Burkina Faso: Support for HIV-positive patients

21 Apr 2010

Once initiated, treatment with antiretroviral medications (ARVs) must be continued for the rest of a patient’s life. “Compliance Centres” supported by UNDP and the Programme for Supporting Groups and Communities (in French, PAMAC) allow individuals who have just begun ARV treatments to learn more about their disease and how to adapt to life with a chronic illness.

These activities are financed by PAMAC, which also supports two Compliance Centres in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso (in the western part of the country.) The two Compliance Centres are managed by African Solidarity Association and REVS+ Bobo Association, respectively. The centre in Ouagadougou hosts over 200 patients every year. Most patients stay for three weeks, which is a relatively long time to adapt to treatment.

Residents receive information about the virus and learn how to take their medications to remain in good health. Three meals are served each day, and psychosocial support is provided to help them accept lifestyle changes that must be made to accommodate ARV medications.

Hubert Ouédraogo, nurse and coordinator for the Compliance Centre. (Photo: UNDP).

A stay at the centre “can do wonders,” affirms Hubert Ouédraogo, nurse and Centre Coordinator. “The residents are often discouraged and in bad shape when they arrive. But after a while here, they get better.”

Most residents respond well to treatment, but there are a few exceptions. Mr. Ouédraogo holds up a photo of a village boy who stayed at the centre. After a few days of ARV treatment, he developed a severe reaction to the medication. His face was swollen and covered with lesions. Mr. Ouédraogo explained that it would have been hard for this young boy to deal with his friends’ reactions if he had stayed in the village.

At the centre, the boy was able to adapt to the treatment and after a few weeks, he returned to his village. Ten children are currently beginning their treatment and residing at the centre, where they receive paediatric examinations. They are accompanied by a few adults who monitor their treatment, since patients must always be supported by a close friend or relative.

The Compliance Centre has a family-friendly ambiance; some residents are accompanied by their children. (Photo: UNDP).

“Many people hide their status from their family. We encourage the residents to find at least one person they can confide in,” says Mr. Ouédraogo, adding that the centre’s staff sometimes act as mediators between spouses, helping them learn to accept the situation.

The welcoming ambiance helps to make the illness less alarming. “Here, we don’t see HIV/AIDS. It’s like a friendly hotel; a neutral, welcoming space where it is easier for spouses to meet and talk.” The centre also aims to help patients regain a sense of hope. The staff help patients create “life projects,” continue their studies, or begin working on new income-generating activities.

When they leave the centre, former residents participate in the association’s community care activities (“compliance clubs,” individual meetings, therapeutic patient education, etc.) to continue or strengthen follow-up care for residents. Former residents also receive meals, which is a critical component of the continuation of their treatments.