Houston Chronicle Examines Baylor Pediatric HIV/AIDS Program in Burkina Faso
The Houston Chronicle on Saturday examined the Baylor College of Medicine's International Pediatric AIDS Initiative in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. According to the Chronicle, the initiative was established in Bobo-Dioulasso almost two years ago, and physicians initially believed that "by now they would be treating patients ... in their own facility with modern equipment." However, the initiative has been "slowed" by cultural issues and the remoteness of the clinic site, the Chronicle reports, adding that Baylor staff still work out of a wing in a government hospital. According to Mark Kline, president of the Baylor program, the new facility likely will be completed by March 2009.
Suzanne Gaudreault, a physician working at the clinic in Bobo-Dioulasso, said that the clinic experiences "months and months of delay" over small issues, adding that "[m]arrying our ways of functioning (with Burkina ways) has been challenging." According to the Chronicle, the clinic is the poorest of Baylor's African sites, and Burkina Faso ranked second to last in the United Nation's 2008 Human Development Index, which examined issues such as life expectancy, literacy rates and gross domestic product per capita. The extreme poverty of the area also creates problems for diagnosing and treating patients, Gaudreault said. She added that health providers in areas with high HIV/AIDS rates often refer malnourished children to HIV testing because malnutrition can be a symptom of the virus. However, because malnutrition is so common in Burkina Faso, the condition often is not a clear indication of HIV. "It may be that all they really need is food," Gaudreault said.
The clinic has made some progress, the Chronicle reports. It sees approximately 30 new patients monthly and now provides treatment to about 460 children living with HIV/AIDS. Pediatric HIV prevalence is low in Burkina Faso compared with other Baylor clinics in Africa at about 6% in Bobo-Dioulasso and 2% nationwide, according to the Chronicle. According to Kline, the country's relatively low prevalence provides health care workers with the opportunity to fight the epidemic during its early stages (Grant, Houston Chronicle, 9/6).