GAIA Vaccine Foundation

Our mission is to promote prevention of infectious diseases (HIV, TB, and HPV) in Mali while working to develop vaccines for distribution on a not-for-profit basis in the developing world. The Foundation's activities are centered on four themes: education, prevention, access to care, and vaccines. Through our active, ongoing collaboration with West African physicians and support for prevention-related clinical activities in the region, we work to improve the health of Malian children and their parents while setting the stage for ethical vaccine trials.
Aug 7, 2014

Learning about peer education--the Malian way

Karamoko, Souleymane Dolo, Socrates
Karamoko, Souleymane Dolo, Socrates

During our recent trip to Bamako, we met with Souleymane Dolo, of Groupe Pivot, and he explained how peer education traditionally works in Mali. 

While there are many official structures and organizations in Mali, there are also unofficial organizations that are deeply ingrained in the social fabric. “Tontines” are groups of women who meet daily and collect money to buy and sell merchandise or take turns giving each other loans. “Grains” are evening gatherings of neighbors that are formed by shared interests. Both “grains” and “tontines” are naturally self-organized by age and gender, making them the perfect location to introduce peer education that touches on topics of sexual and reproductive health.

Our teen peer educators wll be fully trained according to the national protocol for teen peer education. They must be well versed in providing advice, and they must be fully trained in confidentiality because they will hear about everyone’s private issues. Socrates, a professional peer educator will train our teen educators to engage in each session little by little, until they are ready to take over.  

Peer educators can integrate into the social groups of the "tontines" and "grains" (which are already organized according to age and sex) to talk about the themes they have been trained in. People can ask personal questions (because they are already among their intimite friends), and they can request a certain theme that the peer educator will prepare for the next session.

By learning how to develop our program in accordance with Malian methods for peer education, we can assure the highest level of success. 

Please join us in our efforts to increase teen peer education in Bamako. Adolescence are a very at-risk sector of the population, and your donation will help improve the quality of their lives.

Many thanks,

Eliza with our peer educator, Socrates
Eliza with our peer educator, Socrates
Our future teen peer educator Koura with Sara
Our future teen peer educator Koura with Sara
Koura and Aichata, two kids from the neighborhood
Koura and Aichata, two kids from the neighborhood

Links:

Aug 6, 2014

Success on the fabric frontier!

Getting the ladies
Getting the ladies' opinions

We have just returned from a visit with our collaborators in Bamako, Mali!

Not only we were reporting the results of our recent study about HPV and cervical cancer in Mali, but also we are setting the stage for distribution of the HPV vaccine.

I brought 20 yards of the fabric print with me to show to neighborhood leaders and our collaborators in the scientific community. When we showed the cloth to doctors, they picked up on the imagery of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and virus, and they knew exactly what it was referring to. They were concerned, however, that patients would not have the same familiarity with scientific imagery.

In a small room at the Hope Center clinic, thirty women crowded in to hear about the cloth project and voice their opinions on the print. Leaders of the neighborhood women's groups had recently attended our conference on HPV, so in rapid-fire Bambara (the local language) they explained the connection between the virus and cervical cancer, which has an especially high mortality rate in Mali due to lack of access to testing and treatment. Although I couldn’t understand what they were saying, I watched comprehension flood their faces, as they all knew someone who had been a victim of the disease. They assured me that they could use the fabric as a teaching device when they wore it. "When people ask us questions about the pattern, we can explain the images", they said, demonstrating how they would hold out one arm with the fabric draped over it.

Even better, they all wanted the fabric! I took copious notes on the exact quantity we would need (Each lady needs 6 yards to make a matching top, skirt, and head wrap!). We received suggestions on how to tweak our slogan so that it could be better understood. The revised slogan will read, "Je me protege, je me dépiste tôt, je me vaccine", I protect myself (by avoiding risky sexual contact), I get tested early (to catch early development of cervical cancer), and I get vaccinated (against HPV).

The village chief, an elderly man, who is nonetheless very innovative and supportive of our projects, suggested the perfect slogan in Bambara to add to the cloth: “Banakoubé kafisa ni bana foura keye”, meaning, “it’s better to prevent than to cure". He understood the importance of the project right away!

We come back from this trip feeling blessed to have such fantastic collaborators in Mali. We are full of renewed energy and motivation for this project. 

This fall, we will begin the "sensibilisation" or "sensitization" campaign, meaning we will print a huge batch of the cloth and hold meetings with many, many community members to ensure that everyone understands the importance and relevancy of the vaccination campaign.

We are well on our way to our goal, but we still need your continued support!

Thank you!

Our founder Annie with Mme Rokia and Mme Badiallo
Our founder Annie with Mme Rokia and Mme Badiallo
Eliza and Socrates, our peer educator
Eliza and Socrates, our peer educator
Showing the print at the Regional Health Center
Showing the print at the Regional Health Center
Showing the print at the HIV Health Center
Showing the print at the HIV Health Center
Jul 15, 2014

New challenge

Awa Couliby and Annie De Groot
Awa Couliby and Annie De Groot

Writing to you from Bamako, Mali, I can tell you of a surprise we encountered when we visited the Hope Center Clinic: Many of our HIV+ patients are pregnant!

Yes, our Mother to Children Transmission Prevention program (MTCTP or PTME in French) is so reliable, with it's 100% HIV free birthrate, our patients are confidently increasing their families!

During a week full of meetings with many public health officials in Bamako, it was wonderful to hear praise for our successful programs. Our small clinic is considered to be one of the best in Bamako, and a model for how efficiently localized healthcare can improve lives.

As we blaze the trail for effective treatment and prevention, we strive to continue to expand our programs. Our next step will be to increase our community outreach, to draw more women to our clinic.

Your continued support is what makes us who we are!

Here is a picture of our founder and scientific director, Annie De Groot with Madame Awa Coulibay, head of the DRS, Regional Health Director.

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