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Heroes: Charlottesville to Africa for HIV/AIDS Care

September 5, 2011

University of Virginia professors and students sit around the conference discussing their latest trip. They were in Mpumalanga, South Africa, meeting with community health care providers who work closely with HIV and AIDS patients.

The reason for the trip was to share new information and ideas about end of life care.

“In these communities there is very little health care,” said Cathy Campbell, a UVA professor and nurse. “There's really no formal palliative (end of life) care services, so it's important for us to support them and the work that they're doing.”

South Africa has the highest number of citizens with HIV/AIDS of any country in the world. The disease and associated complications account for an estimated 42.5 percent of maternal deaths and for 35 percent of deaths in children under the age of 5. Because of that, nurses and students accompanied health care providers to Mpumalanga.

They went door-to-door and clinic-to-clinic visiting HIV and AIDS patients and hoping to meet the need for palliative care.

“It was really powerful,” said Caitlin Carr, a graduate student at UVA. “It was probably the most powerful things that we did while we were there just to see their passion for patients and how much they really cared for each individual patient.”

In a series of meetings, the Charlottesville group focused on ways to relieve and prevent suffering for workers. They discussed improving pallative care through building partnerships, developing care assessment tools and training health care providers.

“It's very inspiring to know that in the little time we were there what we did made a difference for them so they can take care of themselves and be able to do the work that they're doing,” said Campbell.

But even are reaching out to dozens of workers and patients, the women feel their work is far from over. As they sit around the table and reminisce about their latest journey, they are already making plans for the next trip.


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