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.
Jun 1, 2016

Sharing our results in Europe!

Drs. Kone and Tounkara with the GAIA poster
Drs. Kone and Tounkara with the GAIA poster

We’re pleased to announce that our long-term allies in the fight against HIV in Mali, Dr. Koné, HIV specialist at the Hope Center Clinic; and Dr. Tounkara, GAIA’s National Director, shared GAIA’s research at the International Symposium for HIV and Emerging Infectious Diseases (ISHEID) in Marseilles, France!

In fact, your support helped us create the success stories that these doctors were able to share at the conference. During our 10 years of HIV prevention in Sikoro, over 15 thousand pregnant women received HIV testing! Dr. Koné was asked to lead a discussion on this research at the ISHEID conference.  This was his first time traveling outside his home country of Mali, so it was a fantastic opportunity to meet his international colleagues in the realm of HIV/AIDS prevention. 

With your help, we are embarking into our second decade of HIV prevention in Mali! Let’s reach new heights together!

Links:

Jun 1, 2016

Time to collaborate

Ebola Mural
Ebola Mural

The global health community is still learning lessons from the Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa and was felt, in one way or another, around the world. This tragedy brought to light the fault lines in the healthcare and aid systems. While global leaders try to strengthen and rebuild healthcare in the affected countries, scientists and researchers are still learning more about the virus itself. 

GAIA Vaccine Foundation is committed to helping these initiatives with our own expertise. Our mission is strongly focused on infectious disease prevention through education. After developing and field-testing a West African-style textile print for Ebola education, we are eager to work with implementing partners in West Africa to put this education method into use.

First, let me share some of our results from our educational textile initiative in Mali, where we launched a 6-month awareness campaign using a “Story-telling cloth” for cervical cancer education in 2015. We surveyed 238 women who had participated in campaign “education sessions” with a healthcare professional. 78% of these women had seen the cloth and 99% of those who saw it could correctly identify the symbols in the pattern that carried the message of disease prevention. Not only did women see and understand the health messsage; they took action! Cervical cancer screening rates increased 5-fold, and vaccine acceptance was very high.

Due to the success of this campaign in Mali, we plan to implement a similar style of healthcare personnel-led community education using the story-telling cloth as the catalyst for discussing Ebola and the means of prevention.

 We want to see doctors, nurses, and outreach workers in Sierra Leone wearing this cloth and using it to educate the public!

 We need your help to make it happen!

Ebola "story-telling cloth"
Ebola "story-telling cloth"

Links:

Apr 26, 2016

The results are in! The Story-telling Cloth works!

Patient at the clinic wearing the cloth
Patient at the clinic wearing the cloth

We are excited to announce that 3,271 women were screened from April through October 2015; a 5-fold increase in rates through the efforts of the campaign!

While cervical cancer screening had been available in 2014, rates were low due to lack of demand for the procedure, lack of staff training, and lack of supplies. We were able to address all these issue through low-cost interventions. We ensured that screening supplied were monitored and restocked at each clinic. By training healthcare staff in partnership with public health officials, we ensured that all changes and improvements were accepted and monitored. These officials were able to help us overcome barriers when issues arose. All the midwives who were trained to do screening have continued training new midwives to perform the procedure. 

The momentum gained during our campaign is continuing! Women are still requesting screening, and even clinic night staff report getting requests for screening. 

Interestingly, we were encouraged to see high rates of HIV testing at all clinics (77% of 500 women surveyed), including the clinic where GAIA has run an HIV prevention program for over a decade. While only 13% of women had heard of HPV, the majority of women had heard of cervical cancer and there was a strong desire for HPV vaccination.  Of the women who wanted their daughters vaccinated 73% specifically mentioned “prevention” or “protection”, and 11% responded using the Malian proverb that was printed on the cloth, “It’s better to prevent than cure”.

Due to the scientific nature of the print, we also asked women how they interpreted the design. After they had learned about HPV and cervical cancer during an education session, 99% (of 238 women who participated in an education session) were able to correctly identify the imagery in the cloth pattern (although 20% also said it looked like “flowers in a field” and 10% said “stars in the sky”, demonstrating that the pattern has some abstract interpretations that make it more decorative and wearable). Since the fabric was widely distributed, we witnessed a much broader uptake than expected. Many men and children also wore the story-telling cloth regularly. It was spotted in the central market place, and always generated questions and curiosity. 

As news and imagery of the “story-telling cloth” spreads, it is gaining recognition and interest. In a recent discussion with a researcher in Ghana, there is significant interest in establishing a similar method of community-led education using the cloth pattern to raise cervical cancer screening rates. 

With our success in the first campaign, we are eager to gain support to continue to expand this program. The next step is to run a similar campaign in rural parts of Mali where women have even less access to care. Please join us, and remember, you can sport you own style of "story-telling cloth" by ordering it through the website here!

Screening rate increase at each clinic
Screening rate increase at each clinic
One of our surgeons with her HPV cloth bag
One of our surgeons with her HPV cloth bag

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