Stigma and lack of coordination between doctors, nurses and social workers prevent people living with HIV in Africa from accessing community resources. “Imagine you just received a diagnosis of HIV,” says Global Strategies Program Director Pamela Mann. “You need people who understand what you are going through. But how do you find those people without the risk of being ostracized?”
Global Strategies, working with Femme Plus in the city of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, is using an innovative map to help patients find the help they need. The goal is that the same day a patient receives a diagnosis of HIV, he or she can be directed to a nearby support group.
Beginning in 2014, Femme Plus has already mapped 43 sites that provide care to individuals living with HIV in the city of Bukavu alone. The Femme Plus team members, equipped with tablets and trained by Global Strategies in taking GPS coordinates, visit care programs and inquire about the services available. They then complete digital questionnaires, get a GPS tag on location and then transmit the data to Global Strategies. Back in the USA, the data is entered into an online cartography program and a link to the map is sent back to Congo. Ultimately, Global Strategies plans to train the local team in the map-making software as well.
The map is also useful to people living outside of Congo, “We have been in Congo for 10 years,” says Global Strategies President Josh Bress, “But even we are seeing groups on the map we did not know existed. Some of these groups are doing incredible work with high risk populations and will help us moving forward as we work to deliver HIV care and prevention across the region.”