Owens House Newborn
The Sharing Foundation's other major HIV initiative is the Owens House for HIV infected women who are about to deliver their infants in the city, usually at Calmette Hospital. Owens house was named for the Owens family, Mother, Dad and their two daughters Laura, 8, and Sarah,14, who perished in the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 disaster. Marty Ives Owens' sister, Ellen Ives, chose to support all the rehab of the home in Phnom Penh, plus the ongoing expenses of this program, as an incredibly positive way to save many infants’ lives after her own family’s tragedy.
HIV pregnant women who have previously registered come here near to term, receive teaching in group classes, and when in labor go to Hospital, where they receive nevirapine in labor. The infants are given a dose soon after delivery, thus, with other therapy, cutting the transmission of HIV from mother to child from the expected 25 % to near 5 %. Of the 22 babies born to infected moms in this program in the last 6 months, two have been positive for HIV.
The mothers and babies, return to Owens House after delivery for sometimes several weeks. The importance of preparing infant formula with safe, clean water is carefully taught, as breast feeding is not advisable with HIV moms, and we do not want the infants contracting fatal gastrointestinal infection from contaminated water. Follow up for mothers and infants is then carried out through a Maryknoll program. We have had about 200 mother and infants at Owens House since the program started 4 years ago.
HIV / sex education is very uncommon in Cambodia, although interest is beginning. Last year we arranged a weeklong program, “City Living Skills”, for our 10 college students, right before academic classes began. The students were very embarrassed in the beginning, as this sort of education is so unusual; we were amazed that no such education had come from their homes, either. After the course ended, the college students highly recommended the course, taught under the aegis of a French sex educator, but by a Cambodian teacher, and this fall we again had a week long course for our 10 new, incoming Freshmen. The cost to TSF was about $600, including lunches. We are now working to arrange a voluntary course for High School students to be run on weekends for a whole day [with lunch], probably separating the boys and girls. Once the logistics are solved, and it is running, we will report.
We are proud to be doing some ground-breaking work with HIV. Even though our numbers are small, for the children involved, the outcome can be, and is, life–saving.