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 18, 2011

Summer update

Thirty years after the first report about HIV, what can each of us say that we have done to stop AIDS?

As you are a supporter of the GAIA Vaccine Foundation you know the answer – quite a lot!

Research on the GAIA HIV vaccine continues in parallel with the National Institutes of Health-supported collaboration extending from Providence (URI, EpiVax) to the University of Bamako and the laboratory of Dr. Ousmane Koita. To demonstrate that HIV prevention is linked to HIV care, we developed a model program of HIV access to care, prevention, and mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention (MTCTP) in a clinic in Sikoro, an underprivileged suburb of Bamako.

Our short term and long term objectives may initially appear to be very different, but in fact, we are pursuing a steady path toward a single unified goal – a globally accessible, globally relevant HIV vaccine.
We have a consistent record of progress in the battle against HIV and AIDS and we are now entering a capacity building phase at our Hope Center Clinic, where we are beginning to create the infrastructure for vaccine trials.

In 2010, GAIA was able to provide cutting-edge HIV care and prevention at the front line of the HIV epidemic

•    We promote HIV prevention through peer education – our peer educators include a football coach, a university student, and a young mother, each of whom promotes HIV testing in their spare time.
•    We link government resources with the community, distributing free HIV care medication provided by the national HIV programs to patients enrolled at the clinic.
•    We provide cutting-edge HIV care at the front line of the battle against AIDS, setting an example for the rest of West Africa.

Access to care and impact on patient wellness
Since the launch of our ARV access program in 2009, hundreds of patients have enrolled. Other than the few deaths observed for patients who were already in the highly advanced clinical stages of disease when they arrived at our clinic, we have seen steady improvement in patient status as measured by CD4 T cell counts, weight, and adherence to therapy. As a result of donor support, we have also been able to increase our testing capacity. Our peer educators made more than 4,000 contacts within the community. Fifty percent of new patients were eligible to start HIV medication, of whom about half were pregnant women. Those who are HIV-seropositive, but not yet clinically eligible for ARV treatment, are being followed. We have had an almost 100% rate of adherence to therapy – all of the patients followed for longer than 11 months are adherent to treatment - and only a few patients have failed to follow up. To strengthen adherence to treatment, we hired a case manager and now provide education and psychological support sessions within the Hope Center Clinic.
Due to improved adherence to treatment, the patients’ health statuses have greatly improved. Significantly, our physicians have reported that patients have fewer opportunistic infections while on treatment. No deaths have been observed among those patients followed in the clinic who have been treated for at least four months. This is an incredibly important achievement:  not only does it reinforce the belief that therapy can make a difference, but it also motivates our professional staff and our patients to engage in HIV care.

Successful prevention of MTC HIV transmission
Since February 2005, more than 7,000 women have received prenatal care from GAIA’s Chez Rosalie clinic, with an average of 128 women per month. Women who test positive are offered PMTCT services, and ARV and other necessary treatments are made available to their children. The percentage of women who accepted PMTCT grew from 35% in 2005 to 100% since 2010. To date, nearly 100 HIV-positive mothers have given birth in the Chez Rosalie clinic. All of the children born of mothers treated at the Chez Rosalie clinic (entirely supported by GAIA) are HIV-negative! That is a remarkable success.

Award winning clinical care at Hope Clinic!
Our Hope Clinic won a “Ciwara” Award from the local government in January 2011!

New programs for 2011
We are conducting a clinical study in preparation for testing an HPV vaccine. This project will build capacity for eventual HIV vaccine trials by providing training to our collaborators. If funding is approved, a small HPV vaccine trial will take place next year.

Continuing programs in 2011
HIV care, nutritional support, and MTCTP (Chez Rosalie) will be ongoing. The number of patients continues to expand. Donor support is sincerely appreciated for our award-winning program!

Thank you for supporting our work. Each donation helps us stop HIV in its tracks!

Jun 13, 2011

Food and adherence to treatment

Food is critically important to the well being of our patients, and in the African context one cannot provide ARVs without thinking also about nutrition. As a result of donor support the GAIA Vaccine Foundation is still able to provide a weekly meal to 25 HIV positive patients and their children.

As you may recall our patients founded their own peer support group and association –“l’Association Espoir” - in order to reduce stigma, improve communication and psychological support. We hired Socrate a year ago to coordinate the Association’s activities. As a result adherence to therapy and therefore effectiveness of medications have improved and our patients’ health statuses are better. Significantly, our physicians have reported that patients have fewer opportunistic infections while on treatment.

Nutritional support is a key aspect of our care program and the number of patients continues to expand. Donors’ support is sincerely appreciated. Thank you for your continuing support!

Jun 10, 2011

Successful Pilot Study

Team of Interviewers
Team of Interviewers

In March 2011, the HPV KAP pilot study commenced in Sikoro as the first step to starting HPV vaccination in Mali.  A team led by Dr. Tounkara Karamoko and Danielle Poole successfully met the goal of completing 50 interviews in the community surrounding the village clinic to better understand the knowledge and views of participants on vaccination and the link between HPV, cervical cancer, and mortality.

This study began with the intense training of four interviewers on the transmission, infection, and prevention of HPV.  After becoming experts in the topic of HPV and research fieldwork, the team set out this week with questionnaires and educational material.  Each interview was conducted in the participants home, and began with a brief overview of the study, followed by informed consent, and then the questionnaires and education component. 

First, the participants were asked a series of questions about their risk behaviors for HPV infection, and their knowledge and willingness to participate in an HPV vaccine study.  The interviewer than described HPV transmission, symptoms and associated diseases, and prevention to the participant.  A second questionnaire was administered to determine if this information was clearly explained, and if the knowledge changed participant’s willingness to participate in a vaccine study.

This pilot study is currently in the process of analysis, although early on it looks as though the interviewers succeeded in educating the participants about HPV.  N taara!

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