Established in 2001 to fight HIV/AIDS
GAIA Vaccine Foundation was established in 2001 to promote the development of a global AIDS vaccine and to promote HIV trial expertise in Providence and Mali, West Africa, which are both future GAIA VF vaccine trial sites. Clinical trial infrastructure for the GAIA Vaccine trial is already in place in Providence, thanks to the efforts of GAIA Scientific advisor Ken Mayer and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network at Miriam Hospital. Therefore, GAIA VF efforts directed at vaccine trial preparedness are focused on Mali, where the GAIA Vaccine will be tested in parallel with the Providence trials.
Africa is home to the highest number of people living with AIDS and is the epicenter of the global epidemic. Yet conditions for HIV vaccine trials are not yet optimal for the ethical conduct of the proposed trials in Mali or elsewhere in sub Saharan Africa.
While preparing for the GAIA Vaccine trials that will take place in Mali, GAIA Vaccine Foundation is promoting HIV education, treatment, and vaccine trial site infrastructure development in Mali. These efforts will make it possible to assure that GAIA’s trials will be conducted using methods that are consistent with international standards for the ethical conduct of vaccine trials. GAIA believes that active, ongoing collaboration with West African physicians and support for clinical activities in the region will foster the development of the type of regional knowledge base and level of care that is needed to pursue ethical implementation of HIV care and future HIV vaccine trials in the region.
GAIA VF is helping provide HIV education for professionals and engaging in outreach education for the public in Mali. These endeavors include conferences on AIDS for West African doctors, and newsletters for medical students and doctors in training, in addition to the active development of model HIV care centers. We have discovered in the course of our preparatory work that Individual willingness to accept vaccine trials is entirely dependent on an understanding of HIV in general and the need for an AIDS vaccine in particular.
SINCE OUR HUMBLE BEGINNINGS IN 2001, WE CONTINUE TO ADD TO OUR LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
We have established research collaborations with Dr. Koita, Dr. Tounkara and Dr. Dao at the University of Bamako Medical School. A manuscript describing the research results was published in Human Vaccines in 2006. More than a dozen peer-reviewed articles describing the development of this vaccine and its scientific rationale have been published in the scientific literature.
We have obtained research support for these vaccine-related collaborations in the form of a Campbell Foundation award (2003-2004), a FIRCA (2005-present) and HIV R01 funding (2002- present) from the NIH. More than $2M in research funding (not for use building HIV vaccine trial infrastructure) has been awarded since 2002.
We raised more than $250,000 to support the development of an HIV care center in Sikoro called the Hope Center Clinic from Textron, Keep a Child Alive, the Gilead Foundation, and from individual donors in Providence, RI.
We continue to organize an annual World AIDS Day event in Providence RI. The World AIDS Day event highlights the achievements of individuals who have promoted the development of a global HIV/AIDS vaccine or distinguished themselves in their efforts to stop AIDS by education, prevention activities, or improving access to care. Previous recipients of the annual “Hope is a Vaccine Award” include: Ken Mayer (Brown University), Peggy Johnston (Division of AIDS, NIH), Neal Nathanson (Office for AIDS Research, NIH), Jose Esparza (Gates Foundation), Jeffery and Sonia Sachs (Millennium Village Project). This annual event is focused on educating the Brown University and Rhode Island community about the need for an HIV vaccine.
We also established an annual HIV education conference for HIV providers in West Africa. The fourth conference was held in January 2007, and more than 200 HIV experts from West Africa attended. This conference began with a budget of $2000, and by the fourth year, more than $30,000 was raised to support the conference by three different organizations. The conference is an annual educational event for which GAIA VF has received considerable recognition in West Africa and the international HIV/AIDS community.
We have distributed more than 75,000 condoms (in Mali and in Providence, from 2002-2013).
We established our Mother to Child Transmission Prevention program (MTCTP), "Chez Rosalie", in Sikoro in 2005. To date, we have offered counseling and free HIV testing to over 13,000 women who came to the clinic for prenatal care (2005-2014). We have become the first community-based care centers in Mali by understanding the need to treat women for HIV in a familiar setting.
We have initiated and performed two “KAP/WTP” (Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices, and Willingness to Participate) studies to improve understanding of HIV vaccines and HIV vaccine trial willingness in Mali. We have also performed “KAP/WTP” studies for HPV, as well as a prevalence study to verify the existence of HPV strains 16 and 18 (both vaccine-preventable) in Mali.
We presented the results of the HIV KAP/WTP findings to scientific peers at the World AIDS Vaccine Conference in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
An important aspect of GAIA VF activities in Mali is to provide demonstrate that high quality HIV care can be implemented in resource-poor settings. GAIA has already established the first village-based Mother to Child HIV transmission prevention program in one of the most impoverished locations in Mali (Chez Rosalie, 2005). GAIA VF is now planning a permanent clinical HIV care center in the same village, to be called the “Centre D’Espoir” (the Hope Center Clinic). The clinic will be a beacon of hope for the women, men and children of West Africa, who will be able to access HIV prevention, education and care. That clinic is the focus of the current request.
GAIA VF believes that connecting HIV infected patients to health care and HIV medications engenders hope for the future. Hopeful patients are excellent educators and hopeful doctors provide good HIV care. GAIA VF founder, Dr. Anne De Groot, has seen the impact of improved HIV care on other marginalized populations in the USA. In her experience, access to medications, to HIV care, and to a vaccine when one is available means hope.