Haiti has entered its rainy and hurricanes season which, because the country’s tropical vegetation was decimated by years of deforestation, leaves the tiny island-nation vulnerable to flash flooding and deadly mudslides. Contributions and donations permitted the Centre GHESKIO staff to move all 7,000 people in the “GHESKIO Tent City” to higher ground. The new site was prepared with gravel, sand, and irrigation canals so that the ground can stay as dry as possibly throughout the season – however there are concerns based on recent experiences in which higher than expected precipitation and hurricane-force winds have wreaked havoc and cost lives. Centre GHESKIO thus is preparing to maintain and rebuild the new site, as necessary, throughout the season, which ends in October.
Care for patients with HIV/AIDS continues. Almost 95% of patients who were on antiretroviral therapy before the earthquake remain on therapy. In order to facilitate care and follow up, Centre GHESKIO needs cell phones to communicate with patients and remind them to take their drugs. There are also outreach efforts being made to get the remaining 5% of patients not currently on therapy back into active HIV clinical management.
The GREATER need is related to tuberculosis (TB). As a consequence of the earthquake, the number of TB cases in Port-au-Prince has increased by almost 200%. TB is a major infectious disease and is passed from person to person through the air in crowded living conditions. During the earthquake, the three major TB sanitariums in the Port-au-Prince were destroyed along with a number of outpatient treatment centers. This means that at least 3,000 TB patients stopped their treatment and dispersed to crowded tent cities WITHOUT their medications. Centre GHESKIO’s laboratory is thus the only one in the country capable of performing TB diagnostics. They have also opened a TB field hospital that is currently providing care to 50 patients. However, the need is much greater (in the thousands), and currently available resources are extremely limited.