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HIV Testing, Counseling, and Treatment
GHESKIO published the first comprehensive description of AIDS in a tropical resource-poor setting in 1983 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The story of HIV/AIDS in Haiti has since been inseparable from that of GHESKIO. GHESKIO 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 30 years. GHESKIO researchers identified contaminated blood transfusions as a major mode of HIV transmission in 1985, and then worked with the Haitian Government to place the Haitian Red Cross in total control of blood banking. In the 1990s, GHESKIO conducted clinical trials to define effective therapeutic and preventive interventions for HIV. In 2005, GHESKIO documented the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in a resource-poor setting, and GHESKIO published ART treatment initiation criteria in 2010, which prompted the World Health Organization to change international guidelines.
GHESKIO opened the first HIV Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) Center in Haiti in 1985. The number of people seeking HIV testing at GHESKIO has continued to increase, reaching more than 175,000 in 2017. A GHESKIO–Ministry of Health project successfully reduced the rate of transmission of HIV from pregnant mother to child from 30% to <4% in 2009. As HIV care and prevention services have expanded, HIV prevalence has decreased from 6.2% (1993) to 2.2% (2012), and is currently estimated to be even lower.
GHESKIO works with the Haitian Government to implement its prevention and care model to a network of more than 27 hospitals and healthcare centers throughout the country. GHESKIO provides training, supervision, administrative support, financial oversight, and continuing quality control for all HIV and TB clinical services provided at these sites.
Haiti has reached near-universal ART coverage, with 95,447 patients receiving ART (February 2017); 29% of whom are being treated in the GHESKIO Network.
Tuberculosis Testing and Treatment
GHESKIO has been providing TB testing and treatment since its inception.
After the earthquake in 2010, about 1.5 million people lost their homes and were moved to camps for internally displaced persons. An estimated 3,000 TB patients stopped receiving medication and dispersed to crowded refugee camps. It was subsequently found that TB incidence in Port-au-Prince doubled, with an outbreak of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). This is likely a result of higher case detection as well as an increased burden of disease.
In response, GHESKIO opened a 100-bed TB tent field hospital in May 2010 and increased TB treatment capacity from 600 to 1,800 patients per year. In 2012, GHESKIO documented a rate of 768 TB cases per 100,000 individuals in the neighboring ‘City of God’.
Currently, GHESKIO is the largest TB center in Haiti and diagnoses approximately 3,000 patients per year, and treats up to 50 MDR-TB patients.
Although the most common form of TB can be treated in six months, MDR-TB requires a significantly longer and more intense treatment, lasting up to 18 months to two years. GHESKIO runs one of only three MDR-TB hospitals in the country, which houses up to 33 patients in an open, sunlit space that provides a home for patients receiving treatment.
In addition to testing and treatment, GHESKIO has carried out extensive research on TB over the past three decades, of which the findings have been published in prominent medical journals.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart failure and strokes, is now the #1 cause of death in Haitian adults. 30% of all deaths in Haiti are related to CVD, and Haiti has the highest stroke mortality in the western hemisphere.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) may be the single most important CVD risk factor in Haiti, potentially exacerbated by extreme poverty.
GHESKIO is working to reduce CVD deaths in Haiti by simultaneously providing care and leading ground-breaking research.
Caring for Haiti’s hearts
GHESKIO clinics diagnose, treat and support CVD patients. In addition, our community health workers go into Port-au-Prince neighborhoods to find, refer and care for those suffering from CVD and related conditions.
However, we face a critical shortage of equipment and medicines. Your donations will help us fight the CVD epidemic in Haiti.
Research to drive better insight and outcomes
GHESKIO is now partnering with Weill Cornell Medicine on a multi-year CVD study of 3,000 adults. Research findings will drive enhanced prevention strategies and treatment options that will build health in Haiti and among Haitian immigrants in the U.S. For more information, visit our Research page.
Maternal Child Health
GHESKIO has the largest pediatric AIDS clinic in the Americas and provides multiple services to mothers and their infants. GHESKIO treats HIV-positive children from 0–10 years of age in need of antiretroviral therapy and has served about 1,000 children and infants since 2003. GHESKIO also treats approximately 200 cases of childhood TB (including MDR-TB) annually.
GHESKIO’s Mother’s Program supports the clinical and psychosocial needs of pregnant women and new mothers. ‘Mothers Clubs’ meet monthly so that women can learn skills for safe and appropriate prenatal care, receive education on optimal infant nutrition, and access opportunities to share experiences and build a support network. Life-skills training focused on empowerment and self-confidence builds self-esteem and enables women to improve their health and their lives. Since implementing the Mothers Clubs and providing antiretroviral therapy prophylaxis, the transmission of HIV from mother to child at GHESKIO has decreased from 30% to ~4% and instances of infant malnutrition have been cut by up to 50%, resulting in healthy and thriving children. Since 2010, GHESKIO has served more than 3,600 mother-infant pairs.
In addition to the Mother’s Program, GHESKIO’s conducts community-outreach activities and home visits by community health agents who screen and refer to clinic children under 5 years of age for malnutrition, respiratory illness (such as pneumonia and TB), and diarrheal diseases. Children also receive preventative health services such as vaccination, de-worming, and oral rehydration salts where appropriate in the community.
GHESKIO conducts research and training to answer relevant questions regarding pediatric health. Research seeks to improve services and to develop models of care that can be reproduced on a national level. Of particular research focus is pediatric HIV/AIDS, TB diagnostics and treatment in children, causes of pneumonia in children, acute diarrhea, and malnutrition.
GHESKIO is the technical arm of the Ministry of Health in Haiti for primary needs, which include vaccination, de-worming, nutrition, and preventive health services.
GHESKIO immediately established an emergency cholera treatment center in Port-au-Prince. GHESKIO launched a comprehensive cholera program in City of God, including the provision of chlorinated water, building of latrines, and establishing rehydration posts. A 250-bed tent hospital was set up at its facility in downtown Port-au-Prince, admitting patients from many regions of the Metropolitan area. Community health workers were trained as regards to the symptoms of cholera, how to prepare oral rehydration fluids, and when to refer patients to GHESKIO. Since 2014, a 24-hour, permanent, 100-bed acute diarrheal treatment center has been built at GHESKIO and, since June 2017, is the only one that remains open.
The oral cholera vaccine (Shancol) was introduced into City of God by GHESKIO in April 2012, and 91% of 52,000 volunteers had received two doses of the vaccine by July 2012. The demonstration trial was conducted with Partners in Health (PIH), Cornell University, Harvard University, and the Haitian Ministry of Health, and included persons living in rural Haiti. GHESKIO conducted a complete door-to-door census of City of God using hand-held communication devices. Dr. Roger Glass, Director of the NIH Fogarty International Center, stated, “The experience in Haiti by this pioneering group has demonstrated that the many preconceptions and objections raised about the difficulty of delivering mass cholera vaccinations to a population can be overcome and that the vaccine can be delivered effectively to large numbers of people. The Haitian example will provide a model for other countries to emulate in the years ahead.”
The situation in other developing countries is similar. Cervical cancer remains a leading cause of mortality among women of reproductive age in the developing world. An estimated 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer will occur worldwide this year, with 85% of these occurring in resource-poor countries.
Progress in cervical cancer prevention is being made in Haiti and many other developing countries. The introduction of simple and cost effective “screen and treat” strategies and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination offer tremendous opportunity.
- Cervical visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) can detect early dysplastic (precancerous) lesions before the development of invasive cancer. The test can be performed by nurses, and treatment offered the same day with cryotherapy of the cervix. VIA has been successfully introduced into many developing countries with great success.
- Rapid screening tests for cervical HPV infection may be even more effective. Squamous cell cancers of the cervix are causally linked with infection with HPV. Studies show that screening women for cervical HPV infection and treating HPV-positive women with cryotherapy decreases the incidence and mortality from cervical cancer.
- The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) recently announced efforts to provide the HPV vaccine to 72 of the world’s poorest countries. Trials have shown that administration of this vaccine against high risk HPV, including types 16 and 18, reduced the incidence of both high risk HPV infection and HPV-related cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). GAVI is working to decrease the price of the vaccine and to develop programs for its administration in poor countries.
There are approximately 150,000 people living with HIV in Haiti (UNAIDS).
GHESKIO serves over 600,000 patient visits annually