Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is a Post About Work--You Have Been Warned

“Sawubona Sis.”

It’s how I’m greeting every morning at Vulindlela. I’ve managed to work up the courage to respond with “Sawubona, Unjani” (I know right, I’m so cool). Annnnd that’s about as far as it goes. Zulu is a hard language to learn as a native English speaker. I know this first-hand, which is why I am so impressed that most of my co-workers speak Zulu fluently and English with great proficiency. Many of the nurses, counselors and coordinators at V grew up in the community, which in many ways is the most important factor for communication when it comes to implementing trials and studies in Vulindlela. This brings me to my next point...

If you have studied development or health in a global context, then I’m sure you’ve  discussed the merits and importance of program sustainability. The importance of founding, implementing and nurturing programs that are realistic, relevant and lasting within the context of the community. Because of the nature of HIV/AIDS treatment (i.e. HIV/AIDS treatment must be accessible for one’s lifetime), this is especially true. After working at Vulindlela and also having access to the work of some of the most well-regarded HIV scientists in the world, it’s clear that CAPRISA has established an extraordinary model.

Community health in rural areas of  Kwazulu-Natal is about much more than science and medicine. The success of implementation relies heavily on respect, cultural understanding, relationships, flexibility, trust.  These facets aren’t easily obtained and once they are they’re incredibly fragile. Often, academics and implementors, the elite and in some cases the foreign, come into an area with big ideas. Ideas that are great. Ideas that have the best of intentions and will seemingly bring relief to those who need it most. But when sustainability is ignored these programs are rarely successful in the long-term. By staffing V site with members of the community, CAPRISA simulataneously foments these vital connections and provides jobs for skilled workers in the community—a community with significant unemployment rates. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward but it’s a model that takes patience, understanding and in some cases comprimises to what implementors may believe is “best practice.”  It’s rare to find an organization so dedicated to the scientific understanding of HIV and yet so able to recognize the social aspects that play such a deep and complex role in the epidemic. It is with this grasp, I believe, that CAPRISA has been able to build such a remarkable organization.

For the science-y group of readers (lolz you like how I say “group of readers” like I have a large population of blog followers) you should check out this article on CAPRISA’s latest breakthrough. Disclaimer: it’s pretty technical, but also a pretty groundbreaking discovery. (I MET THIS GUY LAST NIGHT AT THE COMPANY FUNCTION!! He was dancing with his tie wrapped around his head…) HIV/AIDS Study Offers New Clue to Developing an Effective Vaccine

And for the political “group of readers”  I know you must be DYING to know the South African opinion on Obama’s reelection. Here’s a little peek (first heard on Durban’s East Coast radio the morning after Barack’s victory)…

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