Saturday, November 12, 2011

Miconazole, 2007 to 2011

Tibotec has generously made available an antifungal drug, called Miconazole or micMAT, that treats oral thrush, a painful condition affecting 25% of AIDS patients every year. With the help of a generous grant from Tibotec established a cost recovering non-profit distribution program to make this drug available. At the same time we were working with the Minister of Public Health and the Department of Pharmacy to renew the sales license for this drug. It took 18 month and a lot of pushing to have the issue heard in committee. Even aftrer the license was issued it took another six month to print the actual license. Undetered by any of this Dr. Hodel who had met the Prime Minister Philemon Yang and obtained his generous support, did not hesitate and called on him. Now the drug is distributed through Laborex, a large well organized drug distribution company in Cameroon.

Drug productionin Africa ? YES

Dr. Hodel (l) and DR. Issa Hamadjoda, Cinpharm
Six long years, since Dr. Hodel went to Cameroon and started talking to everyone who would listen that a continent as large and diverse as Africa needed it's own drug production. "It can't be done" was the response in the US and even from some Africans. At the end it came faster than expected: Cameroon company starts full scale production of solid oral drugs, antibiotics, antifungals and pain killers. Others are in the pipeline. Goal is 60 products on the market. The company called Cinpharm is full African owned and run. Approximately 300 Cameroonians have been trained to run production, take care of quality control following GMP - Good Manufacturing Practices - the gold standard of the Pharmaceutical Industry world wide. In The USA this is better known to people as the FDA, the Food & Drug Administration.  
AIDSfreeAFRICA is pleased. However, instead of Dr. Hodel going into retirement, her work has just begun. We will do our best to help to expand, maintain, train and troubleshoot. In addition to production, drug access is becoming an issue, and HR - human resources. The Universities need resources to train students to become the next generation of drug producers. 

A truly exciting outlook.    

In a blog of the American Chemical Society, editor Linda Wang raises the question: Can A Pasta King Bring Generic Drugs To Sub-Saharan Africa? 

The resounding answer is YES.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From Hillary Clinton to Kah Walla - Women running for President

Cameroon's Kah Walla Presses Her Presidential Bid

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Source: Women's e-News, New York
Cameroon's sole female candidate in the October presidential elections isn't letting kidnapping or water cannons stop her. She says her most solid support comes from young people and she's trying to rouse the women's vote.

Walla's Priorities

She said her priorities, if elected, would be advancing the rights of women, the disabled and the linguistic and ethnic minority.

Expats are able to vote in the October election.
"Cameroon expats to vote in presidential election," The Associated Press:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Take my picture, I am not afraid!

Looking into the Camera: volunteers Sih and Patience

Esu, Cameroon After six days of HIV/AIDS testing, I wanted to take a picture that shows the two best trained and performing volunteers, Sih and Patience. Thus I asked the lady who was there for testing if I can have her sit with her back to the camera to keep her privacy. She agreed, but when I showed her the photo she turned and declared "Take my picture, I am not afraid!". Indeed she was not.

She also is a wonderful cook, and her name is Rosemary. Also in the picture is a 10 year old boy. The youngest we tried to test was a 17 month old girl, but the mother could not make her understand to spit into the cup, she just stuck her tongue inside and licked the plastic. The youngest we tested was her 5 year old brother. I am glad the children both tested negative.
Rosemary is not scared to show her smile

During the six days of testing we had an opportunity to eat lunch at different places in Esu, called "restaurants". Rosemary was one of our favorite places. She had all the good foods Esu people like, egussy, eru, fufu corn, jama jama, beans and rice, okra soup, pepper soup, corn cow, to name most. The last day she even made chicken, because after 10 days without fish or chicken I was dreaming of chicken....

AIDS used to be a scary unknown and misunderstood disease. Today we know a lot, and with the help of antiretroviral drugs, people can live a long time, women can have babies that are negative due to Parent-Child-Transmission-Prevention-Programs, PCTP. Join Rosemary, don't be afraid, get tested and know your status.

The AIDS testing will continue and we are grateful for Immuno-Science who invented this handy saliva based test and is donating it to us. People really liked it when they learned that no one will poke them with a needle. They also like that they know their status within 30 minutes instead of having to come back next day.

But Esu needs a hospital, with 30-40 thousand inhabitants all they have is a very cheerful nurse, two nurse aids, an energetic lab technician, and a wonderfully able and engaged chief of post functioning as the administrator.
His name is Christian and he is a recent addition to this government run Health Center. The center is not an approved HIV/AIDS counseling and treatment center. A prerequisite would be to have a full time medical doctor on staff. Esu is so far "in the bushes" reachable only via terrible roads that have improved only gradually since I have been traveling this road. This and the lack of basic life comforts makes it hard to get an MD.

However, Christian has the right ideas. He offered to travel to the District Hospital in WUM to pick up the AIDS drugs for all HIV positive people of Esu that joined the newly Esu Family Health Association, an idea sparked by AIDSfreeAFRICA. This Association grew from 25 to 60 within a few month. However, we know many other positive people are still on the fence waiting, afraid to join. But in the mean time thanks to Christian's action, 60 HIV positive people are saving 2000 CFA, an equivalent of 4 US$ in transport cost.

In May while on a 12 day visit in Esu, Christian proudly announced that he is organizing a bus to bring HIV positive people to their bi-annual check up and CD4 analysis. Since getting the results of the test was unreliable, Christian also collects the results of this diagnosis directly at the WUM Hospital. This information is crucial to know if the patient is doing well on his or her AIDS drugs or needs to switch to second line treatment.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Briarcliff Manor, NY Rotary Club

Dr. S.C. Yuter and wife Elinor (left) efforts finally succeeded when Briarcliff Manor, NY Rotary Club invited AIDSfreeAFRICA volunteer Betty Lewis to speak about her experience in Cameroon and AIDSfreeAFRICA president Rolande Hodel to receive a $500 donation. See related story on the Rotary  Blog. Picture below shows Club President Dean Dykeman presenting the check.

Rotary Clubs focus their service mostly within their city communities, however, many also "adopt" an international project. NY and NJ Rotary Clubs of District 7230 have supported AIDSfreeAFRICA for years. However, Briarcliff promised follow-up and an ongoing collaboration.

Donations made to AIDSfreeAFRICA are invested in income generating activities, true to our motto to teach how to fish and not to just give fish....
AIDSfreeAFRICA is grateful for the good work Rotary is doing here in the US and abroad.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ramapo Valley Rotary Club in Sloatsburg, NY

Ramapo Valley Rotary Club in Sloatsburg, Rockland County New York provides funding to buy a CURE KIT.  
Robert "Bob" Prier took the opportunity and made his club the first Rotary club involved in a project that connected to Rotary Clubs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We also want to thank the many Rotary clubs that have donated money and in-kind over the past two years. We want to mention in particular outgoing Bronx Club President Taylor Eskew for a generous grant, club members Marguerite Chadwick-Juner for designing of eye-catching flyers and brochure for AIDSfreeAFRICA and Jim Romeo from High Speed Printing for his excellent and generous printing. 

Dr. Anyangwe accepting the supplies, congratulated by Bamenda Rotary Club outgoing President Patrick, Madam Grace
Rotary secretary and past President. Dr. Anyangwe's treatment room with few supplies.

Alpha Royal Clinic staff and patients thankful and hoping for more support!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scholarships available for on-line Green Chemistry Course at UC Berkeley

In collaboration with the University of California Berkeley, AIDSfreeAFRICA collaborator Chemists Without Borders is looking for suitable candidates to receive a scholarship to participate in the Universities on-line Green Chemistry program. Please pick up all needed information through the link provided here.
UC Berkeley Extension Green Chemistry program:

Steve Chambreau, VP at Chemists Without Borders has met with Barbara Peterson, the Director of the program, and they are looking for suitable candidates to receive scholarships to complete the Green Chemistry Certificate program online (Barbara says that all of the required classes will be available online within the next year). AIDSfreeAFRICA was asked to identify any potential candidates in Cameroon. Please contact us after studying the link.    

Thursday, February 3, 2011

One family at a time

Volunteers going to developing countries are often overwhelmed by the huge need they find and the slow moving change to improve the situation of those they try to help. Organizations like the US Peace Corps training manual suggest to the volunteers to focus on a specific child or family where it is easier to see ones impact.

With AIDSfreeAFRICA where I have worked for years on establishing a pharmaceutical industry - I knew it would not happen over night. However, our donors ask us: what are you doing? Is there any progress? Are you helping anyone? Is our money making a difference? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

Joseph Kwende with son Steve
Most recently I was privileged to help the Kwende family. I met Solomon Kwende less than six month ago. Seemingly out of the blue he asked me if I have adult diapers. Coincidentally, my friend Anne Richard who has been providing AIDSfreeAFRICA the excess medical supplies from her son Michael, had previously offered adult diapers. To make a log story short. One of Solomon's brothers lives in Boston. One of his friends is a business man who sends 44 ft containers across the ocean. I loaded my car up with adult diapers and took them to Boston. Joseph Kwende's son Steve was a happy two year old baby when he had an epileptic seizure and went into a coma. Today he is 14 years old, can not walk, speak or take care of himself in any way. The father, Joseph once a successful business man himself became Steve's round the clock care giver.
Steve in his makeshift wheelchair
Three adult diapers a day at a cost of $200 every month is what he has to have plus medicine. That's in a good month when there is no crisis. In a country without cat-scan, MRI scan capability, no in-house aid, not physical therapy, no speech therapy, and other services Steve just grows bigger and gurgles when dad takes him on his lap and talks to him. That is when he looks happy. Bringing some relieve to a family struggling day in day out - is moving and leaves me appreciate every breath I take. 

For three days, Joseph in turn dedicated himself to help me with my many appointments with government agencies. He drove me everywhere, translated from French into English and translated statements that made no sense to me even when they were spoken in English. This is how I got a copy of our successful registration of AIDSfreeAFRICA as a Cameroonian NGO (non-governmental organization) His wife Delphine cooked and took me shopping for a few must have items I like to take home to reward our donors.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The vision to built a hospital in Esu

PolycarpNji has a vision -  to build a hospital in his home village of Esu. He is one of my closest collaborators in Cameroon. A nurse by education, he runs a small hospital in Limbe. However, his heart is in his home village of Esu. Last year he took me there to see for myself. A village of 30,000 to 40,000 souls, but no water, no electricity and worst, no bathroom facilities whatsoever. I can put up with lots of inconvenience, but this was too much - we left the next morning.

From left: Ruler Fon Albert, Rolande Hodel, Polycarp Nji, Madam Sholar
 Polycarp was not about to give up. He begged me to come back. He had a powerful alley in his Fon who had impressed me very much in the short time I had spent in his village.
Fon Albert is not like other Fon's I have met in Cameroon. He does not drink, has only one wife and only three children. He is educated and loves to works his farm with his own hands.
Most importantly he has good intentions for his people who revier him and whom he loves tenderly.

AIDSfreeAFRICA receives title of one hectare (3.3 acres) of land
 I asked him to host me and to take care of me - he agreed. I asked him to back up any possible projects with his people and AIDSAFRICA as a guaranty in form of land, he presented me the title - I asked him to set up meetings with his subjects - he did.

Armed with my "private bathroom" in form of a plastic bucket we went back to Esu and the rest is history.

I think I met most everyone in these five days. We hooked up young mothers with the Women Empowerment Center so they could get mosquito nets that are free and that they are entitled to but could not get because they had no ID card. We helped form the Esu Family Health Association and an association of the Youth. We hooked up the government health center chief of post with these groups, we AIDS tested, distributed condoms, taught how to use condoms and answered hours of questions concerning AIDS, drugs and life.... At night I would just fall into bed to wake up the next morning and share some of my breakfast with a small boy who visited me every morning to catch a few spoons of my spaghetti and eggs.
Members of the Esu parliament
The Fon kept his promise to take care of me. He hired the juju dancers to amuse us, he took time to sow me the entire village and surroundings, he had me tilt his farm, and most amusing to me, gave me his four wheel truck to dive to town - you have to imagine that in such a village there are no cars to speak off and no roads either.... However, the highest honor was bestowed on Polycap and myself when we were invited to step into the parliament of the Esu village and participate in an ritual of drinking shared palm vine. I was told no White had entered parliament in Esu, and I venture to guess, no woman either.

Now the work begins starting by installing a revolving drug fund until Esu has the Hospital it needs and deserves. I guess AIDSfreeAFRICA  has adopted Esu - or is it the other way around?  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Know your status - AIDS testing in Esu

The faces reflect the seriousness of the situation. I always heard stories that African's don't want to be tested for HIV. Not in Esu. People were fighting to be able to participate and to get their hands on one of the few precious tests. The company has already promised 1000 more free tests. Upon hearing the news, the fon or ruler of Esu responded: "bring 3000 tests".

 Twenty people sat down in plastic chairs. Without tables they balanced the different parts on their knees. The test is new, uses saliva and no needles to prick to get blood.
Everyone receive AIDS counseling from AIDSfreeAFRICA collaborator Polycarp Nji, a Esu man who works as a nurse in far away town of Limbe. Three people tested positive and now know that fact and can start living accordingly. Fifteen people reacted seriously relieved, and hopefully start living their life using precautions.
Immunoscience, the maker of the test is working with AIDSfreeAFRICA to distribute the test in Cameroon.

In a separate meeting with 25 HIV positive people, AIDSfreeAFRICA was able to encourage these rather hopeless people to form an association to give them a voice and some support.
I was rather speechless when they told me that the district hospital in Wum had no antiretroviral drugs for the past two month. They asked what they should do? We know that people who stop taking drugs catch opportunistic infections and the death rate goes up. I promised to go to the provincial hospital in Bamenda and ask were the drugs are, and if this will not help to talk to the Minister of Public health in Yaounde.

The answer was almost as shocking as the fact itself: in Bamenda I was told that CINAME, the central government run distribution agency - the only institution in Cameroon allowed to handle import and distribution of AIDS drugs, was performing inventory in the month of December and that during that time they will not send out any drugs as not to confuse the counting. That of course means that the North West Special Fund that is responsible for Esu needs to order more drugs in October to have sufficient stock for the rest of the year. I will inquire next trip how we can make sure Esu has the drugs in stock.

In the mean time Christian, the newly hired "chief of post" or head administrator of the Esu government health clinic joined AIDSfreeAFRICA's meeting with HIV positive people. He offered to go to the district hospital in Wum once a month to pick up the drugs for every HIV positive member of the newly formed "Esu Family Health Association". This is a 2 hour trip that cost $4 one way. In Africa, the AIDS drugs are free but people can not afford the transport. This will be a big incentive for HIV people to come forward and join.