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

Ongoing peer support during political crisis

Although political upheaval in Mali since 2012 has forced many clinics to reduce their programs or close their doors, we are proud that our peer support groups at the Hope Center Clinic have continued to provide companionship as well as nutrition to our HIV+ patients. Food is critically important to the well being of our patients, and in the African context one cannot provide ARV treatment without thinking also about nutrition. Every year GAIA Vaccine Foundation provides a weekly meal to an average of 25 HIV+ patients and their children. We purchase food that is cooked by our patients who share the meal with their peer group, HIV- children and doctors. Sharing a meal with the staff reduces stigma, and there is always a doctor present so that the patients can ask health related questions in a less formal and more relaxed setting. Improving the nutritional status of our patients is an essential aspect of HIV care, and the number of our patients continues to expand despite the challenges that the past 2 years have presented the Malian population.

We could not have accomplished this without your support!

 

HIV+ patients cooking meals together
HIV+ patients cooking meals together
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!

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