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SIC Babati

2 May 2011
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I’m in Babati Tanzania trying to learn more about SIC’s work here. In particular, I’m trying to design a randomized intervention around either the partnership with the district health committee to provide mobile Care and Treatment Centers for AIDS patients or the home-based care provided by community health workers supported by SIC.

SIC stands for Support for International Change (though its original name was Students for International Change). SIC has a dual mission of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in underserved communities and training future leaders in global health and development. SIC started as a volunteer organization, and in 2004, I volunteered with SIC in Arusha District (Mlangirini Ward).

SIC began providing HIV-related services in rural communities in the Arusha Region in 2002. In 2004, SIC started offering mobile HIV testing. In 2007, SIC expanded to Babati District. Its volunteer programs now alternate between Babati and Arusha. This year, most volunteers will be in Babati (of the four SIC volunteer groups, one group will be in Arusha). Volunteers engage in youth awareness campaigns and try to generate enthusiasm for community testing events. American (and sometimes British) volunteers pair with Tanzanian partners to teach in the schools. Volunteers stay with local families who are paid a small stipend to cover the costs of hosting volunteers. To participate in SIC, [usually] university students will apply at their home universities. If selected, they go through some pre-field training. Volunteers then go through an orientation in Tanzania, during which time they meet their teaching partners and work together to try to write their plan of action in the schools and the general community. When orientation is over, the volunteers and teaching partners go to the communities and work. Volunteers pay a fee to participate in SIC. The money goes toward the overhead of hosting their time in Tanzania and supplies income to SIC’s other activities.

SIC continues to provide mobile testing, bringing government health personnel and testing tents to locations where people congregate (whether encouraged to come by SIC, or as part of some previously scheduled community event (like the Mei Mosi/May Day event I saw my first day in Babati). People who want to be tested wait in line at the first tent to go through pre-test counseling and get a finger prick and then wait at a second tent where another counselor provides them with their test result as well as post-test counseling. The whole process could be as short as 30 minutes, and depends on how many people are waiting to be tested (as well as how many counselors are on hand).

In 2006, SIC began supporting a community health worker (CHW) program. CHWs receive a modest stipend and volunteer much of their time. SIC would train CHWs and equip them with supplies to visit people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in their homes. The CHW program links rural patients to services at urban hospitals and provides social and material support to PLHA. CHWs also act as advocates for PLHA in the community. SIC provides PLHA clients with a mosquito net as well as monthly supplies of multivitamins and soap.

In cooperation with local government and health offices in 2010, SIC began to facilitate mobile care and treatment clinics for AIDS patients in Babati District. At these clinics, government-registered and ARV-eligible PLHA can receive their drugs, treatment for opportunistic infections, CD4 sample collection and results, and counseling from doctors and nurses. SIC supports the costs and logistics of transporting local health workers from the district hospital to remote facilities that do not have the personnel to provide services to PLHA. Essentially, the government hospitals provide medical staff, HIV and OI treatment, and record keeping. SIC provides transport and/or a daily stipend to the hospital staff.

The district manager in Babati, Daniel Craig, is my local guide and host. He’s lived in Tanzania for years now, the past two of which he’s worked with SIC in Babati. His contract with SIC is up soon (his position is being nationalized), and he is looking for opportunities with other community-based NGOs in East Africa, preferably in the field of youth development or income-generating activities. He’s quite good at what he does and is incredibly hard working, in case anyone is looking for someone…

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