Building a Healthy World Through Infectious Disease Prevention

“What makes me happy is to meet people and give them information and the services they would not have accessed considering the distances they have to cover before getting to the nearest health facilities.”

– Limpo, Community Peer Educator, Zambia

Overview

Infectious diseases, from Ebola and HIV to malaria and polio, are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, and can be spread from one person to another.

In 2020, the world faced one of the worst pandemics in human history with the rapid global spread of novel coronavirus. The shocking ferocity with which this new disease swept through cities and communities has left science racing to develop treatments and vaccines. The widespread health, social, and economic consequences of the virus are unprecedented; as lockdowns go into effect, the virus disproportionately affects the poor and marginalized and deepens inequality. PCI’s experience with combatting infectious diseases around the world for over 50 years has positioned PCI to collaborate with governments and communities to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 with evidence-based and tailor-made solutions.

Even before this profound new threat, over 18 million people a year – 50,000 per day – died from infectious diseases around the world. Many of these diseases can be prevented or treated for as little as a single dollar per person. According to the World Health Organization, infectious disease prevention and control can be achieved when evidence-based public health approaches are combined and delivered locally.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a sub-set of infectious diseases that are diverse and prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries, affecting more than 1 billion people and costing developing economies billions of dollars every year. Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are the worst affected.

PCI’s Long-Standing Efforts Toward Infectious Disease Prevention

From HIV/AIDS to Ebola to cervical cancer, PCI has a proven history of providing infectious disease prevention and response programs at national, regional, and local levels. We take an integrated, layered approach to our disease prevention and treatment programs in order to create strategic networks, support frontline and facility-based health workers, and empower communities, families, and individuals with quality information and services.

We work hand-in-hand with local governments to build on existing program infrastructure and support surveillance, detection, and response to infectious disease prevention and management. We also link across ministries to facilitate communication and coordination while organizing key social and economic resources.

Specifically, PCI:

  • Mobilizes governments and communities to take action against infectious diseases
  • Educates communities on how infectious diseases are spread and prevented
  • Promotes life-saving vaccines and screenings
  • Designs and implements communication strategies and tools for health workers, communities, and individuals to drive behavior change
  • Works closely with communities and governments to increase access to and quality of testing, treatment, and comprehensive care and support
  • Builds the capacity of government leaders and health workers to monitor and respond to infectious disease threats

Enabling Rapid Infectious Disease Detection and Response

For over 50 years, PCI has provided public health and emergency programs as well as designed, implemented, and supported infectious disease prevention and control services. Our goal is not just to treat disease, but strengthen local, regional, and national sectors to rapidly detect and response to disease while establishing the necessary structures and networks for future surveillance, prevention, response, and control.

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Ebola

At the peak of the Ebola outbreak, PCI reached over 500,000 people with Ebola-related interventions through multiple programs. We implemented community education campaigns; trained health care providers; contacted tracing/case investigations; constructed infrastructure for the isolation of suspected cases; and provided supplies, such as personal protective equipment and sanitation necessities, to minimize the spread of the virus. PCI also supported the Government of Liberia by managing the Ganta Ganta Ebola Treatment Center, the country’s only site primarily staffed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. More than 90 percent of PCI’s 700 communities remained Ebola-free throughout the outbreak.

Lymphatic Filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic worms. Most cases of the disease have no symptoms, but some people experience a syndrome called elephantiasis, which causes severe swelling in the arms, legs, breasts, or genitals.

PCI is implementing the Social Mobilization for Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination project in India by providing technical support to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program. Currently, PCI is supporting frontline health staff, drug administrators, and schools through social and behavior change education, toolkits, and tools meant to help eliminate lymphatic filariasis in eight high endemic Indian states—Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, and Maharashtra.

Zika

When the threat of Zika emerged in Latin America and the Caribbean, PCI used best practices and lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in Liberia to help governments and communities respond effectively.

In March 2016, PCI convened public health officials, providers, and community health advocates in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the U.S.-Mexico border region to discuss the situation, share information on response activities, and jointly identify needs. PCI then leveraged existing community platforms to disseminate information, raise awareness, and minimize confusion among thousands of individuals in all three countries, and promote the appropriate referral of suspected cases. More than 200,000 individuals were reached through media interviews with PCI experts.

PCI also supported efforts by:

  • Providing training, prevention information, and detection efforts at health clinics and within the communities to help control Zika infections and deaths throughout eight high-risk municipalities in Guatemala
  • Disseminating preventive information through NICASALUD and media partners in Nicaragua to provide technical updates to health partners and encourage effective coordination
  • Establishing a network of community-based partners for the distribution of technical updates, informational materials, trainings, and practical strategies for educating communities about Zika, in the United States

PCI also conducted border-wide surveys to understand how Zika is affecting reproductive decision-making among women and which prevention messages are working. PCI’s a member of the CORE Group’s Zika Response Task Force that is continually identifying opportunities and challenges, collaborating on strategies, and sharing information and materials with the global development community.

HIV/AIDS

As of the end of 2000, there were 36 million people worldwide living with HIV infection. The majority of people infected with HIV—90 percent—live in developing countries, namely southern Africa. Despite extraordinary efforts, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be a major global health issue..

At the end of 2018, 37.9 million people around the world were living with HIV, while 32 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic. These deaths have left roughly 14 million children under 17-years-old orphaned, while another 3.2 million children under the age of 15 are currently living with HIV.

Beyond the dire health consequences, HIV/AIDS has caused severe social and economic damage, exacerbating inequities within already vulnerable communities. Without adequate treatment, support, and prevention for HIV-affected households, HIV/AIDS and related infections will continue to destroy families and ravage communities.

PCI has been actively responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the early 1990s. Our work includes a range of prevention efforts, HIV testing and counseling, along with treatment, care, and support interventions in several countries around the world, including three in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a preventable, yet in 2018 an overwhelming 311,000 women died from this disease. Sadly, more than 90 percent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 100,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and over 68 percent of them will die from the disease.

In response, PCI joined the global cervical cancer movement to support the delivery of women’s health interventions around the globe. Because women living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to cervical cancer due to a compromised immune system, PCI has prioritized the integration of cervical cancer “screen-and-treat” into routine HIV treatment services. Currently, PCI provides cervical cancer screening and treatment services for women living with HIV in Zambia.

Building on the earlier success of its Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon program, PCI added static clinics to our innovative mobile cervical cancer-HIV clinic intervention. Together, the static and mobile clinic have helped PCI reach approximately 25,000 women with life-saving cervical cancer screening and pre-invasive lesions treatment.

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