HELLO FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
THANK YOU to TheWomen.Org for allowing me to be a Guest Blogger! I am really excited to share this experience with everyone- my name is Omara, I am an OB/GYN and I’ll be chronicling this trip as I work and travel with Dr. Ann Marie Beddoe. I would like to first take a few minutes to discuss the who-what-where-when-why of this project (not in that order!) and what we hope to accomplish.
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
This global health initiative will take place in the northern province of Limpopo in South Africa, specifically the town of Hoedspruit and surrounding conservation communities adjacent to Kruger National Park. This area is predominantly an agricultural and game reserve area with a large population of transitory and migrant farm workers. Myself and Dr. Beddoe are starting this project as of February 2015 and will hopefully have team members joining us later in the month!
WHY ARE WE WORKING THERE?
Limpopo is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa; about 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. Limpopo has a population of over 5 million people, most of whom live in rural areas. Unemployment rates are among the highest in region, standing at 34%. The agricultural and gaming industries in Limpopo are the most common source of employment, particularly for migrant workers, many who come from neighboring Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Local research on farms in Hoedspruit, an economically thriving town in the Limpopo, found that the HIV prevalence was considerably higher than the general population- up to 29% of the migrant workers were infected with HIV, with more than half unaware of their HIV status. Additionally, among this group of mobile workers are sex workers, a population which is particularly vulnerable to HIV infections. Estimated prevalence of HIV infection among female sex workers in the region is as high as 34-69%.
WHO ARE WE WORKING WITH?
We have been fortunate enough to partner with two amazing local organization- the Hoespruit Endangered Species Center (HESC) and the Hoedspruit Training Trust (HTT). HESC, located in Kapama, a private game reservoir in Limpopo, is an animal conservation center that is invested in community education regarding conservation and additionally offers training scholarships for career development to local community members. In a further effort to invest in the region and the population that it serves, HESC is joining forces with HTT to introduce reproductive health care services to the women who live and work in Limpopo. HTT (the Hlokomela clinic) seeks to contribute to the reduction of HIV prevalence and the impact of AIDs among commercial workers and their families through an integrated program of prevention, treatment, and care, by providing counseling, condoms, HIV testing, and antiretroviral therapy to affected individuals. Hlokomela has reached out to this community of migrant farm workers and sex workers and with the establishment of health care advocates has increased awareness, prevention, and treatment of HIV among this high risk population. HESC and HTT have identified a need among their community- reproductive health care- and will be working with us to try and fulfill that need!
WHAT WILL WE BE DOING?
Our aim is bring gynecologic and reproductive health care services to this high risk and marginalized population. This initiative takes two forms- we will incorporate a cervical cancer prevention program into the already existing HIV treatment program offered by Hlokomela, and we will be starting a community based participatory research project to assess and address reproductive health care needs of female sex workers in the region. We hope to accomplish these projects through training of local health care providers, education of community members, and working together to create interventions that are sustainable and make an impact with a sense of community ownership.