an assessment mission to Africa in the winter of 2002, the US Doctors
For Africa team identified a project opportunity at the Hlabisa Hospital,
located in the rural Kwa Zulu Natal province of South Africa. This potential
project, called Project Nine, will enable teams of US Doctors For Africa
medical volunteers to work at the Hlabisa Hospital during the month
of September, when an annual four-fold increase in births in their tiny
maternity ward is experienced.
This spike in birth rate occurring during and around the month of September,
is due to unique socio-economic conditions. A large percentage of the
male population of this area are employed in the mining industry, spending
eleven months out of each year engaged in mining activities far from
their homes. As a result, married couples spend the majority of the
year apart from one another due to these job demands. During the holiday
season the male population returns to their homes, and consequently
a spike in the local birth rate occurs nine months later – during
the month of September. Current projections indicate Hlabisa Hospital
will likely see an average of 24 births per day or as many as 720 babies
born during the month of September.
The solicitation of prostitution and extra marital sex in mining communities
is a contributing factor to the high prevalence rate of HIV to be found
amongst the local population. Further, it is estimated that one in four
of the infants born at the Hlabisa Hospital is born HIV Positive.
US Doctors For Africa volunteer medical teams will not only assist the
local staff with childbirths, but will also bring much needed expertise
and medication to help reduce mother to child transmission of the HIV
virus known to cause AIDS. Similar efforts in other parts of Africa
have seen success in reducing mother-to-child transmission by as much
as 85%. Here in the United States we have nearly succeeded in eliminating
pediatric AIDS cases. We can now help to do the same in Africa through
grass roots partnerships such as this.
If we succeed at replicating transmission reduction rates other efforts
have seen, we can reduce the number of HIV infected infants from 180
to only 27. Further the training and support we provide for the staff
of the hospital during the month of September will have an impact in
the care provided throughout the entire year.