Partnering with Communities to Fight Infectious Disease
Country by country, disease by disease, person by person, PCI is committed to saving lives.
PCI has a long history of working at the community level to fight infectious disease by empowering people with the knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, services, and resources they need to stay healthy and free from disease. PCI methods of infectious disease control and prevention have included:
– Promoting life-saving vaccines and screenings;
– Educating people on how infectious diseases are spread;
– Providing behavior change communication for improved sanitation and hygiene;
– Working closely with individuals, families, and communities to promote access to testing, treatment, and comprehensive care and support;
– Strengthening local health systems; and
– Increasing resilience through Women Empowered village savings and loans groups and other household economic strengthening platforms, and mobilizing group members to spread information about diseases.
PCI had already spent years working with Liberian communities to encourage health and resiliency when the Ebola crisis struck. Our remarkable staff in country was made up almost entirely of local Liberians, and as the outbreak began in full force, they were given the option to take leave and stay with their families. Without exception, these brave men and women continued their fight against the epidemic.
People trusted PCI to equip their communities and health professionals with the knowledge, infrastructure, and supplies necessary to prevent the spread of Ebola. Working with local women’s groups, disaster response committees, schools, and Parent-Teacher Associations, PCI reached thousands of Liberians and helped them separate the myths from the realities of Ebola transmission. We also partnered with the Ministry of Health to train hospital and clinical workers and to deliver desperately needed personal protective equipment, from hazmat suits and latex gloves to hand sanitizer and bleach.
The threat of Zika, and especially it’s connection to birth defects, has Asia, Africa, and the Americas on edge. PCI has been on the ground in Central America since the earliest days of the epidemic to help educate communities about the virus. One of the ways PCI is doing this is through nearly 500 local women organized into 25 Women Empowered groups. They are banding together to raise awareness, empower action, and to prevent the spread of Zika in Guatemala.
While tuberculosis (TB) is curable, it requires a rigorous course of antibiotics over many months. Failing to take the medicine as prescribed can lead to antibiotic-resistance, making it harder to treat and making the prevention of TB more important than ever. PCI worked in partnership with the National TB Program in Mexico to train community health volunteers to oversee TB medication intake; raise awareness about the disease so people with symptoms can access detection services; and empower those affected to seek health services, complete treatment, and fight stigma and discrimination. PCI has also worked in Mexico to analyze TB’s relationship to other diseases, strengthen local health systems, and share information across states.
India was once considered the epicenter of polio and nearly half of the world’s polio cases came from there just a few years ago. The impact of this infectious disease at the individual, family, household, and community levels was devastating. There is no cure for polio, but a polio vaccine can prevent it. Unfortunately, in many areas of India, there was a pervasive cultural resistance to vaccines and to outside intervention. PCI recruited and trained local leaders and children to get the word out about polio prevention. We also built the capacity of government frontline healthcare workers to work with the community to ensure universal polio vaccination. The World Health Organization declared India polio-free in 2014, but PCI continues to equip communities with knowledge and tools around general health to keep the disease at bay for good.
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The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa continues to be a major global health issue. In 2016, an estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV, and 30% of these same people do not know that they have the virus.
For vulnerable communities with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, the epidemic has caused severe damage to social and economic structures, exacerbating social and economic inequities. HIV and AIDS have taken a terrible toll particularly on children and their families. During the past 30 years, an estimated 17 million children lost one or both parents due to AIDS, and 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, 3.4 million children under age 15 are living with HIV.
HIV and AIDS can destroy families and ravage communities. Without HIV/AIDS treatment and support for HIV-affected households, parents struggle to support their households and care for their children; children may be too sick to attend school, or forced to stay home and care for sick family members.
However, knowledge, skills, support, and access to services for infectious disease prevention and treatment can have a major impact on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and improving the overall health and well-being of a country. PCI has been active in HIV/AIDS disease prevention infectious disease control and response since the early 1990s. PCI’s current portfolio spans the range of prevention, care, treatment, and support interventions, including orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), in several countries around the world, including three in sub-Saharan Africa.
By Christa Davis Ebola may be declared officially over in [...]