Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton .....

June 28, 2010

Secretary Hillary Clinton
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We are concerned that the State Department has yet to release updated guidance for HIV prevention among injection drug users. Last December, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) released a new Five-Year Strategy for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that underscored the importance of establishing prevention priorities necessary to combat the epidemic. Around the same time, Congress voted to allow federal funding for syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in the US, underscoring the importance of evidence-based prevention programming. Despite clear statements from the Administration in support of syringe exchange as part of a comprehensive program, without Administration guidance domestic and international programs are still prohibited from using federal funds for one of the most effective HIV prevention tools.

Outside sub-Saharan Africa one third of new HIV infections are due to injection drug use. In countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Vietnam and China, more than half of infections are due to injection drug use. By implementing syringe exchange, some countries, like Britain, Australia and France avoided large scale epidemics among people who inject drugs. A review of data from 81 cities across Europe, Asia, and North America with and without SEPs found that, on average, HIV infection increased by 5.9 percent per year in the 52 cities without SEPs and decreased by 5.8 percent per year in the 29 cities with SEPs. This represents an 11 percent net difference in seroprevalence when comparing cities with and without SEPs. Programs could, right now, prevent thousands of new HIV infections at very little cost.

The upcoming International AIDS Conference in Vienna will have a special focus on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union where injection drug use is the cause of one of the world's fastest growing HIV epidemics. As the single largest donor for HIV/AIDS programs around the world, the United States will be in the spotlight. We urge you to release guidance that embraces syringe exchange in advance of that event.


ACT UP Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
After Hours Project, Inc., Brooklyn, NY
Agua Buena Human Rights Association, San Jose, Cost Rica
AIDS Action Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
AIDS Action Council, Washington, DC
AIDS Alliance for Faith and Health, Atlanta, GA
AIDS Care Ocean State, Providence, RI
AIDS Community Research Consortium, Redwood City, CA
AIDS Education Global Information System (www.aegis.org), San Juan Capistrano, CA
AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
AIDS Foundation Houston Inc, Houston, TX
AIDS Policy Project, Philadelphia, PA
AIDS Project Greater Danbury, Danbury, CT
AIDS Project Hartford, Inc., Hartford, CT
AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region; The Cleve Jones Wellness House, Gilsum, NH
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland, OH
AIDS Task Force, Inc., Fort Wayne, IN
AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition, New York, NY
AIDSfreeAFRICA, Ossining, NY
Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association, Anchorage, AK
American Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY and Washington, DC
American Medical Student Association, Reston, VA
American Public Health Association, Washington, DC
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, New York, NY
Aniz, Inc, Atlanta, GA
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Akron, OH
AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, New York, N.Y.
AXIOS Eastern Orthodox LGBT Christian AIDS Ministry, New York, NY
Brandywine Counseling, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware
Brown University AIDS Program, Providence, RI
California Communities United Institute, Citrus Heights, CA
Caring Ambassadors Program, Oregon City, OR
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Washington, DC
Center for Health Justice, Los Angeles, CA
Center for Women Policy Studies, Washington, DC
Centre for Health Policy and Innovation, Johannesburg, South Africa
Chattanooga CARES, Chattanooga, TN
Chicago Recovery Alliance, Chicago, IL
Children With AIDS Project of America, Tempe, AZ
Circles of Fire Productions, Brooklyn, NY
CitiWide Harm Reduction, Bronx, NY
Common Ground – the Westside HIV Community Center, Santa Monica, CA
Community Access National Network (CANN), Washington, DC
Community Health Action of Staten Island, Staten Island, New York
Community Health Awareness Group, Detroit, MI
Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), Providence, RI
Community Information Center, Inc., Portland, OR
DC Community AIDS Network (DC CAN), Washington, DC
Delaware HIV Consortium, Wilmington, DE
Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), Delhi, India
Dignity/USA National AIDS Project, Boston, MA
Divine Openarms, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Downtown Manhattan HCV Support Group, New York, NY
Drug Policy Alliance, New York, NY
Eastern Maine AIDS Network, Bangor, ME
Education for Healthy Choices, Sacramento, CA
EL HAYET des personnes vivant avec le VIH, Paye, Algerie
Elton John AIDS Foundation, New York, NY
Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc. (FMCS), Washington, DC
Family Services Network of New York, Brooklyn, NY
Fenway Health, Boston, MA
Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research (FIAR), Brooklyn, NY
Frannie Peabody Center, Portland, ME
Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York, NY
Global AIDS Alliance, Washington, DC
Global Coalition of Women against AIDS, Kampala, Uganda
Global Health Strategies, York, NY
Global Justice Ministry, Metropolitan Community Churches, Metropolitan Community Church of New
York, NY
Grand Rapids Red Project, Grand Rapids, MI
Greater Love Tabernacle-HIV/AIDS Services, Dorchester, MA
Harm Reduction Action Center, Denver, CO
Harm Reduction Coalition, New York, NY
Harm Reduction Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana
Health GAP (Global Access Project), New York, NY
HealthReach Harm Reduction, Augusta, ME
Hep C Connection, Denver CO
Hepatitis Education Project, Seattle, Washington
HIV/AIDS Law Project, Phoenix, AZ
HIV/AIDS Resource Center, Ypsilanti, MI
HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County, Oakland, CA
HIV Medicine Association, Arlington, VA
HIVictorious, Inc., Madison, WI
Housing Works, New York, NY and Washington, DC
Human Rights Watch, New York, NY
IDSA/HIVMA Center for Global Health Policy, Arlington, VA
Indiana Minority Health Coalition; Brothers Uplifting Brothers, Inc., Merrillville, IN
International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS-North American Region, Washington,
International AIDS Empowerment, El Paso, TX
International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Washington, DC
International Women’s Health Coalition, New York, NY
Interpharm International Limited, Kenya
Intersect Worldwide, New York, NY
Laramie Reproductive Health, Laramie, WY
Liberty Research Group, Rochester, NY
Life Foundation, Honolulu, HI
LifeLinc of Maryland, Baltimore, MD
Lilitan Research and Consultancy, Accra, Ghana
Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, New York, NY
MCCNY Charities, New York, NY
Mendocino County AIDS/Viral Hepatitis Network, Ukiah, CA
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, Washington, DC
Metropolitan Community Church Key West, Key West, FL
Michigan Positive Action Coalition, Detroit, MI
Minnesota AIDS Project, Minneapolis, MN
Minority Health Coalition of Marion County, Indianapolis, IN
MOCHA Center, Inc., Buffalo, NY & Rochester, NY
National AIDS Fund, Washington, DC
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, Washington, DC
National Association of Social Workers – USA, Washington, DC
National Forum of People Living HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), Kampala Uganda
National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council, Brooklyn, NY
National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, Decatur, GA
National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), Washington, DC
Needle Exchange Program of Asheville (NEPA), Asheville, NC
Network of Zambian People Living with HIV/AIDS, Lusaka, Zambia
New Destiny Recovery Ministry, Inc, Baltimore, MD
New York Harm Reduction Educators, Inc., Bronx, NY & New York, NY
North American Old Catholic Church, Washington, DC
North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Winston Salem and Chapel Hill, NC
North Shore Health Project, Gloucester, MA
NYC AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN), Brooklyn, NY
NYU Medical Center Hepatitis C Support Group, New York, NY
O'Connor Hospital HCV & HBV Support Group, Delhi, NY
Open Society Institute, Washington, DC
Philadelphia Global AIDS Watchdogs (GAWD), Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix Center, Springfield IL
Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, MA & Washington, DC
Population Council, New York, NY
Positive Health Project, Inc., New York, NY
Positive Outreach Foundation, Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria
Positive Voice, Athens, Greece
Praxis Housing Initiatives Inc., New York, NY
PreventionWorks, Washington, DC
Project Inform, San Francisco, CA
PSI (Population Services International), Washington, DC
Public Health - Seattle & King County, Seattle, WA
Safe Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal
SafeGames Project, New York, NY
Salud Latina/Latino Health, Chicago, IL
San Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco, CA
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), New York, NY and Washington, DC
Sisters and Brothers Helping Each Other, Kankakee, IL
SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange, San Luis Obispo, CA
Sonoma County Commission on AIDS, Santa Rosa, CA
Sonoma County Hepatitis AIDS Reduction Program (SHARP)/syringe exchange, Santa Rosa (and
surrounding areas), CA
Spokane AIDS Network, Spokane, WA
St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction, Bronx, NY
Status C Unknown, Medford, NY
Support on AIDS and Life through Telephone Helpline (SALT) Uganda, Kampala
Tapestry Health, Florence, MA
The AIDS Institute, Washington, DC & Tampa, FL
The Brown Global Health Initiative, Providence, RI
The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Providence RI
The Foundation for Research on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Inc (FROST’D), New York, NY
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), Oakland, CA
The Miriam Immunology Center, Providence, RI
The Space at Tompkins, New York, NY
The Women’s Center, Bronx, NY
Timi Hami Ani Hamro Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal
Total Health Awareness Team, Rockford, IL
Transexuales y Transgeneros en Marcha (TTM), San Juan, PR
Treatment Action Group, New York, NY
Treatment Education Network, Denver CO
Triangle Health Collective, Durham, NC
Tri-County Health Coalition of Southern Indiana Inc., New Albany, IN
Trust for America’s Health, Washington, DC
2 God B The Glory, Inc Women Supportive Housing Program, Baltimore, MD
25 Messengers, Indonesia
Uganda Integrated Community Based Projects, Kampala, Uganda
UHAP -- Upstate New York Hepatitis Awareness Project, Delancey, New York
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, Abilene, TX
Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS), Washington, DC
Voices Of Community Advocates & Leaders (VOCAL), Brooklyn, NY
Vortex Consulting, LLC, Wenonah, NJ
Washington Heights CORNER Project, New York, NY
Wateree Aids Task Force in Sumter, SC
West County Health Centers, Inc., Guerneville, CA
Women in Motion, Inc., Indianapolis, IN
Youth Empowerment & Human Development Initiative (YEHDI), Kano, Nigeria
Senator John Kerry, Chair, Foreign Relations Committee
Senator Richard Lugar, Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee
Senator Inouye, Chair, Appropriations Committee
Senator Leahy, Chair, State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
Senator Gregg, Ranking Member, State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
Senator Tom Harkin, Chair, Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee
Senator Richard Durbin, Majority Whip
Representative Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
Representative Howard Berman, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee
Representative Waxman, Chair, Energy and Commerce Committee
Representative David Obey, Chair, Appropriations Committee
Representative Nita Lowey, Chair, State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
Representative Kay Granger, Ranking Member, State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
Representative José Serrano, Chair Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee
Representative Donald Payne, Chair, Foreign Affairs Africa and Global Health
Representative Michael Castle
Representative Elijah Cummings
Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Representative Barbara Lee
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard
Ambassador Eric Goosby, Global AIDS Coordinator

Monday, June 28, 2010

I met Eunice Suh in 2005 my first trip to Kenya and Cameroon. I was sitting in someones office waiting. So did Eunice. Naturally we two women started talking. I can't remember if either of us bothered to wait for Henry to come back. I do remember her inviting me for lunch, then inviting me to her school to talk about AIDS and me trying to figure out if I can say the word "sex" to a bunch of young students. I met the kids and the rest is history.  Benwie Kalawie was born Dec. 26, 2003 to a very very young woman who gave her up. Eunice took her in and the then 10 year old Delphine raised the baby. In 2006 I came back with 6 with women volunteers. They loved the children and two of them Katie and Jennifer spend 2 month teaching the kids. By then Benwie claimed me for herself. As soon as she saw me she would climb up in my arm and I would carry her around. At night she would come and fall asleep in my lap and I would carry her to her bed tuck her in under her mosquito net. Again in 2007 I spend much time in Eunice's house. By 2008 my job took me away from Bamenda and I saw Benwie only briefly, but the child was overjoyed. When I found her in 2008 I asked her what she wanted and she said: chocolate. I asked her to bring me to the place where she can get chocolate and she took me by the hand and walked to a small shop down the road and ask the lady to hand her a small plastic cup with some Nutella like chocolate spread. She ate it on the way home.

Today, Delphine (another child also taken in by Eunice) returned to her family of origin and Eunice's own children, all five of them have left the house. Since there is no one to take care of Benwie she was moved first to Eunice's mother Madam Atanga in Bafut and then to Benwie's grandmother also in Bafut. Although smaller than Bamenda, Bafut is too populated and spread out for me to go and find Benwie. I needed mama Eunice to help me. Eunice promised to bring the child to Bameda but failed repeatedly. I enlisted a friend who has some family ties to Eunice but to no avail. The day before I had to leave for Yaounde I took matters in my own hands and succeeded. I traced down Eunice and told her in no uncertain terms to enter the taxi. y brain worked overtime making a mental map of the 1/2 hour ride. Leaving town at five in the afternoon is way to late to make it back home safely before dark. I did not care. Eunice wanted the taxi to wait for us to go back, but I wanted to have time with Benwie and thus send the taxi away. We climbed up a hill along a dirt road, turned right with a church to our left and another turn right, we crossed the place in front of a primary school GS Niko. Once we had passed in front of the two small buildings there seemed to be nothing but tropical forest. Down a steep hill a small path became visible and at the end we could see a small mud brick house. Benwie saw us first and came running. She ran past Eunice and directly into my arms. 

 With all the miracles and amazing situations I have experienced and witnessed in Cameroon, I was never happier than at that moment and for the next hour or so we spend with Benwie, her 12 year old uncle, her grandmother and grandfather in front of their small house. We ate mangoes and I took Benwie and lead her away from everyone to ask her if she is all right, goes to school, is treated well. She nodded. I asked her what she needed and then what she wanted. She wanted "her baby" ! The pink stuffed teddy bear that we gave her in 2006. it had obviously not made the move. I took her grandmother aside to give her money without the male knowing - i am afraid he would take it from her. Officially I gave him some money - much less, assuming he will turn it into alcohol anyway. One never knows. Benwie looked good. She was clean and healthy and I know she is very smart. from young age on she spoke more English than Pidgin and she has always observed things a lot. next trip I will bring a big box with things she can use and some close for the boy. Her uncle is her grandmothers youngest child and only 12 years old. I asked him what I can bring him. Shy, he finally asked for clothes for himself. 

Whatever it is that makes us fall in love with that particular child - it is what it is. I always promise Benwie that I will come back. I will. I have to.        

Rotary.... with a little help from my friends!

Rotary's motto is: Service over Self. How true.

AIDSfreeAFRICA has been the recipient of support for numerous projects helping Cameroonians.
We are always welcome by Rotarians and the list of invited speaking engagements is long.
Ramapo Valley Rotary in Sloatsburg was the first club to sponsor a medical kit, followed by Wyckoff-Midland Rotary. John Adams was the man behind the scence making it possible that we were able to double the amount of supplies. Since we got the supplies from Anne Richards we were able to use the Rotary money to pay transport cost. We doubled the amount  to deliver 100 pounds instead of 50 pounds last year. We also delivered insulin syringes and a glucose meter with test strips donated again by my former student from Westchester Community College. Every year we receive a very generous donation of chewable children's vitamins from the Ossining Health Smart Pharmacy Dr. Bruno Tullio. The vitamins have been handed to so many places and people that it would fill a book with pictures. Maybe one day I will do that.... what do you think?

Our recipients of the medical supplies are the clinic in Limbe (see separate blog later) and new to us: a small bush clinic hours away from the capital Yaoude and too far for me to go to. But Mary (right) makes the trek every so often, and she will carry these boxes all the way to where they are needed. Also in the picture is my SERVAS host Steeve (left) - who by the way wants me to find him a young American woman who wants to marry him..... and my dear friend Solomon who made sure I traveled safely.

This is my Bamenda family where I spend  Christmas. From left is Dr. Christopher Anyangwe, proprietor of the Royal Alpha Clinic in Bamenda who saved me when I had a gallbladder attack of some sort. the two boys belong to Samuel Anyangwe and his wife Florence (not in the picture). The tall boy has been juvenile diabetic since age three. His mother knew something was wrong. She had the presence to taste the child's urine to convince a doctor to test the insulin level. In the US non of us can imagine what heroic an act it is to attempt to keep a diabetic child healthy and alive in Cameroon. We are told that the syringes make a big difference, since now they can reuse them a little less often and throw them away when the needle gets dull and it becomes to painful to use.... can you imagine?
To my very left is Christopher and Samuel's mother. She is the mother to many more Anyangwe's, some of whom I have met and others I am sure I will. She speaks only Pidgin English and whatever she says it is said with a welcoming smile that translates any language into just that: a warm welcome. 

AIDSfreeAFRICA thanks our donors, all Rotarian's, my students, my friends and family and my Cameroonian friends for receiving me so warm in their homes.