McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Advancing health in Africa: Using rehabilitation to help those living with HIV in Zambia

Published: February 5, 2018
Deborah Cook
Patty Solomon is focused on research on rehabilitation in Zambia

This is part two of a six-part feature on members of the Faculty of Health Sciences advancing human health with partners in Africa.  

Patty Solomon MHSc '86, associate dean and director of McMaster University's School of Rehabilitation Science, is part of a Canadian-Zambian team along with colleagues from the University of Toronto which is focused on research on rehabilitation in Zambia related to HIV.

Improved access to antiretroviral therapy in Sub-Saharan Africa has transformed HIV from a death sentence into a chronic illness, creating daily life challenges.

This research focuses on the evolution of care to better address the long-term management of HIV as a chronic condition. It is aptly called the Sepo project. 
"In Zambia, Sepo means hope," says Solomon, a physiotherapist by trade who is known for her research in the emerging field of HIV, disability and the role of rehabilitation. 

"Our research projects are focused on understanding the types of disabilities people with HIV are experiencing in Zambia and the necessary supports in low resource settings."

The term 'disability' is broad in this sense, encompassing physical impairment, activity limitations and social participation restrictions.

"We are focused on improving day-to-day life, from helping people learn to manage chronic pain and fatigue to how they can engage in work and provide for themselves," Solomon says. "These disabilities are often amenable to rehabilitation."

Solomon has travelled to Zambia several times for Sepo-related research. She says the project's success is reliant on its partners, among which are the University of Zambia and Lusaka Trust Hospital in Zambia.

"You have to work intimately with people on the ground in order to make it meaningful," says Solomon, noting this includes collaborating with people living with HIV, policymakers, non-government organizations (NGOs) and health providers. The current Sepo research focuses on the types of rehabilitation support health providers and disability organizations can provide for those living with HIV in Zambia, with a focus on the difference in the needs of residents in urban and rural areas.

Read other articles in this series:

05/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Building the first medical school in Namibia
05/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Using rehabilitation to help those living with HIV in Zambia
06/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Nurturing psychiatrists in Uganda
06/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Supporting healthy life trajectories in South Africa
07/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Mentoring subspecialists from Uganda in Hamilton
07/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Giving pregnant women the right to safe deliveries in Uganda

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