Site Visit: PATS
Earlier last week, Mari and I had an amazing opportunity to visit with PATS (Pediatric AIDS Treatment Support) Foundation and their local partner, AOS (AIDS Orphans Salvation Association). Both organizations aim to help children with HIV adhere to their medication - taking the HIV medication on time enable the children to lead normal lives - and to reduce the stigma towards HIV patients.
Arriving at the local AOS office in Fuyang, Anhui, we met Kristin and Ally, both volunteers with PATS. Upon chatting with them, we realized that PATS was completely volunteer-run and funded by donations, which is amazing, considering the incredible work they are doing in Fuyang and other provinces in Anhui. We learnt more about the history of Fuyang, how the HIV epidemic had spread so quickly in the early 90s and the stigmatization that followed the families of HIV patients who had been unfortunately infected. Kristin and Ally also visited a local high school and hosted a little Q&A, organized by AOS. The event was held with the objective of reducing the stigma locals have toward HIV patients through education and community service, beginning with the local high school students.
The next day, we visited some of the PATS children. It was an eye-opening experience, listening to the difficulties some of the HIV-affected families faced enrolling their children into school, the fatalistic attitudes some family members had towards their disease and even getting the neighborhood children to play together. Yet, the PATS children were amazingly well-adjusted, and took their medication regularly without any adult supervision. Most of the children we visited were under the age of 10, and that discipline is rare in young children. This success is attributable to the regular visits that the community health workers (CHWs) that work at AOS, to check up on the children and ensure the children are adhering to their medication.
The CHWs have also definitely faced difficulties. They recounted cases where family members felt particularly fatalistic about their illness and saw no reason to take medication. The HIV-infected children in these families would then often adopt the same attitudes. In these cases, CHWs would work diligently to change their attitudes (often by appealing to other family members) and visit these families more often to ensure the children were adhering to their medication.
Both PATS and AOS work tirelessly to help these children, both physically (with their medication) and socially (by educating the local public), stressing that children with HIV are no different from healthy children. I came away really impressed with their dedication, with PATS volunteers visiting China regularly and AOS CHWs visiting the children on an almost monthly basis. I was also incredibly touched by the thoughtfulness of both organizations. Kristin and Ally noticed the children were incredibly picky with their food, and immediately volunteered to use their funding to buy the children multi-vitamins, to ensure they stay healthy and grow normally. The CHWs also brought snacks for children and together with Kristin and Ally, we braved mud and unfavorable road conditions to make it to all the children’s houses. It was an amazing experience overall, and I hope the PATS children stay healthy and adherent to their medication!
Read more about, and donate to the inspiring work PATS and AOS are doing here: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/pats/
Charlene is an InTheField traveler with GlobalGiving, and is travelling through China this summer. Read more about her experiences in China at charinthefield.tumblr.org! Find out more about (or donate on!) GlobalGiving at globalgiving.org