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Born Free of HIV in West Africa

by GAIA Vaccine Foundation
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa
Born Free of HIV in West Africa

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage many parts of the world, efforts to contain the coronavirus have disrupted healthcare systems tasked with preventing and treating other illnesses. According to the World Bank, the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa led to an 18% decrease in routine medical services which led to an increase in deaths due to other infectious diseases. While the reported COVID-19 infection rate in Mali is much lower than that of the United States, HIV/AIDS is still a great risk to those living in Mali.

GAIA VF’s initiative to ensure that children in Mali are Born Free of HIV in West Africa is even more important given the reduced access to healthcare that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. The implications of being born with HIV during this pandemic can affect a child for a lifetime. In order to ensure that no child is born HIV positive, Mother-To-Child Transmission Prevention, or MTCTP, is necessary. Expectant mothers need healthcare resources, such as access to HIV testing, counseling, and treatment, in order to dramatically reduce the chance that their children could be born HIV positive. 

With your contributions to GAIA VF, we can work to provide the support needed for Mother-To-Child-Transmission Prevention (MTCTP) and ensure that children in West Africa are Born Free of HIV. A $25 donation supports HIV testing for five women in the clinic. A $50 donation supports all of the laboratory tests for one mother during the pre-natal period, including ultrasound.

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Thankfully, it appears that COVID-19 active cases in Mali continue to decline. As of Friday, July 31st, there have been a total of 2,522 reported cases in the country. This indicates an increase of less than 20 cases since 7 days prior. 

As with its other programs, GAIA VF continues to support its commitment to Born Free of HIV in West Africa. The Mother-To-Child Transmission Prevention (MTCTP) is just as vital as ever. It is critical to continue providing HIV testing, counseling, and treatment for pregnant women, as well as to provide them with the resources necessary to prevent transmitting the virus to their children. 

Furthermore, a recent report from UNAIDS suggests that globally, HIV care targets will not be met because of COVID-19. HIV and AIDS spending has decreased over the past few years. Coupled with diversion of resources toward COVID-19, this presents an issue for HIV funding. Additionally, UNAIDS has highlighted that even small disruptions in HIV treatment can have huge impacts. Therefore, it is essential to continue with PMTCT and do all that we can to fight HIV. 

The UNAIDS report also highlights that as it stands, HIV care is not equitable. Regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa hold a disproportionate number of active cases and new infections. We also know that young women and many other marginalized groups (LGBTQ people, sex workers) face disproportionate HIV risk. There is still so much work to be done for HIV treatment, and we must keep pushing forward. 

Your support at this time will go toward providing HIV testing, counseling, and treatment if necessary. Thank you. 

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In the first 5 months of 2020, GAIA tested a total of 546 pregnant women for HIV at the Sikoro Health Clinic as part of the Mother to Child Transmission Prevention Program. As always, we have continued to provide counseling services to women who accept them, as well as connection to resources and access to antiretroviral medication for anyone who tests positive. Testing has continued through June and July, and more recent figures should be available soon. 

In addition to these women, another 163 women (of a total of 197 individuals) received HIV testing by the end of May through the Sikoro Free Testing Program at Hope Center Clinic. Access to free testing is essential to maintaining the health of the community, connecting HIV-positive individuals to the necessary resources, and dismantling the stigma around living with HIV.

As the number of active COVID-19 cases is stabilizing and daily new cases are mostly declining, it is crucial to increase access to HIV testing. Lockdown circumstances and social distancing measures have presented a potential obstacle to HIV testing and treatment for some. GAIA continues to test pregnant women and other community members, and we are focused on the mission of Born Free of HIV in West Africa as we navigate these unprecedented times. 

Donations will help support GAIA in providing more HIV testing to the community in Sikoro for the remainder of the year. It will help us to prevent future mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and to continue working toward new technologies (such as the Pratt Pouch) to eliminate mother-to-child transmission in the future. 

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As populated by our headlines for the last several months, COVID-19 has placed normal
life at a complete standstill, overwhelming healthcare systems throughout the world. The most
vulnerable, unfortunately, happen to be many of the patients we work with here at Hope Center Clinic

HIV+ patients/those at risk of HIV infection in Mali are uniquely disadvantaged in that they are
both geographically and medically at risk. Many Malians lack access to proper healthcare and those who are HIV+ and immuncopromised are threatened by a virus that attacks the respiratory system. While encouraging treatment and
access to care was already challenging (and a major goal of GAIA Vaccine Foundation) without
a global pandemic, COVID-19 has overwhelmed health care resources in Mali, leading to many
of Malians unable to regularly attend their appointments or hesitation to do so. This can have
disastrous consequences... without your help!

Here at GAIA VF, we aim to raise funds that will be used immediately to help curb the
challenges of COVID-19 as they affect HIV+/high-risk populations in Mali. Namely, we aim to ensure
that our programs continue and that individuals are still receiving the proper care that they need.

Currently, we have been able to purchase limited PPE (masks, thermometers, etc.) for our clinic,
but more is urgently needed. In order to continue funding our programs that have been clinically
demonstrated to decrease contraction of HIV, GAIA is fully committed to addressing COVID-19
precautions while also maintaining/expanding access to HIV+ care.

Here’s a brief idea of how your contribution helps save lives in Mali:

(1) As of today, more than 21,000 pregnant women have been tested in our “Chez Rosalie”
MTCTP program, targeted towards counseling pregnant women- through GAIA, all
babies born to HIV-seropositive mothers have been HIV-free.

(2) Teenage Malian girls are at a higher risk of developing HIV/AIDS. The Teen Peer
Education Project has provided weekly health education sessions on reducing the risks of
acquiring STDs, HIV, HPV to more than one thousand Malian teenagers.

(3) At Hope Center Clinic in Mali, we have achieved dramatic success, providing access to
free HIV testing despite strikes, shortages of testing, and political strife. COVID-19 has the potential to not only severely disrupt our ability to test HIV, but also the proven preventative measures we have taken to help reduce the spread and contraction of HIV/AIDS in Mali. With your donation, we will not only be able to take enhanced precautions at the clinic accordingly, but also be able to ensure no abrupt halt of treatment or education that threatens a resurgence of the disease in Mali. 

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Yesterday, GAIA celebrated International Women’s Day. The day seeks to celebrate women across the globe and highlight women’s rights. 

Mali is a patriarchal society and women continue to lack access to the same opportunities as men. This is particularly true when it comes to access to medical care. Only 35% of HIV+ women were able to access HIV treatment or prophylaxis to prevent transmission to their children. This is of particular concern because approximately 1,600 children are infected with HIV every year in Mali from mother-to-child transmission. 

GAIA’s work with Hope Center Clinic continues to be a model for HIV care and mother-to-child transmission prevention in Mali. In 2019, GAIA supported testing at Hope Center Clinic for 608 people, 469 of whom were women. 

With your continued support, GAIA will be able to screen for HIV throughout Sikoro and provide life saving MTCTP treatment to babies to keep them free of HIV.

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Organization Information

GAIA Vaccine Foundation

Location: Providence, RI - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @GAIAVaccine
Project Leader:
GAIA Vaccine Foundation
Providence, ri United States
$5,772 raised of $12,000 goal
103 donations
$6,228 to go
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