GHESKIO was founded in 1982 in response to the AIDS epidemic and is dedicated to service, research and training to combat HIV. GHESKIO is now the largest provider of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) services in the Caribbean. GHESKIO is the acronym for the Haitian Group for the Study for Kaposi’s Sarcome and Opportunistic Infections. The first cases of AIDS in Haiti were recognized by GHESKIO in 1982, and a comprehensive description of AIDS in a tropical resource poor setting was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The story of HIV/AIDS in Haiti has since been inseparable from that of GHESKIO. The GHESKIO program has been the major source of information on the evolving AIDS epidemic in Haiti and a partner with the government and other organizations in combating the epidemic for over thirty years.
GHESKIO has expanded its mission to include maternal and child health, family planning, adolescent health, sanitation, cancer screening, vaccinations, and vocational and microcredit programs for both its AIDS/TB patients and the local community. GHESKIO has a staff of over 400, and is centrally located in Port-au-Prince, with 80% of its effort dedicated to service and training and 20% to research. Despite ongoing political turmoil, economic conditions, frequent hurricanes, devastating earthquakes, and cholera epidemics, GHESKIO has never closed its doors and continues to provide care free of charge. In 2000, the Haitian government designated GHESKIO a “Public Utility”, a status reserved for institutions which are “essential to the welfare of the Haitian people”, such as the Haitian Red Cross. In 2010, GHESKIO was awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health for its outstanding contributions to the global health field.
Following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, GHESKIO set up a “tent city” to house over 7,000 refugees and provided them with shelter, security, food, clean water, health services and educational opportunities. Many of the refugees were from the neighboring City of God community and GHESKIO is now committed to providing health and social services to this community.
GHESKIO established a Community Health Division in 2010 to provide comprehensive services to residents of the City of God. The Community Health Division provides health education, sanitation, vaccinations, child growth monitoring and primary care (well baby visits, pediatrics, family planning, prenatal care), microcredit and primary school education. GHESKIO has also trained over 800 community members as “Health Agents” to improve sanitation and access to clean water, and to survey the community for infectious diseases, malnutrition, and to refer patients to the GHESKIO clinic.
The recent cholera epidemic further strengthened GHESKIO’s involvement with the City of God. GHESKIO established an emergency cholera treatment center and to date has treated 33,000 patients with a mortality rate of <0.3%. GHESKIO launched a comprehensive cholera program in the City of God, including provision of chlorinated water, building of latrines, and establishing rehydration posts, a 250-bed tent hospital, and 10 community health posts. GHESKIO and the Ministry of Health also conducted a cholera vaccination program for 50,000 at risk people in the City of God.
GHESKIO is a true model of a community-based health care organization that responds to the continually emerging needs of impoverished and vulnerable populations. GHESKIO develops sustainable and innovative models of prevention and treatment through research and scales up these models to the national level through training.