African and Western Alliance to Build First Large-scale AIDS Medical Training Facility in Africa

State-of-Art Center in Uganda Will Educate Health Providers for All Africa and Provide HIV/AIDS Patients with Advanced Care.

KAMPALA, Uganda, June 11, 2001 — A new alliance of African and Western infectious disease experts, the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa, will soon break ground for the first large-scale HIV/AIDS clinic in Africa to train medical personnel from across the continent on the latest treatment options and bring the highest standard of care to patients.

The Alliance, a collaboration of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Makerere University, international and local non-governmental organizations, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and participating pharmaceutical research-based companies, is headed by globally renowned experts on AIDS and infectious diseases. The construction of the new clinic, to be located in Kampala, Uganda at the Makerere University Medical School, one of the leading medical schools in Africa, will be funded by the Pfizer Foundation and then operated by the Alliance in partnership with the university.

Uganda has been widely praised for the great strides it has made in fighting the AIDS epidemic. The government has focused intensively on combating AIDS under the leadership of President Yoweri K. Museveni, which has led to a sustained, dramatic reduction in the number of new HIV infections.

“This new center is an important step for Africa as we seek to control the AIDS pandemic and improve the quality of care,” said President Museveni. “This new approach will complement the work our own doctors are doing and can have a positive impact across Africa,” he added. An estimated 820,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, and there are 25 million HIV-infected people on the African continent.

“Our goal is to strengthen medical infrastructure, replicate it across Africa and bring the latest medicines to bear on treating this disease so that African doctors and nurses can offer modern AIDS care to their patients,” said Nelson Sewankambo, M.D., Dean of the Makerere Medical School and a member of the Alliance. “We expect to train at least 80 clinicians per year in the latest AIDS treatment techniques, and as they return to their posts in Uganda and other African countries they will, in turn, train many more doctors and other medical personnel. Once the facility is fully operational, we also expect to treat up to 50,000 HIV/AIDS patients with the kind of care that is available in the developed world but not yet widely used in Africa.”

“The Academic Alliance is a ground-breaking effort because it is the first large-scale AIDS training and treatment program aimed at improving care for patients who typically have no resources or access to even rudimentary medical help,” said Merle A. Sande, M.D., co-director of the Alliance and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Utah. “The Alliance includes many of the world’s leading AIDS experts in both Africa and the West. They care passionately about this crisis and are committed to making this innovative clinic a success.” The clinic is expected to open later this year or early in 2002.

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Henry McKinnell, who attended the ceremony in Kampala announcing the Alliance and the Pfizer Foundation grant, said: “HIV/AIDS is the most serious public health issue of our time, and public/private partnerships like the Alliance, which are carefully constructed, meet the highest medical standards and have the strong support of local governments, are critical to stopping the spread of the disease and improving the quality of care. I am confident that the new clinic, staffed by leading experts from around the globe, will play an important role in the fight against HIV/AIDS not only in Uganda but across Africa.”

Pfizer’s support of the Uganda facility comes after its announcement at the United Nations last week that it will offer Diflucan anti-fungal medicine at no charge to HIV/AIDS patients in more than 50 least-developed countries as identified by the UN where HIV/AIDS is most prevalent. While Diflucan is not a treatment for HIV/AIDS, it has proven highly effective in treating two opportunistic infections, cryptococcal meningitis and esophageal candidiasis. The Diflucan Partnership expands on an existing program in South Africa which is a collaboration between Pfizer and the South African Ministry of Health.

Africa lacks wide access to the new generation of medicines, known as anti-retrovirals (ARVs) or protease inhibitors, which are combined with anti-fungals and other medicines that fight AIDS-related opportunistic infections to make up the so-called “AIDS cocktails.” According to Samuel Luboga, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Dean of the Makerere School, one of the goals of the clinic will be to put more patients under ARV treatment and use diagnostic technology to monitor them and determine what kind of ARV treatments would be appropriate for Africa. The Alliance is in negotiations with companies that manufacture ARVs so that it will have supplies on hand when the clinic opens.

“The clinic’s diagnostic laboratory is essential for modern AIDS care but is lacking in many areas of Africa,” said Thomas Quinn, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, a National Institutes of Health Senior Investigator and one of the first Western scientists to identify AIDS in Africa. “Too often, African doctors have to send their tests to labs far away from their clinics, but now we’ll have the facilities on site for diagnosis of HIV, tuberculosis, opportunistic infections and sexually transmitted diseases, and levels of immune competence and HIV viral load will be readily available to the clinicians. This is a major step forward.”

Jerrold Ellner, M.D., a founding member of the Alliance, Professor of Medicine at the New Jersey Medical School and one of the world’s foremost authorities on tuberculosis, noted that the clinic “will have an influence far beyond the doctors trained in it and the patients whom it treats. It is a reverse pyramid: each doctor can train dozens of other doctors, and each doctor can treat 200-300 AIDS patients at any one time. And other clinics, using the center’s guidelines, can be established across Africa.”

The Alliance is working closely with the Ugandan medical and public health community and will actively seek assistance from the Ugandan Minister of Health, local organizations, the staff and faculty of Makerere University Medical School and Mulago Hospital, the national hospital of Uganda.

In establishing the Alliance, Drs. Sande, Quinn and Ellner have been joined by Michael Scheld, M.D., who is Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia, Vice President of the IDSA, chair of its international AIDS committee and an internationally recognized authority on infectious diseases, especially central nervous system infections; Dr. Allan Roland and Dr. King Holmes. All have extensive experience in Uganda and other African nations in research and teaching and are committed to bringing high quality treatment to as many patients as possible as well as training as many African AIDS care practitioners as possible.

Since the early days of the AIDS epidemic, the IDSA has assumed a leading role in supporting research, disseminating new knowledge and training healthcare workers in AIDS care. In the mid-1980s, the IDSA developed four centers in the U.S. to train foreign physicians, especially those from African nations. Today there are far more applicants for these positions than there are training slots available. For this reason, the IDSA has agreed to support a center in Kampala in association with the Alliance to expand training activities for African physicians.

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