US Health & Human Services Secretary, Global Health Council President Laud GHESKIO for Pioneering Work and Life-Saving Response After Devastating Earthquake
GENEVA, Switzerland – GHESKIO, an institution in Haiti founded nearly three decades ago to fight a mysterious killer disease later identified as AIDS, has been awarded the prestigious 2010 Gates Award for Global Health for its years of ground-breaking clinical service, research, and training to treat effectively and prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS and other related illnesses, the Global Health Council announced today.
GHESKIO – it stands for Groupe Haïtien d’Étude du Sarcome de Kaposi et des Infectieuses Opportunistes – becomes the 10th winner of the annual Gates award, and judges not only lauded the group for its impact from a long record of work but also for its life-saving and swift response to treat the sick and injured in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Among the vast swath of damage was GHESKIO’s own headquarters in Port-au-Prince, and yet it opened its doors to several thousand suddenly homeless people, and then opened a field hospital.
The group, led by Dr. Jean William (Bill) Pape, a Haitian nativewho has been one of the leading clinicians since the early days of the epidemic, has been able to achieve AIDS patient survival rates and treatment adherence with patients that rival those of the most advanced hospitals and clinics in the United States and Europe. In addition, its research has informed the treatment and care of AIDS patients worldwide.
“GHESKIO won this award because of the amazing impact that Dr. Bill Pape and his colleagues have had in saving lives and strengthening the health system in Haiti,” said Global Health Council President and CEO Jeffrey L. Sturchio. “They have built GHESKIO into a rare institution – one based in a developing country that has become a leader in the global research community. That dual character – world-class research capabilities tied to deep roots in the local community – is what sets GHESKIO apart and makes them the natural recipient of this recognition.’’
Pape expressed great joy with the selection of GHESKIO, and he cited the long-term commitment of people in the organization.
“For almost 30 years GHESKIO has tirelessly served those most in need in Haiti and translated its metric-based outcomes into effective policy for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and associated diseases such as tuberculosis into models for the developing world,’’ said Pape, who also is professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
He added, “I could not be more proud of our Haitian staff who have worked diligently before, during and after the January 12 earthquake to meet the multiple needs of the population. They are the ones who, with our partners, have earned this recognition, which honors our country, Haiti.’’
U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius joined Sturchio in making the announcement of the award at a World Health Assembly symposium. The Global Health Council has managed the award since its inception 10 years ago.
“No organization deserves this recognition more than GHESKIO. It has been a pioneer in developing comprehensive HIV/AIDS research, training and services in Haiti,” Sebelius said. “And in the immediate aftermath of the January earthquake, GHESKIO responded by opening its doors, mobilizing its staff, and working side-by-side with U.S. medical and surgical teams to provide relief to the people of Port-au-Prince.”
GHESKIO will receive $1 million as part of the award, which was established by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to recognize organizations that have made outstanding contributions to improving health, especially in resource-poor settings. The winner was chosen by a jury of international health leaders from 179 nominations received from around the world: http://tinyurl.com/gatesghc10
. GHESKIO now joins the other nine winners of the Gates Award: http://tinyurl.com/gatesghcall
Just 24 hours after the January 12 earthquake, GHESKIO’s downtown Port-au-Prince staff had begun establishing a first-response trauma center, which has since evolved into a major source of care for the injured. Roughly 7,000 Port-au-Prince residents, homeless because of the earthquake, moved onto GHESKIO’s campus. Within a week of the earthquake, GHESKIO was able to ensure that 95 percent of those under care of HIV and tuberculosis were returned to their life-saving medications and care despite the destruction.
Prior to the earthquake, the GHESKIO network was providing palliative care to over 50,000 HIV-infected patients and antiretroviral therapy to over 13,500 – roughly 55 percent of all patients on AIDS treatment in Haiti. In 2009, GHESKIO tested over 500,000 patients in each department of Haiti for HIV, providing prevention counseling and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases for those who are negative, and treatment for those who are positive.
Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, said that Pape is known globally for his long service in fighting the AIDS epidemic, and also for his multiple roles in battling the disease.
“Bill Pape has become a hero of public health, not only for his ground-breaking TB and HIV research, but also for his role as a provider of vital care and treatment services for many of Haiti’s most vulnerable populations,’’ Goosby said.
The organization has been a major implementer of programs funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. It also has been a critical scientific partner in HHS’s AIDS Clinical Trials Group and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
“What happened in Haiti has become one of the world’s most successful responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, despite enduring ongoing political difficulties and limited economic resources,’’ said Dr. Paul Farmer, professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of Partners in Health, who has been a longtime colleague and collaborator with GHESKIO. “This achievement would have been impossible without the vision and indefatigable labor of Dr. Pape and his colleagues.”
GHESKIO was created in 1982 after Haitian physicians from different specialties began observing a rise in mortality rates from previously treatable diseases such as diarrhea and Kaposi’s sarcoma. In 1983, GHESKIO published the first description of HIV/AIDS in the developing world in The New England Journal of Medicine. Since its inception, GHESKIO has worked in close partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the Haitian Ministry of Health, the Haitian Medical Association and over 100 public and private institutions in Haiti.
“It has been 30 years since we began work in Haiti,’’ said Dr. Warren Johnson Jr., director of the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell, a co-founder of GHESKIO and Pape’s advisor and mentor since medical school at Cornell. “It started with a rehydration unit for infants, progressed to AIDS/TB, and continues with the earthquake and its devastation. The challenges never diminish, but continue to be met by the indomitable spirit of GHESKIO and its partners. The award is a hard earned honor.”
In 2000, the Haitian government designated GHESKIO a “Public Utility,” a status usually reserved for institutions “essential to the welfare of the Haitian people,” such as the Red Cross. In 2003, the Haitian Government asked GHESKIO to expand its integrated prevention and care model to 26public and private hospitals throughout the country. They provide training, supervision and administrative support at all of these sites, which include Haiti’s four largest public hospitals.
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The Global Health Council is the world’s largest membership alliance of public health organizations and professionals dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the world. The Council’s members work in 140 countries on six continents. www.globalhealth.org