New Treatment Centers, Staff Training, and Referral System Strengthen HIV Care in Haiti

New Treatment Centers, Staff Training, and Referral System Strengthen HIV Care in Haiti

Several years ago, when she was first diagnosed with HIV, Marie Madelaine Thomas could not find the HIV treatment or counseling she needed to cope with her diagnosis. Without these services Marie Madelaine felt she could not live a normal life.

“HIV-positive people stay at home and hide themselves,” she said.

Marie Madelaine’s story is not unique in Haiti, which has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the Western Hemisphere at 1.8 percent. Among the 100,000 adults and 13,000 children living with HIV in Haiti, an estimated 60,000 individuals are in need of life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Until recently, AIDS was considered a death sentence in Haiti.

Launched in 2007, the PEPFAR- and USAID-funded Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haiti (SDSH) project has introduced HIV & AIDS prevention, care, and treatment services throughout Haiti, particularly in high-prevalence areas. Led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), the project introduced ART in 11 health centers and trained healthcare workers to treat and monitor patients on the drug regimen.

With SDSH’s assistance, health facilities have provided HIV testing and counseling to over 700,000 people and enrolled nearly 4,000 individuals on ART.

In collaboration with the Government of Haiti, SDSH has helped facilities develop and implement an efficient referral system that facilitates access to domestic violence services, legal assistance, psychological care, livelihood support, and educational opportunities for HIV-positive clients.

In May 2012, Marie Madelaine visited the new SDSH-supported ART clinic at Finca Hospital. She received a free HIV test and information on HIV prevention, care, and treatment. SDSH’s training also equipped the hospital staff to enroll her in ART and provide her with psychosocial support and counseling.

Now, with a better understanding of the virus and access to care and treatment, Marie Madelaine has the support she needs to live a healthy life.

Colin Gilmartin is a technical officer at MSH.