The Tree of Knowledge
Volunteerism: The Power of Love Foundation
This is the second article after that of Aabid Surti in our series on Volunteerism in all parts of the world.
“Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.”
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Power of Love Foundation (POL) is one such organisation that dares to try to make a difference. Founded in 2002 by three friends — Suresh and Alka Subramanian, and Ellen Furnari — to develop community responses to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, it’s a secular, US non-profit Foundation. The founders quit their senior industry and tenured academic jobs to build innovative solutions for the global HIV/AIDS crisis that work at the local and community levels. POL funds and runs projects in Zambia and India targeted toward helping women and children infected/affected with HIV/AIDS. Its mission is to turn back the tide of the global AIDS epidemic through innovative community responses that increase the effectiveness of prevention and care efforts. Its Vision is a world where the AIDS epidemic is in continuous retreat, and people living with HIV have access to loving care and treatment in an environment free of stigma and discrimination.
What is the problem POL is trying to solve? Over the last decade significant progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS but children are still falling through the gaps. Every day, 1000 children are born infected with HIV even though this is completely preventable. Many children born HIV positive will die by age two if they do not receive medication and adequate care. In addition, only 23% of children living with HIV/AIDS are receiving the necessary treatment. This problem continues to remain unaddressed and is growing. Over the last 10 years of work, POL has developed a highly cost-effective way to prevent children from being born HIV+ and for HIV positive children. It has put in place a highly effective way to let them live a normal life for pennies per day. At this present time, it has 200 HIV+ children and their families benefiting from its comprehensive program, which includes pediatric HIV/AIDS care, microloans for care givers’ children, and prevention of malaria via distribution of nets.
POL’s pediatric HIV/AIDS program just hit a major milestone. In the last few years, of the 23 children born in the program to HIV+ mothers, 22 were born normal and HIV free. It’s an unheard of statistic outside the high-tech/expensive medical world and a story that may be of value to many others working toward similar goals. POL’s work is being studied and replicated by other organizations in the field. Its model of care for HIV positive children was developed through partnerships with MIT and Harvard and utilizing best practices from the world of business. Nevertheless it continues to refine its approach to deliver more care at a lower cost. POL volunteers’ work is aimed at cutting mother-child transmission of HIV to zero and providing continuous quality care to HIV positive children so that they can live close to normal lives.
Learning from the field: Infant HIV infections are easily preventable. Once infected, if a child’s health is managed to adolescence through care, anti-retrovirals, nutrition and education, they are on their way to an almost normal life. The program should target multiple points in the system at the same time. POL’s solution: In order to solve the infant HIV problem, POL volunteers target three areas simultaneously. (a) Prevention of HIV via education, and treatment; (b) PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) programs have evolved a great deal over the last decade and there are a number of models of PMTCT that are now in place in various communities across the world. These programs need to be optimized and scaled across the entire population. (c) Community-based care. Build and scale a highly cost-effective comprehensive care structure to ensure that all HIV infected infants reach adolescence with stable health, schooling and community integration.
What is their strategy? Power of Love is focused on building, piloting, and scaling cost-efficient community-based care for HIV positive children. Their strategy includes: Family based care for HIV positive children; PMTCT program for women; Provision of critical medications and ARV’s to HIV positive children; Weekly health check-ups for the HIV positive children; Psycho-social counselling for the HIV infected children; Education on prevention of HIV; Micro loans, business training and support for women caring for HIV positive children; Schooling support for the HIV infected children; Provision of long lasting insecticide treated nets and education on prevention of malaria to children and families vulnerable to malaria.
What are the outcome goals and measures? Survival rates for children are around 95% and an improvement in their health (measured by a gain in weight, reduced number of opportunistic infections, and an increase in CD4 counts) once the child has been with POL for a few months. As a result of the improved health all children are in school. Out of the 23 children born in its PMTCT program over the last few years, 22 were born HIV free. Repayment rates in our micro loans program are around 92% – amazing given the high incidence of HIV/AIDS.
Women in its loans program are confident about their future, they have started savings bank accounts, and know the importance of keeping children in school. The provision of mosquito nets and education on prevention of malaria has reduced the incidence of malaria and school attendance has gone up. All children except one contracted malaria in 2012. The Power of Love Foundation see themselves as being successful when they see women and children who have graduated come back and act as mentors to other children and women in the program.
They are convinced that they can solve this huge problem. They know how to do it and they know how to deliver the solution in a loving and cost-effective way. But they need the partnership and help from all of us. Follow them on http://poweroflove.org.
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