U of A health researcher’s pilot project shows treatment on par with the best hospitals in east African nation
The Edmonton Journal
Sunday, January 13, 2008
When Arif Alibhai went to Uganda two years ago, he knew the job before him required both scholastic ability and a humanitarian touch.
The east African country had made substantial strides in combatting an AIDS epidemic, yet the progress was tragically uneven. Anti-retroviral drugs were available only at major urban hospitals, effectively denying treatment to patients in many rural areas.
The challenge offered to Alibhai, a University of Alberta health researcher, was to devise a system of dispensing medication in these remote districts.
The catch? Not only would any solution have to be low-cost and sustainable over the long term, it would also have to get around a critical shortage of doctors.
After tossing around a few ideas, Alibhai and his team came up with a plan: Instead of using health professionals to deliver drugs, the job could be done by unpaid community volunteers.
So far, the concept appears to be working.
Early results from a rural pilot project show treatment that is on par with the best Ugandan hospitals — a success story that could potentially serve as a model for drug programs in other AIDS-afflicted countries.
“The whole point was to look at the problem of how rural people access treatment,” said Alibhai, the senior project manager. “We asked ourselves, is it possible to move the treatment to where the people are?”