SCOPE partners with medical and faith communities to improve health in Ethiopia through outreach, education, and training.

What We Do

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Strengthening Care Opportunities through Partnership in Ethiopia (SCOPE) is a partnership between the University of Washington Department of Global Health, University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, WA, the University of Gondar, Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

SCOPE serves populations in regions with a high incidence of HIV/AIDS, where there is a predominance of one religious group with many more religious leaders than medical professionals, and a promising opportunity to form bridges between the medical and religious communities. By educating local faith leaders about HIV/AIDS and antenatal care and inviting their partnership in conducting outreach to expand HIV testing and treatment, SCOPE serves pregnant women who would not otherwise seek testing and care. SCOPE also serves families of HIV+ individuals by reducing the risk of HIV transmission and the burden of care. Finally, by enrolling women (with or without HIV) into antenatal care, SCOPE helps keep mothers alive to care for their children, thereby serving the next generation.

Ultimately, SCOPE will prove to be (and, indeed, already is) an effective model for strengthening collaboration and understanding between indigenous faith-based and medical communities to address this global pandemic.

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Beruh Tesfa, SCOPE's PMTCT Project

In Gondar, where 87% of the population identifies as Ethiopian Orthodox, pregnant women are more likely to confide in their priests than to visit doctors. The Beruh Tesfa (Amharic for “bright hope”) project, pairs SCOPE-trained EOC priests with volunteer religious women. These pairs are educated about the importance of prenatal care and supports them in conducting outreach to rural pregnant women, encouraging these women to access available antenatal care (ANC)—including HIV testing and treatment.

A successful pilot of the Beruh Tesfa project has recently been completed at the Woleka Health Center. During the first two months of the Woleka intervention, priest/religious women volunteer teams identified and referred 22 pregnant women, none of whom had previously sought ANC, for care. At Woleka, the diocese saw a 33% increase in the number of women seeking ANC in July of 2013 compared to July of 2012; qualitative results suggest that reverence for religious leaders and the ability of religious leaders to increase the health knowledge of their parishioners were the primary reasons for the increase.

The Woleka Beruh Tesfa pilot is currently being evaluated and prepared for expansion into other local health centers.

Fellowship Program

IMG_0764The purpose of the fellowship is to offer the opportunity for graduate students in Global Health-related fields to examine areas where religious and medical systems overlap and can be supported to improve access to and delivery of HIV/AIDS care.

SCOPE funds two to four graduate students annually, equally divided between the University of Washington and the University of Gondar, with the goals being:

  • To describe and assess areas of overlap and potential collaboration between religious and medical paradigms.
  • To design an intervention or interventions that take advantage of and build upon the common ground between these communities.
  • To implement the proposed intervention(s).
  • To evaluate and quantify the impact of the intervention(s) on improved access to and delivery of HIV/AIDS care as measured by both objective and subjective criteria.

SCOPE fellows spend 3-6 months in Ethiopia, working with Ethiopian partners to design, implement and evaluate a program that leverages collaboration between medical and religious institutions and communities. SCOPE intends that fellows’ projects will ultimately demonstrate measurable improvement in the areas of prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Priest Training

SCOPE’s University of Gondar fellow, Kefyalew Addis, proposed, planned and implemented the North Gondar Dioceses’ first HIV/AIDS priest training program, which took place on the compound of the North Gondar Diocese. In keeping with SCOPE’s mission to partner medicine with the Orthodox Church to benefit those living with HIV/AIDS in northern Ethiopia, Kefyalew’s SCOPE project is considered a tremendous success.

Twenty-five priests, who are either church leaders or have many spiritual children, participated. None of the trainees had any previous HIV/AIDS education and the training was designed to increase priest awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, control, support, care and stigma reduction and to provide information about anti-retroviral therapy.

Kefyalew has since reproduced this program and has trained priests in the catchment areas of two local health centers. This program will continue to be expanded as priest/female volunteer teams are used for SCOPE’s Prevention of Maternal to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV projects.