Anita Dohn, MD, MSc
Michael N. Dohn, MD, MSc
Anita & Michael Dohn are physicians who are serving as missionaries with SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries & Senders).
Anita is a Family Practitioner.
Michael is an Internist.
Students were the first group to receive AIDS education programs. We began talking to junior and senior high school students at Episcopal schools in 2000. Word spread, and soon we were invited to public schools as well as technical schools (such as auto mechanics and beauty schools). Presentations to students have continued over the years with other personnel at the Clinic participating (physicians, nurses, psychologists, and community health team members).
Peer education has been another technique in which the Clinic has done AIDS education. Grants over the years have permitted the development of: adolescent peer educators to work with high school students; gay peer educators to work with men who have sex with men; and people living with HIV/AIDS to help people who are newly diagnosed with HIV infection to make the lifestyle adjustments (particularly the correct use of anti-HIV medicines) that are important for improving health.
Community education has taken several forms. Hundreds of the Clinic's volunteer health promoters have included information on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases among the topics of their health promotion activities. Clinic staff have presented to churches, businesses, and manufacturers (including more 1,400 textile workers at one factory in a single morning).
AIDS education and AIDS prevention are closely related. We hope that all the AIDS education works to prevent new HIV infections. In addition, identifying and working with specific groups (such as sex workers and uninfected partners of patients, for example) can prevent many cases of HIV infection. Also, assuring that pregnant women who are HIV+ participate in the program to reduce mother-to-baby transmission is important to protect babies from infection.
When the Clinic began testing people for HIV in 2004, there were no HIV/AIDS treatment centers in our province. This presented a dilemma: we were diagnosing a potentially fatal disease and had no remedy to offer people. Consequently, every Wednesday morning for almost two years we drove a group of people newly diagnosed with HIV to a private treatment center in La Romana in the adjacent province. We would do all the preliminary lab work and evaluations, send the results to La Romana, make an appointment for the next week, and accompany the patients (and a family member when the patient was too weak to go alone) to their first appointment to make introductions and assure that all went well. The Clinic's old Nissan Pathfinder often had 7 to 9 people squeezed into the five passenger vehicle. With treatment, there was an obvious improvement in survival.
When the chance to open an HIV/AIDS treatment unit at the Clinic came along, we took the opportunity. Through an agreement with the Ministry of Health and funding from the Clinton Foundation, the Clinic began seeing patients in May 2007. The Clinic's AIDS unit is the largest one in the province, having registered more than 500 patients, including a dozen children. The HIV/AIDS treatment unit offers anti-HIV therapy and treatment for concurrent conditions (such as tuberculosis), as well as primary care services for the patients. The personnel are dedicated providing excellent care and the patients appreciate what the unit offers them.
AIDS Social Services
Successful treatment of people with the HIV/AIDS often requires social support. The social services depend upon the available funding and that has varied over the years. For a description of a social services program, see the video about the program that ended in 2012: Esperanza y Vida.
Social support has included starting AIDS support groups, employing an HIV+ peer counselor, nutritional supplementation, transportation subsidies, clothing, advocacy in employment and other situations, and home visits with care, among other services.
Perhaps the greatest social support that the Clinic offers is the unconditional acceptance of all the patients as part of God's creation.