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.
Nov 24, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010 Update!

Nurse at Hope Center Clinic - Summer 2010
Nurse at Hope Center Clinic - Summer 2010

Good news from West Africa! Your favorite HIV prevention organization has successfully completed its second year of improving access to HIV care. With your support, GAIA has improved access to care for more than 45,000 Malians at the GAIA community-based clinic, the Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro, Mali.
Slowly but steadily, GAIA VF is building a state of the art program for HIV-positive patients in this resource-poor setting. The goal of this program is to reduce HIV transmission in one area of the world, to demonstrate the impact of community-based HIV care, and to prepare for an HIV vaccine trial in the same community.

Access to HIV treatment   
Since its inception, the program has enrolled over one hundred patients, and the results so far are encouraging: our patients have steadily been regaining weight, and their CD4 T cell counts are climbing. The patients also understand the importance of taking their medications – our pharmacist reports that adherence has climbed to near 100%.
This high rate of adherence is due to GAIA VF’s investment in peer support sessions at the clinic. The investment is certainly paying off: as a result of improved adherence, AIDS-related infections have become less common, and the general well-being of our patients continues to improve. No deaths have been observed among those patients followed in the clinic who have been treated for at least 4 months! Even the most skeptical members of the community are beginning to see the importance of HIV testing, access to care, and treatment.

HIV testing and follow up
The door to improved survival with HIV is early diagnosis. In 2010, GAIA VF increased the clinic’s HIV testing capacity. Our peer educators made 3,000 contacts within the community and more than 1,500 were tested for HIV. 81% were screened through our Prevention for Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) and 19% via Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). 50% of the new patients were eligible for initiation of therapy, and received HIV medication. Half of these patients are pregnant women. Those that are HIV-seropositive but not yet clinically eligible for HIV treatment are being followed. We recently hired a case manager to improve patient follow up and monitor adherence.
 
Clinic Improvements
With donor support, we’re building a new maternity ward at the clinic. We’re also making technical improvements:  we purchased an air conditioner and replaced the refrigerator in the pharmacy, and we pay for Internet access. We also organized training for our staff to strengthen their skills.
 
HIV-TB Prevention program
Two Brown University students (Lauren Pischel and Julie Caplow) invested time and energy on our TB Bolo program in 2009. As a result of their enthusiasm and hard work, GAIA VF decided to invest in improving tuberculosis prevention and screening by making the tools available at the Hope Center Clinic for the rapid detection of TB. As a result, our TB case detection rate is rising and, as TB transmission is reduced, our HIV patients will be less likely to be co-infected with TB.

How can you help support our work in 2011?

Our plans for 2011 include -

Free HIV testing for all who wish to have it
GAIA VF will continue to expand HIV testing and increase the number of patients on HIV treatment. This is a lifesaving intervention, and it also reduces HIV transmission in the community. Like the Mother-to-Child-Transmission (MTCT) prevention program, it’s the ‘vaccine we have now’. With your support we plan to increase screening/testing by 25% and the number of patients under ARV treatment by 100%.

Encouraging fathers to participate
Of all our programs, the mother-to-child-transmission prevention program enrolls the most HIV infected patients. We plan to use this “window” into the family to reach their contacts. In 2011, we’ll work to improve our connections to men by reaching out to new fathers and conducting a comprehensive follow-up program. Increasing the number of post-natal consultations, strengthening the HIV counseling and support services for mothers and fathers, encouraging mothers to bring the baby’s father to the pre- and post-natal sessions, and training more nurse-midwives will allow us to enroll more patients through the post-natal “window” of access to the family.

Raising awareness, reducing stigma
In pursuit of our goal to involve fathers and young men in HIV testing, we’ll launch an awareness campaign targeting men, so as to decrease the stigma of HIV infection and encourage men of all ages to get tested and treated for HIV.

Community outreach
Our award-winning “Here Bolo” program will continue this year (and it has now been adopted in Haiti!). Our peer educators will tailor their communications to specific groups in Sikoro (women, elders, youth, orphans, men/fathers), making sure that everyone knows that free, complete HIV care is available in their community.

Nutritional support for patients
Nutritional support is a key aspect of our care for the AIDS patients. In addition to providing a weekly meal, this program reduces stigma and improves communication, adherence to treatment, and the effectiveness of medications.

A bright new space for children with HIV
GAIA VF has plans to recruit a pediatric HIV specialist to provide care to children born with HIV in the community. We would like to challenge our donors to contribute to this effort to build a space for our pediatric HIV patients. We hope to create a warm, happy setting for their care.

World AIDS Day 2010: Honor the day with a donation!

This year the GAIA Vaccine Foundation is moving its annual WAD event to Mali! Can’t go? Stay tuned: we have a big event coming up in the Spring in Providence! Check in on line and stay in touch!

Make a contribution to GAIA in honor of World AIDS Day! Help us stop HIV in its tracks!

GAIA by the numbers in 2010:

12,824 condoms distributed
1,890 HIV tests performed
More than 100 patients receiving HIV treatment
38 at-risk newborns currently being followed
2 new programs: HPV and TB prevention

Aug 2, 2010

An impact so easy to see, there's no need for words

When originally planning for the trip to West Africa I was at first a bit apprehensive of site visits in French. I've only studied the language for a year and I feared I might not be able to understand the organization's work or get a good sense of their impact if the visit was entirely in French.

Meeting with GAIA Foundation however quickly put these fears aside. Understanding the amazing work of GAIA does not require nuisance or subtlety. Their work is clear, direct and entails the truly praiseworthy work of literally saving lives on a daily basis. Over a number days in Bamako, Mali I had the opportunity to learn about this work both on "official" and "unofficial" site visits with the organization.

Though the "official" site visit occurred on July 12th, I would say the unofficial portion of the visit began when Lorraine and I moved into the GAIA guesthouse and were greeted by two enthusiastic and passionate GAIA volunteers, Tonyu and Emily. I don't think GAIA could have found two better representatives or endorsements than these two. Not only did they spend long nights explaining the difficult situation of health in Mali, but they also detailed the innovate approach GAIA has undertaken and gave us an introduction the inspiring doctor we would meet the following day, the local director of GAIA Dr. Tounkara. He would not disappoint. We learned that the organization works in the Sinkoro area, a part of Bamako that has been traditionally undeserved by health services with approximately 1 doctor per 40,000 patients. Devastating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis has had a profound effect on the community and continue to disrupt the lives of many throughout the area.

As for the "official" site visit Dr. Tounkara, or as many call him "Kara", walked us through the Hope Clinic, greeting staff and patients alike along the way. He explained how GAIA is working in conjunction with the Malian government to make the clinic into a model that can be replicated throughout the country. The clinic takes a holistic approach to health, but has been greatly aided by GAIA's support in fighting HIV/AIDS and Tubrcolosis through both treatment and outreach.

Sitting down with the head of the Hope clinic, we learned how GAIA has additionally been instrumental in stepping in where the Malian government funds leave off. GAIA has been able to raise funds for advanced medical equipment and facilities, when the government of Mali is unable to provide the funding. What is truly unique is the way GAIA does not direct the improvements but responds to the needs of the community and its leaders.

Donating money can sometimes be a tricky business and it can be difficult to understand the impact of your donation. Furthermore, development models have proven complicated with ambiguous results. These doubts are not necessary with GAIA. Their impact is so clear that even a French beginner can understand them. GAIA's projects transform lives and represent a glimpse at the future of health in Mali.

...and if you're still not convinced they also speak English.

Andrew is an in-the-field traveler visiting numerous GlobalGiving projects. Follow his and his fellow travelers' adventures at www.itfwa.wordpress.com!

Aug 2, 2010

An impact so easy to see, there's no need for words

When originally planning for the trip to West Africa I was at first a bit apprehensive of site visits in French. I've only studied the language for a year and I feared I might not be able to understand the organization's work or get a good sense of their impact if the visit was entirely in French.

Meeting with GAIA Foundation however quickly put these fears aside. Understanding the amazing work of GAIA does not require nuisance or subtlety. Their work is clear, direct and entails the truly praiseworthy work of literally saving lives on a daily basis. Over a number days in Bamako, Mali I had the opportunity to learn about this work both on "official" and "unofficial" site visits with the organization.

Though the "official" site visit occurred on July 12th, I would say the unofficial portion of the visit began when Lorraine and I moved into the GAIA guesthouse and were greeted by two enthusiastic and passionate GAIA volunteers, Tonyu and Emily. I don't think GAIA could have found two better representatives or endorsements than these two. Not only did they spend long nights explaining the difficult situation of health in Mali, but they also detailed the innovate approach GAIA has undertaken and gave us an introduction the inspiring doctor we would meet the following day, the local director of GAIA Dr. Tounkara. He would not disappoint. We learned that the organization works in the Sinkoro area, a part of Bamako that has been traditionally undeserved by health services with approximately 1 doctor per 40,000 patients. Devastating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis has had a profound effect on the community and continue to disrupt the lives of many throughout the area.

As for the "official" site visit Dr. Tounkara, or as many call him "Kara", walked us through the Hope Clinic, greeting staff and patients alike along the way. He explained how GAIA is working in conjunction with the Malian government to make the clinic into a model that can be replicated throughout the country. The clinic takes a holistic approach to health, but has been greatly aided by GAIA's support in fighting HIV/AIDS and Tubrcolosis through both treatment and outreach.

Sitting down with the head of the Hope clinic, we learned how GAIA has additionally been instrumental in stepping in where the Malian government funds leave off. GAIA has been able to raise funds for advanced medical equipment and facilities, when the government of Mali is unable to provide the funding. What is truly unique is the way GAIA does not direct the improvements but responds to the needs of the community and its leaders.

Donating money can sometimes be a tricky business and it can be difficult to understand the impact of your donation. Furthermore, development models have proven complicated with ambiguous results. These doubts are not necessary with GAIA. Their impact is so clear that even a French beginner can understand them. GAIA's projects transform lives and represent a glimpse at the future of health in Mali.

...and if you're still not convinced they also speak English.

Andrew is an in-the-field traveler visiting numerous GlobalGiving projects. Follow his and his fellow travelers' adventures at www.itfwa.wordpress.com!

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