the aim of increasing referrals to health facilities for ANC.