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Children at Camp Addis in Ethiopia
Children at Camp Addis in Ethiopia
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The teenage years are difficult enough without the complication of living with HIV/AIDS. But in impoverished countries all over the world, millions of teens are growing up with the specter of AIDS inherited from deceased parents.

Two San Diego State students got a first-hand look at this critical and pervasive public health problem when they spent a month in Ethiopia at the Worldwide Orphans Foundation’s Camp Addis for infected teens, operated in conjunction with Association of Hole in the Wall Camps.

Sarah Hiller and Tyson Volkmann, Ph.D. students in SDSU’s Graduate School of Public Health, collected and analyzed data to determine how well the teens are learning the skills needed to manage their illnesses for life.

“Camp Addis is the mechanism by which Worldwide Orphans Foundation and Hole in the Wall impart these skills to HIV-positive teens,” Hiller said. “Our job was to quantify and qualify these life skills and anecdotal benefits as tangible, measurable outcomes to determine what works and what doesn’t.”

The project came together through the efforts of SDSU public health professor Thomas Novotny and Steven Nagler, director of global partnerships and new initiatives at Hole in the Wall.

The two met in the late 1960s while serving in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa and remained friends.

“SDSU is building a global partnership with Hole in the Wall Camps,” said Novotny. “This model can be expanded, and we intend to take it to Vietnam and India in the next few years.

“By measuring the impact of public health interventions in the camps, we can help refine their tools,” he added.

Supervised by public health instructor Nancy Binkin, a former expert evaluator with UNICEF, the student researchers observed the teens’ behaviors and conducted pre-treatment and post-treatment surveys to determine how well they have assimilated the HIV/AIDS interventions.

Researchers also evaluated whether certain medical and psychosocial benefits might improve the teens’ health as the disease progresses.

“Our measures have shown an absolutely positive outcome,” Novotny said. “We are helping these kids cope with their illnesses and allowing them to be more like other teens.”
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