Born Free of HIV in West Africa

 
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I wanted to take a moment to share our current statistics with you. This year, GAIA is celebrating ten years of HIV prevention in Mali. Ten years ago, we opened "Chez Rosalie", our mother to child transmission prevention program at the Hope Center Clinic, and since then, 12,639 expecting mothers have walked through the doors.

As our program continues and grows each year, we thank you, our supporters, for your continued efforts to ensure that babies born at Chez Rosalie have a chance at a life that is 100% HIV free.

As we begin the new year of 2015, we continue to rely on your support as we expand and bring new expecting mothers into our program. Construction begins next month on four additional consultation rooms for the clinic, and we now employ nine midwives. 

With your help, we can make 2015 an exceptional year!

We wish you heartfelt thanks from all of the GAIA team.

Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro
Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro
Mali
Mali's first lady speaks at Nat'l MTCTP launch

  "Cet enfant que vous voyez n’a rien par ce que j’ai commencé à prendre des medicaments au cours de la grossesse."

"This child that you see on my lap is HIV free because I learned to take medication duing my pregnancy", an HIV+ patient in a pink dress explained to me at the Hope Center Clinic. After losing one daughter to HIV infections, it must have felt like a miracle to give birth to a son who is safe from the virus.

Our HIV+ patients are the best teachers we could provide the community, because they hold the proof in their arms that our program is 100% effective.

Another one of our patients, a girl born with HIV who is quickly growing into a bright young woman spoke of her desire to educate others about HIV,

The advice that I would give you if you were HIV+ is to make sure that you don't go out and infect other. You can get tested and protect yourself. People need to understand that AIDS is not a mean disease.

Unfortunately, due to crippling stigma that HIV+ people face in Mali, it is not easyfor our brave patients to go out and share theirs stories.

We need to continue our community outreach efforts and encourage new patients to adhere to their medication and the Mother to Child Transmission Prevention program (MTCTP) that we have created at Hope Center Clinic. In July, a national program was launched in Mali to eliminate mother to child transmission over the next five years. This is an ambitious plan, but GAIA has proven that with adherance to our program, 100% HIV free births are possible.

Thank you for your continued support, and please help us gain momentum as we continue this fight!

Links:

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.

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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.

 

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!

Links:

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Organization

Project Leader

Anne De Groot

Founder and Scientific Director
Providence, ri United States

Where is this project located?

Mali   Health
Map of Born Free of HIV in West Africa