Frequently Asked Questions —
Terminology

What is an accompagnateur?

Accompagnateurs, or community health workers, are the backbone of PIH’s community-based model of health care. Settings boasting few physicians and nurses are often those that have a large number of underutilized community health workers. They and other underemployed persons and traditional healers alike have expressed interest in being trained to “accompany” their neighbors living with AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases. In PIH projects, accompagnateurs observe the ingestion of pills and respond to patient and family concerns; for these services, they receive a modest stipend and ongoing training in the importance of observing therapy daily, recognizing symptoms of illness or side effects of medications, and maintaining patient confidentiality. Most importantly, accompagnateurs provide emotional support to patients and help physicians and nurses improve adherence to treatment, prolong patient survival, minimize rates of developed drug resistance, and maintain contact with dispersed communities living far from the clinic or hospital. More information about PIH’s community-based model of health care can be found here.

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What is “a preferential option for the poor”?

Although PIH is a secular organization not affiliated with, motivated by, or espousing any particular religious ideology, we find the concept of “a preferential option for the poor” to be a powerful moral imperative. The concept stems from Catholic social teaching and signifies a special concern in distributive justice for poor and vulnerable persons. The “poor” includes but is not limited to those who are economically deprived. The concept of “a preferential option for the poor” challenges us to be advocates for the voiceless and powerless among us. Those who are in any way and for any reason deprived, marginalized, or vulnerable have a special moral claim on the community. As a matter of both justice and charity, we must put in place structures and systems to address and meet their needs, so that they might participate more fully in the common good and thereby flourish more fully as human persons.

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