Harvard School of Public Health's AIDS Treatment Care and Prevention Initiative in Africa Receives $107 million 5 year Grant from White House For Rapid Antiretroviral Program Expansion
For immediate release: February 23, 2004
Boston, MA— At a State Department press conference today in Washington D.C., Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Randall Tobias announced that the Harvard School of Public Health’s AIDS Treatment Care and Prevention Initiative in Africa, will receive first year funding of $17 million of a five-year $107 million grant as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to help eradicate AIDS/HIV in the world’s hardest-hit regions. The HSPH initiative is led by Phyllis Kanki, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at HSPH and Program Director of the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria, which is funded by the Gates Foundation. The PEPFAR grant will be used for the rapid expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevention programs for HIV-infected people in Nigeria, Botswana and Tanzania.
“This grant will enable us to build on existing programs where the AIDS pandemic has taken a huge toll, Nigeria, Botswana and Tanzania,” said Professor Kanki. “Thousands of people are in need of treatment and care. This grant will not only help provide the necessary drugs and care – but also allow us to work with our African colleagues in developing the capacity to keep AIDS treatment programs sustained in the long-term future.” She added, “Treatment and care is a critical part of HIV/AIDS prevention; we’re optimistic that this type of large-scale effort will have a real impact on the HIV epidemic that we are now witnessing in Africa.”
In Botswana, the prevalence rate for AIDS is nearly 40 percent of the population, affecting some 200,000 people; in Tanzania prevalence is about 10 percent of the total population of 36 million and in Nigeria it’s nearly 6 percent of the population, affecting 7 million people. In his State of the Union Address last year (2003), President Bush announced the PEPFAR program. It provides $15 billion, including nearly $10 billion in new funding, to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic over the next five years, focusing on 14 of the hardest-hit countries.
In the five-year grant period, the program will collaborate with African partners to build infrastructure to deliver ART and to train personnel. The Harvard AIDS Institute has developed many long-term partnerships with universities, hospitals and research institutions in Africa, many of which will be involved in this new and challenging treatment program. HIV/AIDS collaborative programs in Tanzania have a 12-year history, Botswana eight years and Nigeria three years. This was a major eligibility criteria for application for the Presidential funds.
In the first year of this new initiative, Professor Kanki and her team, including Richard Marlink and Wafaie Fawzi of HSPH, hope to start treatment for 8,000 people in Nigeria, 4,000 in Botswana and 3,000 in Tanzania. Over the course of the five-year grant, the team hopes to treat 75,000 people and build labs to diagnose and treat HIV, TB and other opportunistic infections. People who do not meet the criteria for AIDS will be followed clinically until they need treatment and will receive care through community support groups. Community non-governmental organizations will also be involved in education efforts to encourage individuals to seek HIV/AIDS testing.
Richard Marlink, Research and Executive Director of the Harvard AIDS Institute, added, “We are now able to utilize the U.S. government’s increased commitment to address this raging worldwide epidemic to actually practice public health. Opportunities will be created for our students, post-doctoral experts and faculty to work with local partners to determine how to best care for people living with HIV/AIDS in settings where public health infrastructure desperately needs to be created. In addition, having these new resources to help care for people where we work in Africa, we will demonstrate to those communities that we truly consider their health and prosperity a top priority; quite simply put, that we, as Americans, take the health of Africa and Africans seriously.”
In Botswana, despite significant ART programs there remain large numbers of individuals who have not received access to the program. As a result of the grant, the capacity of existing clinics can be increased, new clinics created and long-term patient follow-up for those who have tested positive for HIV can now be carried out, and staffing shortages can also be eased. In Nigeria ART drug programs recently resumed after a drug supply shortage. This program will bolster the government program, and additional sites can be added to the existing ones to assist in treatment efforts. Additionally, new sites will be selected in coordination with other international programs that are developing HIV clinics in the country. Tanzania will continue to focus on identifying HIV in pregnant women and TB patients, and because ART programs have not been readily available in the country it is anticipated that a large number of eligible patients will be identified in the first year under the grant. In all the programs costs to patients will remain at established minimum levels.
Wafaie Fawzi, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, has worked in Tanzania studying the role of nutrition in prevention and as adjunct treatment for HIV-related opportunistic infections. Fawzi said, “This opportunity will allow delivery of life-saving antiretroviral drugs in Tanzania where very little has been available in the past and provides much needed expansion in our capacity to provide care and treatment for thousands of HIV-infected individuals.”
HSPH Dean Barry R. Bloom added, “The Harvard School of Public Health has the longest sustained AIDS programs in Africa of any other institution. While we continue our public health efforts in HIV prevention and treatment, the new PEPFAR funds will make it possible for us to take what we have learned to a new scale that begins to meet the urgent needs of thousands of people in these countries.”
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