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MSF in Honduras, 2006
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Every year, about 20,000 to 30,000 Hondurans migrate from the countryside to the capital, many establishing themselves in squat slums within the center of Tegucigalpa. With high rates of divorce, alcohol and drug abuse, family structure is fast-disappearing and many young children prefer to live on the streets. Easy prey for druglords and prostitution, these young people engage in high-risk behaviours and live amidst a climate of violence — yet they are routinely denied access to state healthcare.
Since April 2005 MSF, in cooperation with local organizations, has operated a therapeutic day center for street children and youth in the heart of Tegucigalpa. The project offers medical, psychosocial and socialeducational assistance to street children and youth up to age 24 in an effort to reduce high-risk behaviour and provide healthcare. Almost 400 youths are now registered at the center, which receives approximately 35 visits per day.
Medical consultations number approximately 180 per month, most frequently for respiratory infections, skin diseases and trauma caused by violence. Sexual and reproductive health care are emphasised in response to the needs of girls and adolescents exposed to the risk of pregnancy, sexual exploitation, violence and sexually transmitted infections. Psychological care is an important part of the services offered, with the center’s psychologist seeing approximately 35 clients per month for symptoms of depression and anxiety alone.
In 2005, the center piloted psycho-educational group work. One group was created for young pregnant women and mothers to exchange experiences and learn about sexual, reproductive and natal care. The second group, “Los Listos” (quick witted) was aimed at male members and brings up issues of violence and drug abuse. Facilitated by a psychologist and education specialist, members discuss topics including problems of substance abuse and difficulties living on the street. Girls soon lobbied for a similar group of their own, and in December 2005, a female “Las Listas” was created. In a separate endeavour, a number of well-attended informational HIV prevention sessions were also held in 2005/2006.
Lending antiretroviral medicines to the government
After transferring an HIV/AIDS project in Tela to national authorities in September 2005, MSF intervened in November 2005 and January 2006, lending antiretrovirals to prevent impending interruption of treatment not only for its former patients, but for all 3000 patients enrolled in the national antiretroviral program. At both times, drug stocks were about to run out because of untimely ordering of drugs by the Honduran government. MSF expressed public concern for these patients, and to date no further difficulties obtaining these drugs, financed by the Global Fund, have been reported.
MSF has worked in Honduras since 1998.