The cultural model - HIV/AIDS is an important public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 63 % of adults and children who are infected by HIV or suffering from AIDS in the world are living. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 2.5 million people are infected by HIV or are suffering from AIDS. The seroprevalence of HIV infection is 4.3 %.

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fight against AIDS as recommended by the national program and by UNAIDS/WHO (Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS and World Health Organization program).

In Kinshasa, there is a project for prevention and care of HIV/AIDS, which is a part of New Humanity projects in Africa. New Humanity, a branch of the international Focolari Movement, is a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Many of its members work in health care and respond to specific human needs in the places where they work.
The intervention groups of New Humanity for health care services to HIV/AIDS patients are connected to the UN projects being implemented in Africa.
The New Humanity project in Africa is located in Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya and DRC. Although the projects, obviously, differ according to the respective social contexts, they is based on a common cultural model and on the same methodology.
This cultural model recognizes the dignity and value of every man, woman, and child without exception and, most especially, of those who are sick or suffering, emphasizing reciprocal relationships, brotherhood. The strong belief in the value of reciprocity not only creates profound, life-changing relationships between healthcare providers and their patients but also influences cultural, economic and social structures of families and communities.

The goal of my presentation is to describe the project in Kinshasa and the impact of this new cultural model based on interpersonal reciprocity in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.


2. Project in Kinshasa

In DRC, the project serves elementary school children, pre-adolescents and members of their family, and adults who go for consultation in a clinic treating AIDS patients. The contacts take place in the hospital and in the school where they receive care and information about HIV/AIDS. The project organizes multi-dimensional activities (medical care at home and in a clinic, psychological, moral, spiritual and cultural supports, financial aid, assistance food), which are based on reciprocal personal relationships.
Each person is solicited to give his/her full attention to the needs and concerns of the others. Patients and members of their family are invited to become protagonists.
The reciprocity, which is capable of changing interrelationship between healthcare workers and patients and exerts an influence on culture, is emphasized.
The medical team consists of physicians and nurses who give special attention to early diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, to preventing maternal-infant transmission, and to providing extensive education in prevention, because these represent the most effective ways of controlling the spread of the disease.
This study is descriptive and the frequency of parameters is calculated.

From 1996 to 2006, 3,400 children and adults were examined (median: 283 per year); 32 have HIV testing after counselling (0.9%).
All the children and adults had food assistance and financial aid for laboratory exams. The contact with the members of the project led 55 persons (parents, students, teachers and members of family) to be trained as peer educators and volunteers.
Persons trained for AIDS prevention activities have reached 2,500 adults, pre-adolescent, adolescent and children.
The persons trained organized together at least 150 home visits where they have opportunities to talk with patients and their family about the multidimensional aspects of AIDS. They provide moral, spiritual, cultural and preventive support.

3. Conclusion

Through the project’s activities some patients and their members of family were led to become protagonists themselves, since they were trained as peer educators and volunteers.
The dignity and care afforded each HIV/AIDS patient and her family by New Humanity health care teams, and the emphasis placed on living for the needs and concerns of others, reduces the discrimination and marginalization of the sick and the HIV carriers, with positive effects on patient health and well-being.
Programs based on a cultural model emphasizing reciprocal relationships, brotherhood, and sisterhood serve as the cornerstones for the development of effective models of prevention and care that can substantially reduce the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on communities.

by MARCEL MBULA

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