|© UNICEF video/2008|
|The UNICEF-supported Centre de Solidarité Action Sociale takes care, both medically and socially, of women and children living with HIV.|
By Guy Hubbard
BOUAKE, Côte d’Ivoire, 2 January 2009 – Emily, 12, lives a fragile existence. AIDS took the lives of both her parents, and she is living with HIV. An estimated 52,000 children age 14 and under are living with HIV in Côte d’Ivoire.
Emily (not her real name) now resides with her aunt in Bouake in central Côte d’Ivoire, where AIDS has picked up where the civil war left off, taking lives with impunity. Her aunt is unemployed and there is rarely enough money for food or medicine.
Despite this, Emily is one of the lucky ones – every few days she sets off alone for the Centre de Solidarité Action Sociale (SAS) in central Bouake. Here she is examined by doctors who specialize in paediatric AIDS. These regular visits allow them to track her progress.
“The reason I like going there is because they give you medication, they take care of you and you can go there again and again,” said Emily.
Social support for vulnerable children
Since 1999, UNICEF has worked with SAS to provide support to those affected by AIDS in Bouake and the surrounding areas. Testing is offered, as is medical care and counselling. Thousands of children have been assisted by the centre and over 800 orphans and vulnerable children currently receive social and educational support.
Paediatric specialist at SAS, Dr. Soro Ouattara Paule, deals with cases of HIV and AIDS everyday, but often, merely providing medication is not enough.
|© UNICEF video/2008|
|Emily, 12, visits a special centre in central Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire, where she is examined by doctors who specialize in paediatric AIDS.|
“Because of the poverty and the fact that sick patients can’t work, the centre has to take care of the patients not only medically, but also socially – we give food to parents and their children,” said Dr. Paule.
The Centre is also home to a youth outreach project. Members go door to door in order to educate people at home by offering awareness, advice and psychological support.
“Mainly, our activities include visiting people at home and doing community work. Apart from that, we also support people with a monthly food parcel,” said Jean Claude, one of the outreach members. “We also do sensitization on HIV, STDs and reproductive health because sexuality is a taboo subject in African culture. Usually its easier for young people to talk about it and find answers because we share the same daily experiences.”
Working toward an AIDS-free environment
UNICEF has been hard at work throughout the country, supporting centres such as SAS and another similar project in Yopougon outside Abidjan. There, pregnant women undergo treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus.
After giving birth, their babies undergo testing to determine whether or not the treatment was successful.
The clinic also tests the immune system of adults and children already and provides antiretroviral treatment to those in need.
In partnership with UNICEF, Côte d’Ivoire looks to provide an AIDS-free environment for its children and bring hope to those already living with the virus.