Friday, October 24, 2008

HIV Training for CHIPS

After having meetings with the health officials in the region where we are doing CHIPS (Children’s HIV Intervention Program in Swaziland), we have started training key people in the rural communities. We selected the teachers at the Christian Family Church primary school in Tambankulu and the teachers and workers at the neighborhood care points in Maphiveni and Lonhlupheko. We had 12 in attendance, and they all seemed excited and interested in what we had to say. The questions and discussions that we had were very good! We talked a lot about the stigma that surrounds HIV, especially in more rural areas. We discussed ways to minimize the stigma, as well as issues with confidentiality.

One major purpose of this training is to teach the teachers and other key people in the community how to identify children that are at high risk of being HIV positive. We talked about how HIV is affecting the children of Swaziland, and how without treatment, only 15% of Swaziland’s HIV positive children will be alive by the age of 10 years old. The importance of getting these children to testing and treatment was emphasized. The signs and symptoms that go along with being HIV positive were discussed in detail. Pictures of several different skin problems were shown to each table of trainees. Malnutrition was also discussed, as well as the importance of good nutrition in children who are HIV positive and on ART’s (antiretroviral therapy).

The higher the viral load of HIV in the body, the lower the CD4 (soldier cells) count is. When the soldier cells are attacked by the virus, the body becomes more susceptible to infections and opportunistic diseases, such as TB. When a person is started on ART’s, the viral load decreases, as the CD4 increases, and they are able to fight off infections.

Jabulani, who we hired to be the HIV counselor and driver for the CHIPS program is now in training for 5 weeks with one of the local HIV counseling and testing companies. We now have our mini-van, and will be ready to start the program when Jabulani finishes training at the end of November. Daran is working on getting the mini-van insured and ready to go. Please keep this program in your prayers, as we go forward to minister to the needs of the HIV positive children in Swaziland.

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