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Los Altos Rotary in Liberia: A Diary

Patch brings you Rotarians Rich Casey and Allan Varni, who left over the weekend for Liberia, and is conducting AIDS prevention training, part of the Los Altos Rotary AIDS project has now has an ambitious prevention program.

Editor's Note: Rich Casey and Allan Varni of the Rotary Club of Los Altos are in Liberia this week with a group of six other healthcare professionals to train 50 Liberians in techniques to prevent the transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their newborn infants.

Los Altos Patch is reprinting the Child AIDS Prevention Project Facebook Page entries from the trip as a way to let more people know about the work Los Altos Rotary is doing, 22 years after the AIDS Project got its unlikely start. Casey spoke with Robin Young, host of Here & Now, on WBUR in November that journey launched by Rotarian Dude Angius all the way to today with the Child AIDS Prevention Project.

Here's a description of the program, according to Los Altos Rotary, and a dispatch from Day 1:

The weeklong workshop, is taking place at St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in Monrovia, and is being funded primarily under grants from Rotary District 5170 and The Rotary Foundation. 

Africa has over 65 percent of the world’s HIV burden, but only 1.3 percent of the world’s healthcare workers. Over 22.5 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS, 2/3 of whom are women. HIV is transmitted to their children before and during birth and through breastfeeding.

This project will training doctors, nurses and home-based health workers, who will then train other employees of their clinics to ensure the continuing supply of crucial health care professionals and volunteers. The Rotary Club of Sinkor, Liberia will collect the data and assess the program’s effectiveness.

With them are: Shaila Saif, pharmacologist and member of Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project, Arthur Ammann, M.D., retired University of California-San Francisco professor of Pediatrics and Immunology, Founder of Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, Cindy McWhorter, International Director of Global Strategies, Sloane Drake, Office Manager of Global Strategies, Haynes Chip Sheppard, Ph.D., Consultant, Global Solutions for Infectious Disease, Susa Coffey, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor, UCSF.

On the Liberian side are Lily Sanvee, M.D. Medical Director of St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in Monrovia; Mark Corden, M.D., Pediatrician, Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, President Elizabeth Mulbah and members of the Rotary Club of Sinkor, Liberia which is the “Host Country Sponsor.”

These Rotarians will also be trained in the importance of HIV prevention, reduction of stigma, and provision of home-based care. They will assist with the distribution of nutritional supplements to malnourished HIV infected women and children, and will assist in providing transportation of individuals to public health clinics. They are responsible for logistics at the week-long workshop.

Attendees at the workshop will be 50 healthcare professionals from three public health clinics in and around Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

The team will train Liberian healthcare staff to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to children. The Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project initiated this project in 2008 in collaboration with Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, which already had Child AIDS Prevention efforts underway in Liberia.

The project was formally launched in October 2009 with a symposium in Palo Alto, involving three major figures in HIV/AIDS research and advocacy: Ambassador Stephen Lewis (AIDS-Free World), Dr. Paul Volberding (UCSF AIDS researcher) and Dr. Arthur Ammann, retired UCSF professor of Pediatrics and Immunology.

Sunday, Arrival in Liberia:

Report from Allan Varni in Liberia: Had several overweight bags, but thanks to Delta no charge!

We all met at in Atlanta to meet with the others and a team of engineers that know Art and GS. They will be upgrading the hospital's generators and power grid.

Boarded our flight from Atlanta on time, then off to Accra, Gana for refueling and to take on passengers and packages. Then, a 90 mln flightback to Monrovia.

Were met at the airport by Dr. Sanvee then off in hospital vans to hospital. Unloaded the training supplies, partially set up the computer lab then off to the hotel where some of us are staying. 

The workshop starts at 8am Monday with an expected 60+ participants. Not sure how they plan to vet everyone, but cannot handle that many. Will figure it out by start tomorrow.

Marginal Internet here at the hotel, but will try for a few pics tomorrow evening.

Will try to pick up a phone chip, Mon, but may be a pretty full day!

 

Los Altos and Global Strategies Vocational Training, Day 1 (Monday, Jan. 30):


The Liberian, Ministry Health, officially opened first day of the training. The morning was spent hearing from several government groups and support organizations about the latest information on the Liberian National Strategy to address HIV.

In the afternoon participants were placed into smaller breakout groups to further discuss plans to address HIV, and to participate in a pilot computer-training lab. The goal of the lab is to assess the feasibility of using computer-based learning to provide current information and strategies on the diagnosis and treatment of HIV. – Allan Varni

The Liberian, Ministry Health, officially opened first day of the training. The morning was spent hearing from several government groups and support organizations about the latest information on the Liberian National Strategy to address HIV.

In the afternoon participants were placed into smaller breakout groups to further discuss plans to address HIV, and to participate in a pilot computer-training lab. The goal of the lab is to assess the feasibility of using computer-based learning to provide current information and strategies on the diagnosis and treatment of HIV.

– Allan Varni

Additional Background: Morning lectures will be delivered by Drs. Ammann, Corden and Sheppard. Afternoon session swill be a combination of panel discussions, small group break-out sessions and computer-based HIV/AIDS training. The computer-based training sessions will be examined for their effectiveness as a method for teaching about HIV/AIDS in Liberia. Feedback collected will be used to design future training material and computer-based teaching methods.

FUNDING: Rotary District 5170 (located between San Juan Bautista and Oakland east of SF Bay and between Santa Cruz and Palo Alto west of SF Bay), The Rotary Foundation, Los Altos Rotary EndowmentFund, Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project, various Rotary clubs and individuals have all contributed. Five computers and 100 USB flash drives loaded with HIV training courses have been purchased for delivery to Liberian healthcare attendees. 3,000 HIV rapid tests and antiretroviral drugs have also been purchased for use within 12 months by Liberian healthcare workers. In addition, the team will take soccer balls donated by Off the Wall Soccer for distribution to children in Liberia.

 

After the trainings, computers purchased with grants money will be donated to the Sister Patern College of Health Sciences in Monrovia to use in training health workers at the school, which is the foremost institute of health training in Liberia
Goals: 50 healthcare workers will be trained to counsel, test and treat HIV infected women.

News and photos of this workshop is posted on Twitter @LosAltosRotary and on the Child AIDS Prevention Facebook page. 

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