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Community Educators Team

The UNC Project community department consists of 20 certified community nurses who provide ongoing outreach through community sensitization programs, coordination with community groups and tracing of study participants when appropriate. The community department overall objective is to educate people on research that UNC project conducts and provide general education on health issues including HIV prevention.

The community department works with local groups to conduct the sensitization talks on HIV/AIDS prevention and care. It also arranges meetings with local leaders on behalf of the community educators to dispel rumors, misconceptions and myths about research and various studies. Each December, the department plans World AIDS Day outreach activities which are funded by UNC Project. The community department participates in the national HIV counseling week by deploying counselors in designated communities.

Community Advisory Board

UNC Project has an active community relations and outreach program. The project is guided by a large, diverse and active Community Advisory Board (CAB) consisting of people living with HIV infection, participants in clinical trials; traditional, civic, religious and political leaders; and representatives of groups with special needs such as women and youth. The CAB has active 30 members. Staff who work in UNC Project clinics are invited to monthly CAB meetings to explain research projects to the CAB members and educate them on specific research topic or study protocols. The CAB is also involved in reviewing IEC materials before they are submitted to IRBs for review, and assists in translating some medical information into Chichewa.

Dzama Orphan Care and School

Dzama Orphan Care is an example of UNC Project’s commitment to the community and people of Malawi. Dzama village, like places all over Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa, has been hit particularly hard by the AIDS crisis. Located about 15 miles from Lilongwe, Dzama was struggling to cope with a large number of AIDS orphans and lacked an adequate school and access to clean water. Dzama Orphan Care was established in 2004 to provide children orphaned by AIDS with nursery and primary education.

With initial funding from the Statistical Center for HIV/AIDS Research & Prevention (SCHARP) in Seattle and UNC professor Peter Gilligan, PhD, UNC Project oversaw the construction of a brick school with solar-powered electricity, and a toilet. Later, donations from Carolina Friends School allowed for the installation of a well to provide clean water to the village. The school employs three teachers who instruct the children, aged two to ten, in English, Chichewa, mathematics, etc. With donations from well-wishers, UNC Project has recently constructed a three bed-room house fitted with solar power to accommodate a Head Teacher. Government has acknowledged this development by upgrading the school into a Junior Primary School and has deployed government teachers.

UNC faculty members donated additional money to establish a nutrition and feeding program, which provides children with porridge every day. Attendance is up as a result, since hunger kept many students at home. An average of 170 pupils attend school every day at Dzama.