Treatment as Prevention: the vaccine we have in our hands

On Sunday September 9th, the GAIA Vaccine Foundation will be holding a Satellite session at the 2012 AIDS Vaccine Conference in Boston. At this session we will discuss the potential for implementation of the “Treatment as Prevention” (TasP) approach to ending AIDS, in the absence of an effective vaccine.

The session is open to the public. Please join us!


Hope is a Vaccine Awards Dinner. Washington DC, July 2012.

Speaker Julio Montaner is a forceful advocate for TasP, promoting expanded access to ARVsto reduce HIV transmission as early as 2006.Myron Cohen coordinated the landmark study HPTN 052 study demonstrating that TasP effectively prevents HIV transmission; individuals starting TasP early were 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners than those who started TasP later.

Jon Cohen (Science Magazine), Paul Loberti(RI DoH) and Anne S. De Groot will chair the session. As a reminder Julio Montaner, Myron Cohen, Jon Cohen and Paul Loberti were the GAIA Hope is a Vaccine Award winners, 2011.

Satellite session title:  ”Treatment as prevention: “The new vaccine for AIDS?”

Date: Sunday September 9th.

Time: 1:30-3:30PM

Venue: Westin Boston Waterfront, 415 Summer St.

Room: Grand Ballroom E



March 2012 Coup d’Etat

Wednesday March 21st: Renegade soldiers from the Malian military launched a coup d’état and attacked several locations in the capital city of Bamako, including the presidential palace, state television, and military barracks.

Thursday March 22nd: The soldiers declared they had overthrown the government of President Amadou Toumani Touré, forcing him into hiding, and imposed a nationwide


Dr. Karamoko Tounkara

curfew. Our onsite director, Dr. Tounkara Karamoko (Kara), texted me in the morning to let me know that he and the rest of our staff were fine. Kara informed me that all staff members were staying home for the day in order to be safe and to comply with the curfew.

Monday March 26th:  Kara reported that during the weekend, few people had ventured outside of their homes and market activity had been very slow. As Monday was a national holiday, the people of Bamako continued to stay home in order to be safe.

Tuesday March 27th:  Borders were opened, the curfew was lifted, and this was the first day that work resumed since the coup the week prior. It was a fairly typical Tuesday in Bamako: shops were open and filled with people, traffic downtown was heavy, and our GAIA staff and Malian collaborators were all hard at work: I received emails and updates from Ben Aboubacar (GAIA’s HIV consultant), Kotou Sangare (laboratory technician at the University of Bamako), and of course Kara. They all reported that the flow of activities at GAIA VF slowed down for a couple days but was never interrupted! Doctors at the Hope Center Clinic remained on call, the lab work related to our Merck IISP-sponsored study is ongoing, and Kara was already back on schedule, driving from one end of Bamako to the other to meet with our collaborators. From their reports, it sounds like everyone is safe!

April:  In the North of Mali, Tuareg rebels who have been seeking independence, overran Kidal, attacked Gao and by Monday, April 2nd, had overtaken Timbuktu. A good source of information about events in Northern Mali can be obtained by clicking here.

Meanwhile, Karamoko Tounkara, M.D., our director in Bamako, and consultant Ben Aboubacar, M.D., report that all is calm in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Habib Koite, reached by text message, told us that there was nothing to worry about. Our patients and staff our safe, as are GAIA VF’s collaborating scientists.

We are in touch with our director daily. We watch, we listen, we read, and we weep. This is the last thing that an impoverished country like Mali needs – more disruption, disarray, and disorder. If Mali falls to a more conservative regime, and humanitarian aid is impeded, the lives of thousands of people who are now living just at subsistence level, will be at risk.

We remain committed to supporting humanitarian aid to Mali. We believe that we, as a people, must reach out to our Malian colleagues and sustain hope. We must encourage them, and buttress their optimism that peace and prosperity will be restored. And we must must work hard to convince goverments here and overseas that Mali is worth saving.



2011 Hope is a Vaccine Awards

The Hope is a Vaccine Award, awarded annually to deserving individuals working in the international, national and local fight against HIV/AIDS, highlights the important work done by individuals fighting AIDS and their contributions to improving HIV care for persons living at the margins. GAIA VF hopes that the award will shed light on the hard work done by courageous advocates, scientists, and policy makers, and that the award will encourage more individuals to be engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS world wide.

International Hope is a Vaccine Award 2011: Dr. Myron Cohen and Dr. Julio Montaner

Dr. Myron Cohen is responsible for the publication of a landmark study in the New England Journal earlier this year that showed that treatment with AIDS drugs, known as anti retrovirals (ARV), effectively prevents HIV transmission. In the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 study, individuals who received ARV treatment early in their infection were at least 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners than those who started on drugs later. The reduction in transmission is due to lower amounts of circulating HIV in the infected patient, while they are on ARV treatment.

Dr. Cohen earned the 2011 Hope is a Vaccine award for his dedication to providing a scientific foundation for the Treatment as Prevention. His primary research focus is on transmission and prevention of transmission of HIV, with emphasis on the role played by STD co-infections.  Much of Dr. Cohen’s research has been conducted in resource constrained countries, especially in the African country of Malawi and in the People’s Republic of China. He is currently the J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Dr. Julio Montaner has also been an outspoken advocate of theTreatment as Prevention approach, also known as TasP. He has been a forceful advocate for expanded access to ARVs as early as 2006 and promoted TasP as president of the International AIDS Society and in scientific publications. He is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is awarded the Hope is a Vaccine Award in honor of his worldwide advocacy for “Treatment as Prevention”. He is a Professor of Medicine at University of British Columbia and is the Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.  He has been a member of the International AIDS Society (IAS) since 1988, and is the IAS past President (2008-2010).

National Hope is a Vaccine Award 2011: Jon Cohen

Jon Cohen is a correspondent with Science who has covered HIV/AIDS from every angle – starting with his award-winning report on the epi-center of the epidemic in the former Zaire, and later reports on excursions to report on HIV/AIDS in the former Soviet Republic, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. His book entitled Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine (W.W. Norton, 2001) won many awards and inspired a documentary movie. Along the way, he has accumulated an impressive knowledge of the personalities and players in the AIDS Vaccine field and is well known for his insightful reporting on that topic. The National Hope is a Vaccine Award 2010 goes to Jon because of his dedication to the HIV/AIDS chronicle and his commitment to ‘telling the whole story’.

Local Hope is a Vaccine Award 2011: Paul Loberti

Paul Loberti, MPH, is the Chief Administrator of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis at the Rhode Island Department of Health. In this capacity he directs HIV, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis prevention and care efforts for the state. He has been an unfailingly devoted proponent of HIV prevention as a means of addressing the HIV epidemic – leading prevention campaigns in bathhouses among other locations, and has not been recognized previously for his efforts.  He has been at the Rhode Island Department of Health for approximately fifteen years.



2010 Hope is a Vaccine Awards Ceremony

The annual Hope is a Vaccine awards ceremony and  fundraiser will be
held June 17th at the Providence Hotel. This annual gala raises funds
to support research on a novel AIDS vaccine which is based on the
principle that the HIV virus has one or many “Achilles’ Heels,” which
are vulnerable to attack by the human immune system. Funds also support
HIV Education, Prevention efforts, and Access to care programs in Mali
and Providence. In addition, the GAIA foundation will present the Hope
is a Vaccine award to the 2010 honorees. Please join us! The awards
presented will be:


Michel Sidibé is the Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. He has been the driving force
behind promoting universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care
and support at the global level. Mr. Sidibé is also calling for virtual
elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. In
addition, Mr. Sidibé’s work has played a major role in reducing the
number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths by nearly 20%.
Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV and fewer people are dying
from AIDS, and 56 countries have reported a reduction in the rate of
new HIV infections this year. GAIA VF salutes Mr. Sidibé for his
leadership and courageous efforts to expand access to life-saving HIV
treatment to all individuals who are in need.



Dr. Julie McElrath is Principal Investigator and Director of the
HVTN (HIV Vaccine Trials Network) Laboratory Program and Seattle
Vaccine Trials Unit. Dr. McElrath has built and maintains a successful
international HIV vaccine laboratory program, conducts translational
immunological research in humans in a multicenter setting, where her
research has contributed to fundamental understanding of how T cells
control HIV infection. She has played a leadership role at the national
and international level in several well known HIV vaccine initiatives
(HVTN, Microbicides Network, Gates HIV Vaccine Enterprise) and has
upheld higher standards for the quality of HIV vaccine research on an
international level. Above all, her methodical approach to HIV Vaccine
trial evaluation, her equanimity and her balanced perspective on HIV
vaccines is appreciated and valued by members of HIV vaccine community.


Gail Skowron, M.D. is Chief of the Division of Infectious
Diseases at Roger Williams Medical Center and a Professor of Medicine
at the Boston University School of Medicine. She also holds an
appointment as Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown
University School of Medicine. She directs the Infectious Disease
program at the Roger Williams Hospital, in Providence Rhode Island. She
is director of the HIV Immunology Laboratory at Roger Williams
Hospital, where she studies the mechanism of CD4 cell depletion in HIV
disease, including the evaluation of lymph node and gut-associated
lymphoid tissues. Above all, Gail is commended for her dedication to
HIV/AIDS patients and her sensitivity to all aspects of her patient’s
lives while providing the highest possible quality of care. 


Awarded annually to deserving individuals working on the
international, national, and local fight against HIV/AIDS, the Hope is
a Vaccine Award highlights important individual efforts towards
fighting AIDS and their contributions to improving HIV care for persons
living at the margins. GAIA VF hopes that the award will shed light on
the hard work done by courageous advocates, scientists, and policy
makers, and that the award will encourage more individuals to be
engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide. The awards will be
presented at the annual Hope is a Vaccine award ceremony and Benefit on
June 17th at 6PM at the Hotel Providence.


2009: Ira Magaziner, architect of the Clinton HIV/AIDS
Initiative and TB vaccine visionary Carol Nacy, Ph.D. (Sequella,
Foundation) were the principal Hope is a Vaccine Award winners, 2009.
Also celebrated were Rhode Islanders Ed Wood and Anne Sliney of the
Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative.

2008: Daniel Halperin, Ph.D., proponent of male circumcision and
birth control for HIV/AIDS prevention. Also celebrated in 2008: Prison
HIV experts Rick Altice, David Thomas, David Paar, David Wohl, and Joe
Bick, National Hope is a Vaccine Award winners, and Jesse Creel, Hope
is a Vaccine 2008 Advocacy award winner.

2007: Stephen Lewis, former UN Ambassador for AIDS. Also
receiving an award in 2007: HIV Vaccine Researcher Judy Lieberman,
M.D., Ph.D. and Leigh Blake of Keep a Child Alive.

2006: Sonia Erlich Sachs M.D. and Jeff Sachs Ph.D. of Millennium
Village Project. Also celebrated: TB clinician and patient advocate,
Jane Carter, M.D., and 3 local awardees.

2005: Jose Esparza, M.D. Director of the Global AIDS Vaccine
Initiative, at the Gates Foundation. Also receiving Hope is a Vaccine
Award 2005 were Habib Koite (international music artist) and President
A. T. Toure of Mali. 

2003: Neal Nathanson, M.D. former polio vaccine pioneer and
former director of the Office for AIDS Research, NIH. Also celebrated:
David Weiner, AIDS vaccine researcher, Ken Mayer, HIV expert, and
DeeDee Williams, HIV vaccine trial participant.
2004: Peggy Johnston, Ph.D. Associate Director, Division of AIDS,
NIAID, NIH. Also celebrated:  Susan Cu Uvin, M.D (MTCTP advocate) and
Ousmane Koita, Ph.D. Malian HIV vaccine researcher.



RI AIDS walk 2009: We made it!

AIDS Walk 2009 took place on Sunday, October 25, 2009 starting and ending at Roger Williams National Memorial Park, on North Main Street, Providence. Hundreds of walkers raised money and gathered to walk the 3K route through parts of Fox Point and the East Side in Providence.

Thanks to all who walked with GAIA!!!



2009 Hope is a Vaccine Award Ceremony

The GAIA Vaccine Foundation “Hope is a Vaccine Award 2009″ will go to two visionary architects of global TB/AIDS Foundations, for their ability to identify public-private partnerships as one means of solving some of the worlds’ greatest health problems – access to AIDS care -and developing new TB vaccines.

Chief awardees: Global AIDS care visionary Ira Magaziner and Global TB vaccine visionary Carol Nacy

Hope is a Vaccine Award – HIV/AIDS Care Visionary and Architect – Ira Magaziner

More than 90% of the 33.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the world live in developing countries, where access to treatment is limited. For HIV-infected individuals, access to health care is life saving, whether in the U.S. or in the developing world, and there is no one who has worked harder at improving access to health care than Ira Magaziner, former advisor to the Clinton administration and chief architect of the Clinton HIV AIDS Initiative (CHAI). CHAI is working to close the access to care gap in developing world countries by negotiating lower prices for lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and by working with governments to improve the national health care systems required to deliver crucial medicines. Ira Magaziner makes his home in Rhode Island when he is not travelling for the Clinton Foundation.

GAIA Vaccine Foundation is also celebrating the work of Rhode Islanders Ed Wood and Anne Sliney of the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative on World AIDS Day 2009.

Ed Wood is yet another Rhode Islander who works tirelessly for Clinton HIV AIDS Initiative. Ed represents CHAI in Africa and Asia, helping launch pediatric and rural programs, and helping expand its scope of work beyond ARVs to increase access by supporting governments initiatives to deliver HIV/AIDS services to underserved populations, increasing countries’ human resource capacity to deliver care and treatment, and preventing the transmission of the disease from mothers to their children.

Rhode Islander Anne Sliney also works with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, helping nurses and health officials in resource-poor countries fight human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.  Her experience as a front-line adherence monitor in Providence enables her to provide guidance and mentoring to nurses in countries hard hit by AIDS and nursing shortages.

Hope is a Vaccine Award – Sequella/Aeras Global TB Foundation Visionary and Architect – Carol Nacy

Carol Nacy founded the Sequella Global Tuberculosis Foundation, now known as the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation in 1997. She was inspired by reports that no new drugs or vaccines had been discovered in more than 30 years for the number one infectious disease killer (Tuberculosis) and won an initial round of Gates Foundation support for the initiative in 1999. Although no longer working directly with Sequella Foundation, Carol Nacy continues her work on TB, developing drugs at Sequella Inc. in partnership with Leo Einck.



GAIA Vaccine Foundation opens "First Ever" Clinic Village-based HIV care in Mali.

HIV Care for the poorest of the poor

February 2, 2009. HIV Care at the village level.
GAIA Vaccine Foundation has received permission from the Malian
national AIDS agencies to establish the first HIV care TB/HIV outreach
program in a village clinic, located in Sikoro Mali. The new “Project Hope” HIV care center will open its doors on February 2, 2009.

for HIV and TB in peri-urban Mali, West Africa is constrained by
extreme poverty and limited access to health care. Even though
treatment for TB and antiretrovirals is free or low cost, few
individuals are aware of the importance of treatment and even fewer
have access to the centers where these lifesaving medications are
distributed. Currently, only 18,000 of the estimated 180,000 Malians
living with HIV infection have access to HIV care.

The GAIA HIV Care center is based in one such village “CSCOM”. This CSCOM,
located in Sikoro, a village on the outskirts of Bamako that houses
40,000 of the region’s poorest citizens. Doctors at GAIA’s Hope Center
Clinic is currently following 120 HIV patients from the village, and an
estimated 1,000 more such villagers need HIV care. Until this week,
those patients had to travel by bus or taxi to another hospital to get
their medications. Most Malians cannot afford transportation, and as a
result, only a handful of the patients at the clinic routinely obtained
HIV care. GAIA built a new HIV care center called the “Hope Center
Clinic” (finished in June, 2008) with the help of Gilead Foundation,
Keep a Child Alive, Textron, and local Rhode Island donors. The “Hope
Center Clinic” will be the first CSCOM to offer HIV care in West Africa.

CSCOMS are ideal for this type of CSCOM-based HIV care and HIV/TB
outreach program because they usually serve higher risk populations and
because they are organized in “communes” centered around satellite
infirmary-style clinics (CSCOMs), several of which are linked to a
larger “Centre de Soins de Référence” (CS Réf) for supervision and
management of complicated cases.