Peace Corps volunteer
Global eMedicine Project
Who: US Peace Corps volunteer Debra Kurshan, Bongo, Ghana; Eugene Seymour, Global eMedicine; Greenstar; the community of the Bongo District.
What: A preliminary effort to utilize handheld PCs in an effort for education about HIV/AIDS. In the first phase, Global eMedicine sent three iPAQs which include software about cardiac health. The organization then sent an audio-video presentation for handheld concerning HIV/AIDS. This project is set to expand into a fuller implementation of IT for community development, including a community health and education center, a source for microenterprise and microcredit, a center of communications and information and an example of renewable-energy powered sustainable development.
When: The Peace Corps began experimenting with the iPAQs on Monday, May 21, 2001. The education program then expanded into specific HIV/AIDS content by the end of June. A detailed project plan was developed by September, and is being discussed with various potential sponsors.
Where: Bongo, Upper East Region, Ghana. The village and district of Bongo are near the city of Bolgatanga. Bongo District is one of the six districts in the Upper East Region. It shares borders with Burkina Faso to the North and East, Kassena-Nankana District in the West and the Bolgatanga District in the South. The total area is 459 square kilometers with subsistence farming being the predominant occupation in the District along with some handicraft production. The population is estimated at 86,995 as of 1994 (DRI Report). The District contains one health center with 6 sub clinics located throughout the district. There are two senior secondary schools, thirteen junior secondary schools and forty primary schools.
Why: In the Bongo District since December 2000 there have been 6 AIDS cases reported but the level of testing is so low that the figure does not accurately reflect the actual number of HIV positive people in the District. The people who do get tested in Bongo District are usually at the later stages of the disease and if testing was more convenient and affordable then more people will get tested and the spread of the disease could be slowed. Right now there are people in the district who are HIV positive but they are not aware of it and put their friends and family at risk.
There are a large number of young people who drop out of school or have completed senior secondary school and are not able to continue their studies do to lack of funding or other reasons. There is an especially high drop rate among girl children, which leads to early marriage and teenage pregnancy. This proposal targets youth because they are the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS as well as have the most potential to make a positive contribution to society.
There are a significant number of activities related to HIV/AIDS prevention and education but because of lack of co-ordination as well as lack of resources the various agencies and organizations are not able to be as effective as they could be. Below is an overview for a HIV/AIDS and Technology Center that will help to coordinate the various efforts throughout the district that are targeted at youth. The goal of the center is to make HIV/AIDS prevention more effective and sustainable.
The Bongo District Youth Center will be a comprehensive resource and training center for the young people in Bongo. The purpose is to provide a central community space that will provide a range of services to the young people (ages 14-25) of Bongo district with an emphasis HIV/ AIDS related activities and technology training. The center will provide AIDS resources, counseling for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), family planning and birth control planning, STD treatment, technology resources and training that is driven by AIDS information (note: that with a reason to use technology it is more like to be used and learned), as well as provide a space for youth to congregate and have social activities. The center will serve to provide a holistic approach to HIV/AIDS prevention as well as assisting in providing a collaborative solution to the HIV/AIDS prevention that currently exists in Bongo District.
The youth center will be in a separate building in which a range of services will be available to the youth. The building will house a library with HIV/AIDS materials and a TV and VCR to be used to show HIV/AIDS related videos as well as computers available for the development of HIV/AIDS materials. It will also have a room that could be used as treatment room for counseling for PLWHA and their families, family planning counseling, and STD treatment. The technology available will also serve the needs of the people in Bongo by serving as a communication center thereby generating revenue for the center and providing sustainability. In addition the youth of Bongo will play a role in running the center in order to acquire job skills that they will be able to apply later in life.
While the main purpose of the center is HIV/AIDS prevention, it will also serve as a space to provide technology training to young people as well as provide job skills training through experience. If young people are taught other skills then they will be less likely to engage in high risk behavior and therefore less likely to contribute to the spread of AIDS. The center is a holistic approach to AIDS prevention because it does not just provide HIV education but works to solve additional problems facing young people that will have an indirect affect on the spread of HIV/AIDS. It also will work to remove the stigma associated with AIDS by bringing the disease into the public discourse and providing a ìsafe spaceî for all young people in Bongo District.
In the last twenty year, AIDS has made a significant impact all over the world. Since the disease was identified in 1981 it has become a worldwide epidemic with Sub-Saharan Africa being the hardest hit. Over half of the AIDS cases worldwide are in Africa. Since there is no cure and the medicines that exist to control the disease are too costly for the majority of people in Africa, the spread of the disease must be stopped through behavioral changes. In Ghana those behavioral changed require significant changed in cultural practices. In order to It is not enough to simply tell people to use condoms, they must have access to them, understand how to use them properly and society as a whole must embrace the idea. That is why a holistic approach to AIDS prevention is necessary for any progress to be made in the fight against AIDS. Currently there exists a stigma attached to AIDS and people living with the disease and in order for change to occur that stigma must dissolve. The challenges in stopping the spread of AIDS are many in Ghana, which is why the following proposal targets a specific group, youth, and works to provide a holistic approach to curbing the spread of the deadly disease.
AIDS in Ghana (Statistics provided by the Ministry of Health)
The first case of AIDS in Ghana was reported in March 1986. As of January 1999 there have been a total of 37,298 AIDS cases reported in Ghana and it is estimated that the level of reporting is only between 30%-40%. Ghana has the second highest number of AIDS cases in West Africa. It is estimated that 4% of the population is HIV positive and that 20% of Ghanaian students are infected. In the Upper East Region there were 223 AIDS cases reported between January and December 1999.
Youth, STDs, and Contraception
The population between the ages of 10 and 24 accounts of 13.2% of the total AIDS cases in Ghana between 1986 and 1999 and the World Health Organization expects that young adults ages 15 to 24 will account for over 50% of HIV infection in the next decade. 75% of the people in Ghana infected AIDS acquired it through sexual transmission. This is significant since the median age at first sex is 16.8 for rural teenagers. In addition 45% of 19 year olds in Ghana are parents or are experiencing their first pregnancy. Since contraception is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of AIDS it is important to make sure that it is available to young people and used properly. Currently in Ghana only 8.3% of youth age 20-24 use modern methods of contraception (i.e. condoms).
Peace Corps Volunteer, Debra Kurshan
Located in northern Ghana, Bongo District borders Burkina Faso and has a population of around 100,000 people. As a Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to the District Health Management Team to work on HIV/AIDS prevention and education, in the fall of 2000 I found myself in a district where many AIDS related activities already existed.
So instead of trying to recreate the wheel, I am trying to serve as a resource for the various group involved in AIDS activities as well as design a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to fighting this deadly disease. To do this I have partnered with many groups within northern Ghana as well as internationally.
When I first came to Bongo two things struck me. The first was that people were in denial that AIDS existed in Bongo thereby indicating a need to remove the stigma from the disease. I was also struck by the large number of young people who had completed secondary school and were now looking for jobs or waiting to go to school and had nothing constructive to fill their time with, especially during the dry season where there is no farming to be done. I was convinced that in order to fight AIDS there needed to be a comprehensive approach that was more that just giving talks about the "deadly disease," AIDS.
Because of my background and interest in technology as tool in education I tried to think of a way to provide technology skills as well as prevent AIDS which is how I got the idea for a HIV/AIDS and Technology Youth Center. I was put in touch with Dr. Gene Seymour, the head of a foundation in the United States called the Global Alliance for Healthcare Education, that provides support to fight AIDS all over the world. The foundation is funded in part through a company called eMedicine that develops multimedia healthcare education.
Through Dr. Seymour I was put in touch with another organization, Greenstar, that works to provide education, health services, agricultural outreach and income generation for rural communities through solar power community centers and technology. Through the support for Greenstar, the Global Alliance for Healthcare Education, and my family and friends, I have already acquired three laptop computers, two printers, and three hand held Compaq IPAQs. I have begun training peer educators to use the handheld computers and eMedicine has provided Bongo with an AIDS education multimedia program for the IPAQs that I hope to take out into the communities shortly.
The community support for the center is strong and there are also other organizations in the Ghana such as Red Cross and UNICEF that are collaborating on the project. The Bongo District is committed to a youth center and is currently in the process of acquiring land for the center. In addition to the youth center, I work closely with a group of Red Cross Peer Educators, am a member of the District AIDS committee, and have started a drama group at the Junior Secondary School that focuses on AIDS dramas.
It is my hope that by providing a comprehensive and collaborative approach to AIDS education we can removed the stigma associated with AIDS as well as provides jobs and skills to the people of Bongo.
contact: Charles Gay: firstname.lastname@example.org
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