Press Releases

1998 Releases

Global Initiative Harnesses Regional Expertise to Improve HIV/AIDS Care in Developing Countries

For immediate release: June 28, 1998

Geneva--During a satellite meeting held today at the 12th World AIDS Conference, representatives from Harvard presented the Enhancing Care Initiative. The initiative will harness the knowledge of regional HIV/AIDS experts in South America, Africa and Asia. This information will be combined with Harvard's extensive public health expertise to create solutions that improve the care of men, women and children with HIV/AIDS. The Enhancing Care Initiative, coordinated by the Harvard AIDS Institute and the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health & Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, is made possible through an initial $3 million grant from The Merck Company Foundation.

"Approximately 90 percent of those infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide--27 million people--live in the developing world, where access to medical and financial resources is extremely limited," said Richard Marlink, M.D., lead principal investigator of the Enhancing Care Initiative and executive director of the Harvard AIDS Institute. "The tragic disparity between the poor and the rich is amplified by the AIDS epidemic, but we should not let this paralyze us. Improved care is possible now for people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries. The Enhancing Care Initiative will help make that care a reality."

A Global Effort with a Local Perspective

A large body of knowledge and expertise about HIV/AIDS already exists in developing countries. The Enhancing Care Initiative will optimize those resources by improving communications between people infected with AIDS, people affected by AIDS, and those who care for them.

Initial research efforts for the Enhancing Care Initiative have begun in Brazil and Senegal. Other countries in Africa and Southeast Asia will be selected to expand the research effort within the next year. In each participating country, a multidisciplinary team of local epidemiologists, clinicians, economists, people living with HIV/AIDS, government officials and public health experts will assess the current status of medical care and explore possible treatment improvements.

Each country team will use data from its research to develop practical, long-term strategies which reflect local needs and realities. The Harvard team will coordinate with host country researchers and international agencies to identify interventions that more efficiently take advantage of current and future HIV/AIDS therapies to improve the quality of care.

On a global scale, an advisory panel is being assembled to support and counsel the participants of the Enhancing Care Initiative. The International HIV/AIDS Care Resources Group has invited the participation of leaders from UNAIDS, the World Bank, the World Heath Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Commission, several Ministries of Health, and others. The group will provide clinicians and researchers with recent data, ensure that research activities are in line with international best practices, and propose solutions that comply with international ethical guidelines.

"Long-term, sustainable solutions to difficult problems, such as those confronted in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, are only possible when the individuals and organizations most involved come together and work in unison toward achieving their goal," said Peter Piot, Director, UNAIDS. "The Enhancing Care Initiative is a step in this partnership-building process and will bring leaders together to tackle a problem that affects us all."

Advanced Communication Paves the Way for Future Cooperation

To facilitate the sharing of knowledge, the Enhancing Care Initiative is designing an integrated groupware and web site system. New observations, questions to fellow clinicians, clinical guideline development, paper presentations and on-line moderated symposia will serve to link regional findings to global implementation.

"The Enhancing Care Initiative will reach beyond people living with HIV in the countries involved," said Daniel Tarantola, M.D., co-principal investigator and acting director for the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center. "The process by which this initiative will take regionally produced knowledge and apply it to optimizing the care and treatment of HIV/AIDS in other countries will also better prepare us to cope with future global health crises."

"Merck is committed to working with the HIV community, governments and non-governmental organizations to build better foundations for HIV care, to foster balanced efforts in prevention, education and treatment, and to lessen the overall burden of the disease," said Kenneth C. Frazier, President of the Merck Company Foundation and Vice-President, Public Affairs and Assistant General Counsel, Merck & Co., Inc. "The fight against an epidemic of this proportion can only be addressed effectively when public and private entities work together in support of those on the front lines of the epidemic. Merck is proud to join Harvard to facilitate the development of such partnerships."

Editor's note: Full press kit available. Executive summary of Enhancing Care Initiative available in English, Portuguese and French.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752