January 26, 2010
Ghiesko (Haitian Group for Studies in Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections) is one of the oldest HIV/AIDS clinics in the world, founded by Cornell University's William Pape in Port-au-Prince soon after the epidemic began in 1981. The group's 28 centers care for roughly half of all Haitians receiving antiretroviral treatment, or about 12,000 patients. And since Haiti's devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, it has continued to provide care for thousands of people.
After the quake, Ghiesko took to the radio to notify HIV/AIDS patients they could continue to access care and treatment, and it arranged carpools to bring them from their neighborhoods to its clinics. "It's a real pleasure for us health workers to see our patients come here despite what has befallen them," nurse Naomi Jean-Charles said as she dispensed medications to dozens of people waiting in line.
According to Pape, Ghiesko always provides its patients with extra medicines at their monthly visits "so they won't run short." "What worries me more is not our usual patients but this horrible emergency situation, offering care to people who come in from all over with horrible injuries," he said.
Ghiesko has had to move its operations to a wing of its Port-au-Prince facility that remained intact after the quake. A military hospital with a surgical unit has set up in a rear courtyard of the clinic, with assistance from the US government and volunteer surgeons. Hundreds of injured Haitians have descended on the clinic seeking treatment, while some 5,000 homeless people have taken refuge on land next to it.