Since 2006, we have supported Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance through a mission trip, contributions, fund-raisers and a St. Thomas Outreach (Fernley) Fund grant to support a nurse scholarship. GAIA’s programs are described below. To learn more, please link to GAIA’s website: http://www.thegaia.org/ or contact John Kepner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 215-858-3414 or Jim Weiss at email@example.com or 215-385-6952.
About GAIAGAIA was co-founded in 2000 by The Rev. Dr. William Rankin and Dr. Charles Wilson, world renowned UCSF neurosurgeon, in response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since 2001 GAIA has been working in impoverished Malawian villages to provide basic health services, targeting prevention, care, and support in communities affected by HIV, AIDS, TB and malaria. Malawi, in Sub-Saharan Africa, is at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS crisis. More than 48,000 Malawians die each year from HIV/AIDS and 84% of the 16 million population lives in rural areas. It is estimated that over one million people are HIV-positive and more than 770,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS. GAIA is making strides towards an AIDS-free generation in Malawi, and eager to replicate its successful model.
GAIA Mobile Health Clinics: A Network of Care
GAIA operates seven fully staffed and stocked mobile clinics that operate daily at sites well off the healthcare grid, and ensure that 900,000 people have access to healthcare within an hour’s walk of their homes. Each mobile clinic serves 100-225 patients daily providing primary care and diagnosis for potentially life-threatening conditions, such as malaria and pneumonia. They test for HIV and TB and arrange for follow-up care. They provide health talks, family planning services, growth monitoring of infants and children, and HIV counseling, testing, and referrals for those who test HIV-positive. Five of the seven clinics are funded by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. In 2014, GAIA provided 185,624 patient visits and reached 91,000+ with HIV prevention messages.
GAIA Villages: Empowering Women & Communities
GAIA is solving the challenge of local health care delivery, orphan care, and education in AIDS-stricken districts in Malawi through a grassroots, women-focused approach. GAIA employs rural women Community Caregivers to care for orphans, provide home-based care for the ill, and door- to-door health education and empowerment for their communities. To date, GAIA has served over 200,000 rural Malawians in 180 villages and has trained and deployed more than 720 Community Caregivers.
GAIA Nursing Scholars: Building Healthcare Capacity
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum threshold of 23 healthcare professionals per 10,000 people to provide essential maternal and child care. Malawi has only 3, compared with 43 in South Africa. GAIA is working to expand the pool of qualified healthcare professionals in public health facilities. To date, GAIA has supported the educations of 460 healthcare professionals (nurses) and has worked closely with Malawi’s Ministry of Health to train 4,000 health care professionals in updated antiretroviral therapy (ART) protocols recommended by WHO. You can learn more details about this program here. A St. Thomas’ Outreach (Fernley) Fund has supported the nursing education of Ellen Eggasi. Ellen’s letter to St. Thomas’ can be downloaded here.
In their own words
As I was talking to the kids who were laughing and mugging for the camera, a few yards to my left Jim was involved in much more serious business. He was meeting with the priest, Sister Gertrude, the caregivers, and a frighteningly thin woman who was very, very sick with AIDS. The woman was lying on the packed dirt ground and was too weak to keep her eyes open or to brush away the flies. Jim held her hand, and asked why this woman wasn’t at the hospital, which was only a mile away. The answer came: it was too expensive. Jim asked ‘How much?’ They said it would cost 980 kwachas. Jim did the math and it came to about 7 dollars, so we sent her to the hospital. St. Thomas’ paid the bill. As they were lifting the woman into the back of a pickup truck, Jim stopped filming and I lowered my camera. We were thinking of the woman’s dignity, of her privacy. Just then Gertrude looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Please take pictures.’ I didn’t feel comfortable about it, but I took a few quick shots. In retrospect, I think Gertrude may have been right. We were sent to Malawi by St. Thomas Church to witness what was going on in Malawi and report back. Gertrude was saying, look at this, this is AIDS, this is what it looks like, in the back of this pickup truck.
They drove the woman away over a bumpy dirt road. As I watched the truck disappear in a cloud of dust, I noticed a girl standing in a doorway. I asked her if I could take her picture, but she did not answer me. She looked so shy and timid just standing there. I raised my camera and motioned (can I take your picture) but again she didn’t answer. I asked the priest if he would ask her if I could take her picture. He smiled and said in a quiet voice, ‘You can take her picture.’ So I raised my camera and took the shot. I asked the priest, ‘Could you ask her what her name is?’ But he didn’t have to, he knew the girl. He said, ‘This is Tamara. She is in the 3rd grade. Her mother is the woman you just sent to the hospital.’
A few days later, on our last night in Malawi, we had dinner with Sister Gertrude. She told us that the woman did indeed get to the hospital. She died two days later. That made Tamara the newest orphan in Malawi.
-Rob MacNamara and James Weiss, Mission Team