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.
May 6, 2014

A critical moment for Mali

Due to political conflict during the past 2 years over 350,000 Malians have fled their home. Some refugees crossed boreders into neighboring countries, while many remained as IDPs, internatally deplaced people. Malians who settled in Bamako after fleeing from violence in the North have had to face many difficulties, such as lack of housing and access to healthcare and farmland. Now, the government is urging its refugee citizens to return home. Despite the positive feelings of national rebuilding that the return of refugees signifies, the burgeoning population will strain the already limited resources. People who return home may not have time to grow enough food to support their families, and malnutrition rates are expected to rise.

In a world where there are many ongoing conflicts, Mali does not often figure on the list of countries that require attention and aid, but that does not mean it is any less of an important time to act. 

We still remain committed to our programs in Mali, and all of our voluntary testing, HIV care, and social support groups have remained functioning. In fact levels of testing rose slightly as other clinics were forced to close or reduce their programs.

At the Hope Center Clinic:

1) 150 pregnant women on average are still getting tested monthly. 

2) 30 families are still receiving nutritional support every week

3) 55 patients on average are coming for voluntary HIV testing every month.

Everyone has been holding on for two years, and it is now time to redouble our efforts as Mali returns to stability. It is a crucial moment to send renewed energy and assistance towards development programs in this country, as it heals from the past two years of turmoil, and makes its way to a peaceful future.

With your help, we can bolster our programs at the clinic, expand our vaccination research, and continue to make sure that 100% of babies born at the clinic are HIV free.

Thank you.

 

May 6, 2014

Recent HPV paper spurs momentum

In 2014, GAIA Vaccine Foundation completed a study to investigate knowledge of human papilloma virus and HPV vaccination as well as prevalence of cervical cancer causing strains of HPV in Mali. Rates of cervical cancer in Mali are the highest in West Africa, and it is the leading cause of cancer-related mortalities. This is due to inaccessibility to healthcare and annual exams, and a lack of knowledge about HPV. Among the 300 individuals interviewed, 43% knew what HPV was, although only 9% knew that HPV is transmitted sexually. After an ensuing information session, everyone understood that the HPV vaccine could prevent cervical cancer; 77% wanted to participate in an HPV vaccine trial, and 84% of adult participants wanted their children to receive the vaccine. Importantly, this study also verified the presence of vaccine-preventable HPV strains 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers worldwide, in women undergoing surgery for cervical cancer in Bamako.

Building off of our current research, our proposal is to investigate the most effective method of vaccine delivery in West Africa, while at the same time, providing culturally integrated educational tools that can be used by the population to understand and spread information about healthy behaviors and preventative vaccination. Cultural and religious sensitivities in the region regarding vaccine programs for young girls are a common problem in most African and North African countries. Additionally, mistrust of medical personnel and the difficulty of completing the three doses required for HPV vaccination pose challenges to HPV vaccine distribution on both a social and organizational level. In order to succeed in providing young girls with a vaccine, GAIA VF has created a multifaceted plan of action to educate and incentivize vaccine completion.

GAIA VF has designed a commemorative cloth in the West African wax print style that will illustrate relevant health information to be distributed upon completion of the vaccination series to the family of girls (ages 9-12) vaccinated at the Hope Center Clinic. Completion rates for 3 dose vaccines are typically abysmally low at 50%. To encourage pharmaceutical companies to participate in vaccination campaigns, it is vitally important to investigate effective methods of encouraging people to become more proactive about their health and the health of their children.

In West Africa, the fabric of everyday clothing is loaded with symbolic meaning that sends a direct message to society. GAIA VF’s textile tool is based on a long history of commemorative prints used to promote political events and holidays. New patterns are printed each year to commemorate such events as International Women’s day and AIDS day. While slogans are frequently used, our pattern will not only speak with words that promote vaccination (our slogan is Je me soigne, Je me protége, Je m’immunise, I care for myself, I protect myself, I vaccinate), it will also educate visually by showing images of the virus, the cervix, and cancer cells. Cells that are healthy near the cervix transform into cancerous cells as they approach the image of the virus. By using this fabric as an incentive and a wearable teaching device, we will be utilizing the power of textiles as traditional social media in West Africa to encourage people to become proactive about their health and the health of their children.

The 33,000 doses that we urgently wanted to distribute have been distributed by others since we lost funding due to the political upheaval in Mali. Our overall goal is not diminished however, and we are still working towards further investigating the best methods for vaccine delivery. 

We need your help!

Mar 26, 2013

A vulnerable sector of the Malian population

Sisters
Sisters

GAIA Vaccine Foundation is launching a new program which is primarily focused on HIV prevention, HIV testing and access to care for the most vulnerable sector of the Malian population – young women and men, especially teenagers. The decision to focus on youth follows an evaluation of the impact of our programs that was performed with your support in 2011. We recently determined that there has been a steadily increasing incidence of new HIV infections among girls and women presenting at our clinic with their first pregnancy.

This increase occurred despite our ‘village-wide’ focus on HIV. So, what we were doing was not reaching women and young girls at risk. For 2013, we’re going to focus on this especially vulnerable group and therefore plan to:

  • Develop targeted prevention tools for young men and young mothers
  • Reach out to young mothers to reduce their rate of HIV acquisition.
  • Provide incentives to get tested, participate in education, and use condoms.
  • Educate: hire expert “youth” peer educators for the new program
  • Use the nutrition program for HIV+ mothers and their families as a model; develop a similar program for teenagers and very young mothers.

These sessions will also address the topic of cervical cancer and HPV.  We have a new focus on cervical cancer in addition to HIV/AIDS because Cervical Cancer is a big killer of women in West Africa.

GAIA is lending its expertise in field site outreach to help with the distribution of available doses of cervical cancer vaccines.  Right now in Mali, amidst a political crisis, there are 33,000 doses of the HPV vaccine, that can’t be distributed because public health dollars are supporting the military instead. However, the vaccine is perishable, and time is running out. If not utilized within the next few months, the vaccine and with it the possibility of more than 10,000 lives, will be wasted.

We have expert fieldworkers ready to distribute the vaccine, under the supervision of local healthcare providers. 11,000 adolescents will be vaccinated with one of the two vaccines that is currently approved for cervical cancer prevention. This vaccine is safe (no significant adverse events) and nearly 100% effective.  (For detailed information please see our HPV Vaccine project posted on GlobalGiving).

GAIA VF’s vision for a healthier West Africa does not end with the HPV vaccine campaign. In fact, this trial will serves as a pilot for all clinical studies to come, and including our eventual HIV vaccine trial. We will pilot protocols for future trials, and put an infrastructure in place of processes and personnel, and to train those personnel with the skills needed to sustain a vaccine trial site. That way, when we have the GAIA vaccine ready, we can distribute it in West Africa eventually distribute the HIV vaccine that is currently being developed at no cost in developing countries like Mali.

Participating in this campaign to stop cervical cancer means that you are a true visionary.

Thank you for your support!

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