Women

Joanie, a woman from Linden, Guyana who is mentally ill, was diagnosed HIV positive in 2005. Her mental illness prevented her from accessing health services and support. Her HIV remained untreated. She rejected the attempts of relatives and friends to assist her, and spent most of the day on the bank of the nearby Demerara River, refusing to wear clothes.

Three decades ago, life in the lakeside village of Zambo was calm.

"Leading a community to become healthy is not just a male thing," says Águida Curo Vican, president of the Local Development Committee of Tutumbaru in Peru’s Ayacucho region.

A couple from Malawi receives counseling from a Community-Based Distribution Agent (CBDA)

In Kasungu District, Malawi, trained Community-Based Distribution Agents (CBDAs) gather for their final and perhaps most challenging training: couples counseling.

With HIV, couples often do not freely discuss issues and concerns. “Where communication has been a problem for couples, CBDAs in underserved areas will help in risk reduction,” explains Jane Ngwira, MSH’s Kasungu District Coordinator.

Lucia Afiki and Esther Goodson are living positively with HIV. They are counselors for family planning and HIV & AIDS at Salima District Hospital in Malawi, where they openly tell their clients that they are HIV-positive. “When we are open with them about our status,” says Afiki, “people say, ‘Come closer, we want to learn from you.’” Goodson adds: “They say, ‘What should I do to look as good as you?’” The counselors tell them to visit a doctor and join a support group. This is an approach that saves lives. It also transforms social norms about health and gender.

Fatima preparing bean cakes for her business, Nigeria

 

HIV-positive women in Nigeria are the primary caregivers for their own families and other people living with HIV. This disproportionately high burden of care has detrimental effects not only on their health but also on their economic well-being.

The MSH-led, USAID-funded, Prevention Organization Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) project in Nigeria has helped establish HIV support groups whose participants are 80 percent women. These groups have started providing income-generating opportunities for participants through savings and loan associations, registered with the Nigerian State Ministry of Commerce and Cooperative Societies.

Mary Umoh, colleague and friend -- and one of the winners of an internal MSH abstract contest for staff -- traveled from Nigeria to Rome to present her poster at the 6th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011).

The community midwife sitting with Suzanna Ile and her son, Modi, in South Sudan. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Blog post updated Dec. 27, 2011.

Suzanna Ile is a 26-year old woman from Lokiliri Payam in South Sudan. Suzanna lost her first two babies in child birth. During her third pregnancy, a community midwife at Lokiliri Primary Healthcare Centre -- a health facility supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the MSH-led Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II) -- recognized Suzanna’s contracted pelvis and identified her high risk pregnancy.

Without access to emergency services and a health facility capable of performing a Caesarean section, the midwife knew Suzanna would likely lose her third child as well. A contracted pelvis often results in obstructed labor, fistulas, postpartum hemorrhage, or the death of the infant and mother. The midwife discussed with Suzanna alternative delivery options during an antenatal care visit.

Over the course of the past ten days, I have been fortunate to visit the Central, Eastern, and Western Regions of Uganda.  As part of these visits, I have traveled through and spent time in many of the districts in these regions. It is during these drives through the countryside that I have noticed the campaigns for family planning services over and over again. Though it is possible my eye is fine tuned to notice these signs, as I am here supporting STRIDES for Family Health (a MSH-led, USAID funded family planning, reproductive health, and child and maternal health project), it would be hard for anyone to miss the cheerful rainbows that are posted on signs outside many of the health centers and hospitals indicating that family planning services are provided in that facility.

Signs promoting available family planning services in Uganda, March 2011.

 

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