December 1, 2009

by Jenny Dyer, Ph.D.

Last night, Senator Frist spoke at Vanderbilt University's Student Life Center to over 250 friends, students, faculty, and guests in honor of World AIDS Day. The title of the talk: "Celebrating Life, Mourning Death: Continuing the Fight against Global AIDS" focused on where we've come from and where we're going, especially in terms of policy. Recounting his personal experiences in Africa with the AIDS pandemic and how he was able to use those experiences to shape and inform President Bush's decision to move forward to commit historic funding to fight a single virus, the Senator relayed the beginning of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003.
I have now transitioned to working with the physicians. Each physician is responsible for admitted patients on one of the floors and seeing patients in the outpatient consultation area. This change has been eye-opening.

Each morning starts at 7:00 with prayers, singing, and a short sermon. Watching my colleges sing and dance is an incredible way to start the day. By 7:30 we start rounds. There are usually about 40 patients to see and it has to be finished by 9:30 when the outpatient consulting begins.
Everyone in Xela is getting geared up for Christmas and consequently the patient load throughout the clinic is winding down. This week marks the last week of women's group meetings for the year. They will start again in January. I lead the closing project with the Tierra Colorada Baja group today. We made fertility necklaces out of brown, black, cream and red wooden beads. The placement of the different colors on the necklace indicate when the woman is most fertile and can be used either for family planning or to help conceive. The project was a big hit, but most importantly it sparked some interesting conversation and important questions.
Belmont University hosted an event today with Senator Bob Corker announcing his co-sponsorship of the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009. Joining Senator Corker included water activists Dan Haseltine and Jars of Clay with Blood: Water Mission, Dave Barnes with Mocha Club, and Bill Hearns of EMI for Healing Water International.
Nyamata, Rwanda: Today

Although the Rwandan genocide occurred fifteen years ago, I see its impacts everyday in the hospital. The region I live in was an area of great violence. There is a memorial site here in Nyamata were 10,000 people crammed into a small church seeking refuge, only to be killed. It is hard to believe that the reserved, kind spirited people I know went through such a horrible event.
To be a practitioner in Guatemala, one needs to find harmony between western and traditional medicine. I had never thought about or tried natural herbal medicine before coming to Guatemala. Though I still don't usually recommend it to my patients, I have begun exploring the natural remedies so that I can hopefully help my patients to navigate their own health. The women's program teaches patients that if their symptoms do not improve after two days of at home treatment with herbal remedies, they need to go to the doctor for medication.
FROM Kaiser Family Foundation: The Foundation has issued its latest global health survey, Views on the U.S. Role in Global Health Update, which probes American public opinion about efforts by the United States to improve the health of people in developing nations. According to the poll findings, most Americans support current U.S. spending to improve health conditions in poorer nations despite the economic recession. Two thirds of the public supports maintaining (32%) or increasing (34%) spending on global health, while a quarter say the country is spending too much. More of the public prefers an emphasis on health infrastructure rather than fighting specific diseases. When asked to rank the importance of the two approaches, 58 percent say it is more important to emphasize programs that help countries build their health system infrastructure, under the theory that stronger health systems can better handle a variety of problems. In contrast, 36 percent say it is more important to emphasize efforts to fight specific diseases like AIDS and malaria because efficient methods for treating such diseases already exist and can save large numbers of lives. All the survey materials are available online.

This is interesting and great news given our economic climate that the majority of Americans still care deeply about helping those with the fewest resources worldwide. I find intriguing that the American public has marched forward from embracing the issues of HIV/AIDS and the global pandemic, or malaria and the need for bednets, to realizing the need for health systems, working together, to build infrastructure for smart, efficient use of assistance. Health systems and health infrastructure are far from sexy topics, but that is what is needed and needed now.

by Bill Frist, M.D.

A couple weeks back, the Living Proof Project was unveiled in Washington, D.C. by Bill and Melinda Gates. The goal of this great project is to share the good news of the implementation of assistance. U.S. investments in improving global health are delivering real results. From significant declines in child deaths, to global eradication efforts against polio, to insecticide-treated bed nets that reduce malaria transmission, global health initiatives are working. At http://www.gatesfoundation.org/livingproofproject you can learn more from their progress sheets. Watch the speeches of these "Impatient Optimists."  I have the pleasure of serving on the Advisory Council.
 
The video below was shown yesterday at a Save the Children Survive to Five Council meeting in NYC. This is a great example of real results, combating infant mortality. Saving the life of a little one.

 

The end of October marked the end of my first quarter here at Africare and the start of the second quarter seems to have brought with it all types of change. In the office we are currently in the midst of several big changes, the biggest being the addition of a new CDC funded home-based care project. Africare will work with some small Civil Service Organizations and existing community structures to provide home-based care for people living with HIV/AIDS. The start up of this project has required a lot of time and energy, including interviewing for about 20 new positions. With between five and ten candidates being interviewed for each position, you can imagine that this has been a very time consuming process. Everyone from the Country Representative, to the program's Chief of Party, to the junior staff has been pitching in to assist in the interviewing process. I've been working very closely with the Human Resources Officer to test the candidates' practical skills, compile summaries of interview results, and create briefings of panel recommendations to be reviewed and approved by the Country Representative and our headquarters in Washington, D.C. I even had the opportunity to sit on the interview panel for a few of the positions and it was quite a different experience being the interviewer instead of the interviewee. One of the new staff that has been hired is the new Program Assistant, Gloria.

by Bill Frist, M.D.

Yesterday morning, I had the honor of speaking at both services at Christ Church in Nashville. Over 5000 people attended. The services were dedicated to the doctors and nurses in the community, recognizing all health care workers for their healing care. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the work of Hope Through Healing Hands at home and abroad. As you know, HTHH's selects Global Health Leaders, annually, to travel to underserved clinics around the world to bolster health care and training of community health workers for sustainability. Right now, we have Leaders in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and Guatemala. We are proud to support their efforts, using health as a currency for peace. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."

Thanks to all at Christ Church for the warm welcome.

 

 

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