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Aids Awareness and Education

In March of 2005, we completed a year-long project in our continuing HIV/AIDS Awareness efforts…

Steve and Chris Bentley and Norma Rushton after speaking to the village of Mrugua.

HIV/AIDS Project Exchange

GN/BA is the recipient of a $17,500 State Department grant to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Bura. AIDS is having a devastating impact in Africa and our Sister City, Bura, is no exception. We know that the rates of HIV infection are particularly high in the Taita hills area of Kenya where Bura is located and that there are a growing number of orphans due to AIDS deaths in the region. This project will allow for an exchange of community health and education workers between Bura and Newburyport. A team of (3) from Newburyport will go to Bura in January 2004 and a team of (5) from Bura will come to Newburyport in April 2004 (NOTE: Due to visa difficulties, only 3 were able to come. See an account of a successful candidate in the sidebar to the right.)

Some of the main goals of the Project are to:

  • support and enhance existing efforts to prevent new HIV infections in Bura
  • increase health clinic capacity for counseling and testing people for HIV
  • increase community awareness of HIV/AIDS
  • provide technical skills training and additional HIV/AIDS education and resources

Phase 1 : Newburyport Team goes to Bura

Dr. Glenn Crawford, Laurel Rushton and Norma Rushton in 2004.

Phase I of the HIV/AIDS Project has been successfully completed. Laurel Rushton, Glen Crawford and Norma Rushton have recently returned from 2 weeks in Bura where they provided training and support to the many HIV/AIDS prevention groups, medical clinics and schools. They were graciously hosted by Bura residents Mary Kilei, Crecencia Wakio Machila, and Newton Deche Chilango.

While in Bura they also distributed money from a recent GN/BA fundraiser to the following HIV/AIDS service groups

  • Hope Against AIDS
  • Bura Catholic Youth Group
  • Wuloli HIV/AIDS Drama Group
  • Catholic Voluntary Counselling and Testing center in Voi

Phase II: The Team from Kenya Arrives

In mid-April, three HIV/AIDS workers arrived in Newburyport from Bura. They were Mrs. Lady Mwamburi Mshote, Mary Kilei, both nurses, and Fulgence Mwarongo Mnyika, founder of Hope Against AIDS which has a mission “to curb HIV/AIDS spread by teaching Kenyans on HIV/AIDS scourge through theater and presentations."

The team, accompanied by Laurel and often Norma and Glenn, had a busy schedule during their three-week visit. They visited testing facilities including Anna Jacques Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, counselling and Testing center in Beverly, Strongest Link case management program, and a nutrition seminar.

They visited several area schools, including

  • Wilmington High School and Middle school
  • Pingree School
  • Newburyport High School, Juniors and Sophmores
  • Nock Middle school 8th grade
A Visa Ordeal
Hear firsthand how difficult it can be to get a visa to the U.S, in the words of Mrs. Lady Mwamburi Mshote

They also learned counseling techniques, as well as medical treatment, and the many ways which HIV is spread.

In addition, they participated in other activities:

  • Sunday worship in Christian Churches
  • Went to Boston to see the Boston marathon whereby Kenyans won
  • Computer training (basic)
  • Visiting White Mountains in New Hampshire (saw snow on ski mountain)
  • Fundraising for GNBA HIV/AIDS Project-through an Evening of African Food and Dance- Raised $1400.00
  • Attended monthly meeting of GNBA
  • Attended GNBA funding committee meeting

The team also participated in book packing at our warehouse for the Books for Kenya project, and loading of medical supplies at IMEC.

Phase III: The Evaluation Team in Bura

Chris and Norma dance with members of a group that has formed to take AIDS orphans into their homes.

In March of 2005, Norma Rushton returned to Bura, with GNBA Secretary Chris Bentley, and Steve Bentley, photographer and website designer for our group.The purpose was to evaluate the progress the area has experienced as a result of our educational efforts.

The results have been encouraging!

We saw free condom dispensers in many public locations, such as dispensary walls and outside bars. Many people we spoke with were aware to use gloves in handling patients with aids, and many were aware how the disease was transmitted, and knew how to recognize symptoms, and that it is important to get tested. Testing has gone up dramatically, with counselling available at some loacations to those who test positive.

There were still posters in many public locations, and materials available in dispensaries.

Problems persist, however, as we found in discussions. Clinics are often far away, and medicine is often unavailable.Some obstacles are that behavior is not changing, and the Catholic Church and it's Youth Groups recognize abstinance as the only prevention. Drugs, alcohol and poverty can supplant concerns about HIV. Husbands often need to work in Mombassa or Nairobi, leaving their wives for long periods of time.

Villagers still don't know how to use condoms properly, and it was suggested that training men and women separately might help.