I-CARE is an acronym for The International Counseling, Advocacy Research & Education Project at Indiana University.
How did I-CARE begin?
Rex Stockton, Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Indiana University, responded to a request from the President of the African Association for Counseling and Guidance (a faculty member at University of Botswana) for assistance in counselor training for those doing frontline HIV-Aids work in prevention, treatment, or after care (survivor’s families, orphans etc). With his wife, Dr. Nancy Stockton, he conducted a one week workshop in Botswana. The training was judged to be very helpful by the participants and was followed up with a teleconference training some months later. What Stockton assumed would be a one time workshop is now a 15 year effort which continues.
In 2003 while medicine had just been discovered to treat AIDS it was not available in Africa. Thus having the disease was in effect a death sentence. Botswana located just north of South Africa had the highest AIDS rate in the world at that time. The need for counselors was great, however because of the enormity of the AIDS problem people were being recruited with minimal training. So we helped develop a recommended curriculum and over a period of time trained a cadre of individuals who could train others as well. When it became clear that appropriate training could be conducted by Botswana colleagues I-CARE began to focus on research in order to be useful in the fight against AIDS. The first study “Counselors’ Perceptions of HIV/AIDS Counseling in Botswana: Professional Identity, Practice, and Training Issues was published in the International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling” (2015) 37:143-154. Botswana Policy makers paid close attention to the findings and adopted many recommendations for improvement. Subsequently other studies have taken place as well, the most recent published one is “Survey of HIV mothers in Botswana: Feeding methods, support, status disclosure, and infant testing” in the Journal of Pregnancy and Reproduction volume 2(3) 1-8. Currently the project is focusing on adolescents and young adults with AIDS. This population is the only one to continue to grow and needs attention now.
Who is involved?
After the initial workshop Rex Stockton later teamed up with professors Michael Reece from IU Public Health, Keith Morran from the IUPUI campus and Amy Nitza from the IU Ft Wayne campus. Later Timothy Smith from Kelley International Business joined in. Originally I-CARE Botswana staff included University of Botswana faculty members Dan-Bush Bhusamane and Mercy Montsi (now deceased). As the project evolved it became important to join forces with faculty at the Institute for Development Management (IDM) (headquartered in Gaborone) who operate throughout Botswana. It is roughly equivalent to our Ivy Tech Community College. It served a useful purpose for a country that had nothing more than desert land with cattle and little else to begin with. Fortunately the largest diamond mine in the world was discovered in Botswana after it gained independence and the country has subsequently prospered economically since then. IDM provides skill training for various occupations (including AIDS counselors) as well as a two year college degrees and has developed into baccalaureate programs.
The I-CARE project focuses on the social psychological components of having a chronic disease in this case HIV/AIDS this is done in a variety of ways. Beginning with counselor training of human service personnel; providing the necessary skills and tools to conduct individual and/or group counseling to those dealing with HIV/AIDS. After several year period this has been accomplished. There is now a cadre of individuals in Botswana who have received sufficient training to be able to train others in counseling techniques.
I-CARE focus in the last few years has been on research and assessment projects aimed at studies that investigate important topics, and provide insights into best practices for workers in this field. A Bloomington based research team of students and faculty works on literature reviews, research design, data analysis, write ups in conjunction with Botswana based colleagues.
When I-CARE began in 2003; in Africa to be told that one is HIV positive was the equivalent of a death sentence. When medication became available a dramatic change in lifestyle occurred in that it became possible to continue living as long as one had access to the medicine. Although having one’s life extended is extremely important, some negative issues still remain. For example many AIDS victims are apt to be rejected by their society, and in some cases by their family or tribe. Thus the importance in counseling shifted from emphasis on victim’s inevitable short term life expectancy and how to have a meaningful end of life; to how to live with the stigma of having a chronic disease that requires daily medication. We maintain close contact with the Ministries of Health and Education in Botswana in order to be maximally effective.
Those interested in participating in I-CARE can contact Professor Rex Stockton at firstname.lastname@example.org.