Every year, thousands of Haitians cross into the Dominican Republic in search of work. Thousands more people of Haitian descent already live in the country, largely serving as low-paid agricultural workers.
In 2011, Partners In Health launched an HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment project in the Dominican Republic border town of Comendador, located in Elias Piña, the poorest province in the country and home to a large population of Haitian migrants.
Socios En Salud (SES)—Spanish for Partners In Health—optimizes treatment and quality of life for people living with HIV by working side by side with the Dominican Ministry of Health at the provincial hospital in Comendador, Hospital Rosa Duarte, and two sub-centers in Hondo Valle and Banica. Each month, SES staff focuses on HIV prevention by conducting educational outreach sessions explaining HIV transmission and proper condom use in communities within Elias Piña.
The staff also conducts community-based voluntary counseling and testing, which allows people to learn their HIV status. For patients who test positive, SES and the hospital staff provide high-quality care, access to medications (including antiretroviral drugs, if necessary), and comprehensive accompaniment through PIH’s community health worker model.
SES works closely with the public hospital staff to reinforce their ability to detect and treat tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. SES also is committed to improving outcomes in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV among pregnant women.
Training a new generation of community health workers
In 2011, SES hired and trained the project’s first group of community health workers (called acompañantes) to accompany HIV patients receiving antiretroviral treatment. Training sessions included information about the medical and social implications of HIV/AIDS, appropriate treatment regimens, and medication dosages. The first class of acompañantes also received training in cholera treatment and prevention, addressing a vital need as the cholera epidemic continues to affect people living in Dominican border communities.
By the numbers:
Total population: 9,927,320
Life expectancy at birth: 73 years
Under-5 child mortality: 27 per 1,000
Adult prevalence of HIV in the DR: .9%
Adults testing positive for HIV in Elias Piña border region: about 1.7%
Prevalence of TB: 67 per 100,000
Population living below national poverty line: 34.4%