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.
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.

Links:

Jul 15, 2014

We can do more!

Fish!
Fish!

Our Hope Center Clinic is an “integrated” clinic. What does that mean? All people seeking treatment are welcome, and thanks to our donor support, we have the capacity to care for HIV+ patients as well. We are the only neighborhood clinic to have this capacity in Bamako while most seropositive patients must find their way to one of the larger hospitals. Sometimes even the low cost of public transportation can prevent someone from seeking treatment, which is why we try to set the example for how HIV care could improve by providing access to medication locally.

 But why “integrated”? Why not support an HIV only clinic? The sad truth of the matter is that if anyone were to walk through the doors of a known HIV clinic, they would live in permanent fear of abuse from their own neighbors. They would risk abandonment by their family members, and permanent stigmatization by society. At the integrated clinic they can fly under the radar; they say that they are “sick” even if they look in perfect health; they say that they have malaria.

 Obviously, it would be better if everyone could disclose their status and receive the proper care they deserve, but that’s not yet a possibility in Mali, although it’s a goal that we are working towards.

 In the meantime, it is of crucial importance to provide people with peer support and nutritional assistance. By creating the Friday lunch at the clinic, seropositive patients can spend time together, and cook a large meal to share with their children as well as their well-loved doctors and nurses. Not only is food of critical importance to these patients, some of whom are living in dire poverty, but it also allows them the dignity of giving a symbolic gift of thanks to those who provide them with care and empathy.

 Last Friday, I had the honor of sharing a meal with our patients. When I arrived early in the morning, the women were already hard at work peeling garlic, chopping vegetables, frying fish, pounding spicy peppers into a sauce, and boiling rice. There were kids everywhere, living proof that our Mother to Child Transmission Prevention program (MTCTP) is so successful that our patients are confidently increasing their families.

 The women told me their stories. They spoke with pride, saying that HIV has not prevented them from living their life to the fullest. They spoke with sadness about the neighbors that insulted them, or even the husbands who had abandoned them. They spoke about living in fear that people would find out their status. They spoke about the misery of not having any food in the house and many children to feed. A young girl, born seropositive, was so shy that she barely said a word. She wanted her story told as well, and with a friend’s arm around her shoulder, she had the courage to let it out: Her mother had died, her father had remarried and his new wife abused her and insulted her because of her status.

I wish I could show you these strong women and their beautiful children. I wish you could hear their words. I need, however, to respect their wishes. They did not want photographs to appear online that connected them to HIV, they live in fear of being recognized as seropositive, although they know in other countries people would never abuse them for their status.

 How many of us would like to support charities, but worry about where our money is going and how it is being spent? The best thing about my job is that I can talk to the HIV+ patients of the clinic directly, and get their feedback about what works, so that I can assure that GAIA’s funds are put towards the most essential issues. We are trying to improve our nutritional education program.  At the Friday lunch the women told me exactly what they needed:

“We need a roof over our heads; nothing protects from the sun or rain as we cook. Look at this broken pot; we need more supplies. Look at this women with the tiny baby; she just started coming and this will be the only time today that she will get any to eat”

 We need to do more. We need to expand the nutritional support to at least twice a week. Our clinic doctors confirm that more nutritional support would help patients adhere to their medication and support their families.

With your continued support, we can provide an essential meal to HIV+ patients and their families. We don’t want to do it just once or twice, we want to keep doing it month after month, year after year, so that these women can keep caring for each other and their families, providing much needed psychological support, as we all work towards a better future. 

All my heartfelt thanks!

Hot peppers
Hot peppers

Links:

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

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