Swaziland’s First Children’s HIV/AIDS Medical Center Opens; Building Treatment Capacity In The World’s Hardest Hit Country
Operated by Baylor College of Medicine and the Government of Swaziland; Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb’s SECURE THE FUTURE® Initiative
MBABANE, SWAZILAND (February 24, 2006) -- The first pediatric center dedicated to caring for HIV/AIDS-infected infants and children in Swaziland, the African country with the highest prevalence of AIDS in the world, officially opened today. Operated by Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, in partnership with the government, it is funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb’s SECURE THE FUTURE® philanthropic initiative. It is the third center dedicated to treating HIV-infected children to open as a result of the Bristol-Myers Squibb-Baylor partnership in Africa, adding to a growing network of clinics addressing the terrible impact of HIV/AIDS on children in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.
The Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence-Swaziland will build capacity to fight HIV/AIDS by providing state-of-the-art facilities for testing, treating and monitoring children and their families and by training Swazi health care professionals.
Ten new doctors from the recently created Pediatric AIDS Corps will join another on-staff pediatrician to work at and through the children’s clinic, marking an 11-fold increase in pediatricians in the country to treat HIV-infected children estimated to number 16,000 by UNICEF. The center will recruit one or two additional doctors who hail from Swaziland as well as another 20 Swazi residents to complete the center’s staff.
“This pediatric center of excellence is another way that we are living our mission of extending and enhancing human life through focus, innovation and compassion,” said Peter R. Dolan, chief executive officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb. “We are focused on addressing areas of significant unmet medical need, including HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious diseases, by discovering, developing and providing innovative medicines for patients around the world. And through our SECURE THE FUTURE initiative in Africa, we strive to act compassionately, by reaching out to people and communities struggling with the HIV/AIDS pandemic to provide treatment and community based care, as well as build critically needed health care capacity.”
“Through the Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence-Swaziland we are hopeful that significant strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland will chart a new course in the global fight against the virus,” said John L. McGoldrick, executive vice president of Bristol-Myers Squibb. “The model created through our SECURE THE FUTURE programs and the Pediatric AIDS Corps will serve as a strong example to the world that even in the hardest hit countries, it is possible to combat this terrible virus.”
Mark W. Kline, M.D., director, Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, Baylor College of Medicine, said, “We are creating a comprehensive treatment program here in Swaziland to address the issue of pediatric HIV and also mother-to-child transmission, family health, health care workforce training, and geographic availability of care. This complete package will fight the HIV epidemic on many levels.”
Children’s Clinical Centers of Excellence Network
The Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence-Swaziland is the third of five facilities to be created by the Bristol-Myers Squibb-Baylor partnership on the continent, all in resource limited settings. The first opened in Botswana in 2003 and currently has 1,400 children under treatment. The Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence-Lesotho opened on World AIDS Day 2005. The network will expand with two additional centers scheduled to open in Burkina Faso and Uganda in 2007.
The Swazi center was built through a $2 million Bristol-Myers Squibb grant. The two-story, 14,000-square-foot center has a large outpatient clinic with 10 examination rooms, procedure rooms, a pharmacy, a small laboratory and a state-of-the-art training facility.
Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT)
The prevention of mother-to-child transmission will be included as an integral part of the treatment at the Swazi clinic. Busi Bhembe, executive director of the Baylor-Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence-Swaziland, brings the experience of running the Pilot Operational Research and Community-based Program (PORECO), a SECURE THE FUTURE treatment and community support center in Swaziland, and is a pioneer in introducing PMTCT in Swaziland.
“By incorporating established protocols to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to newborn, we are reducing the new infection rate of infants down to levels seen only in western countries,” said Bhembe. “Curtailing the spread of the virus from mother to infant is a significant step in reducing the overall pediatric HIV infection levels and to eventually controlling the spread of the virus. This is a very important component of a comprehensive treatment/prevention strategy.” The children’s HIV/AIDS center will treat not only the children, but their whole families.
Pediatric AIDS Corps
“We estimate that one pediatrician can prevent 1,300 AIDS deaths in children per year. Thus, with 10 Pediatric AIDS Corps members scheduled to work in Swaziland, which has an estimated 16,000 HIV-infected children, we will be able to treat virtually all of the children known to be infected. The impact on this country will be enormous,” said Kline.
The doctors of the Pediatric AIDS Corps will work and train in the Children’s HIV/AIDS center in Mbabane, but more importantly in the rural health care facilities to serve those in remote locations. With 67 percent of the Swazi population living outside of urban areas, expanding the geographical range of treatment through decentralized staffing will greatly increase access to treatment to the whole country.
The first class of 50 pediatricians and family care practitioners from the U.S. and Canada to work in Africa has been filled. Seven recruits are already working in Africa with the full class expected to be working in Africa by late this summer. The unique Bristol-Myers Squibb-Baylor partnership created the Pediatric AIDS Corps to send 50 pediatricians and family practitioners per year over the next five years to Africa to serve at the children’s clinical centers of excellence and in surrounding areas. These Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellows will provide care for approximately 80,000 children and train local health care professionals. The Pediatric AIDS Corps was announced in June 2005 and is funded through a $22 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and $10 million from Baylor.
Building Capacity In The Work Force
Sustainability of the children’s HIV/AIDS center and the development of the national work force are also being incorporated into this initiative. “Training the national health care workers is an important component to providing treatment for all those in need,” explained Kline. “The lack of human resources capacity is a major challenge to scaling up antiretroviral therapy in Swaziland.”
In order to ensure continuity of treatment in the long-term and to enrich the knowledge base in the country, several Swazi doctors will be recruited and trained through the fellows of the Pediatric AIDS Corps.
The Baylor-Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence-Swaziland and the Pediatric AIDS Corps are part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s SECURE THE FUTURE® initiative launched in 1999 to help alleviate the HIV/AIDS crisis among women and children in sub-Saharan Africa. The company has committed $150 million to fighting HIV/AIDS in the region most affected by the pandemic. Some 200 grants have been awarded since the initiative began, including many programs in Swaziland such as the Save the Children-Swaziland HIV/AIDS Program, The Forum for African Women Educationalists Swaziland (FAWESWA) -- Developing the Capacity of Support Programs and Caregivers, and Co-ordinating Assembly of NGO’s (CANGO) -- Civic Education Project for Children Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS in Swaziland.
In addition to its commitment in Africa, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation funds programs through its Global HIV/AIDS Initiative in Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, the Ukraine and France.
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical and related health care products company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life.
Baylor College of Medicine, one of the nation’s top academic health sciences centers, is committed to advancing human health through the integration of patient care, research, education and community service.
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