Saturday, August 25, 2018

AIDSfreeAFRICA: Equipping Laboratories in Cameroon

AIDSfreeAFRICA: Equipping laboratories in Cameroon

Over the years AIDSfreeAFRICA has had the opportunity to consult with seven pharmaceutical startup companies in Cameroon, West Africa. During that time, it became apparent that these companies followed a certain pattern that ultimately ends in shut down. There are a host of reasons why these heroic efforts end so disappointingly, but one fact holds true for all: it is tremendously difficult to sustain pharmaceutical production in a resource-poor setting. The lack of the necessary supporting infrastructure that is taken for granted in developed countries stacks the odds against these efforts. AIDSfreeAFRICA thus decided to focus on hands-on-laboratory training which, is one aspect needed but lacking in Cameroon. Currently, AIDSfreeAFRICA is equipping two laboratories, one in the capital Yaounde and one in Bamenda, the largest city in the English-speaking Northwest region. In Yaounde, the laboratory is run by an employee and is focused on medical diagnostics. Specifically, a fluorescent microscope found nowhere else in the country is used to diagnose malaria. AIDSfreeAFRICA is also working to acquire a thermocycler for polymerase chain reaction, a test used to measure HIV viral loads.

The Bamenda Laboratory is dedicated to becoming the premiere quality control laboratory focusing on pharmaceutical drug and water quality. Cameroon has little opportunity to analyze the drugs that come into the country and even less for those that are already on the market. Doctors have a hard time deciding if a treatment is not working because it is not the correct cure for a patient or if the drug has lost its efficacy due to loss of the active ingredient due to improper storage and exposure to heat and humidity. The 32-square meter laboratory that belongs to one of the government research institutions is currently renovated to reach a level of standard necessary.
AIDSfreeAFRICA is looking for scientists, professors, science teachers who have access to basic chemistry analytical equipment and who would like to come to Cameroon, conduct a one or two week long hands-on training. At the end of the training, the equipment will be put in the care of AIDSfreeAFRICA for further use in the lab. In particular, AIDSfreeAFRICA is interested in the following:

·       pH meters with ion-specific electrodes
·       Acid-base titration
·       Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) supplies (sheets, developing chamber).
·       High-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC)
·       Gas chromatography (GC)
·       Combustion analysis machine for determining elemental composition
·       Karl Fischer titration equipment
·       Kjeldahl nitrogen analysis equipment
·       Other small analytical chemistry equipment and experiments

If you are interested send your CV and a proposal of what you would like to teach to Dr. Rolande Hodel at The earliest opportunity lies between May 30 and July 30, 2019.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

AIDSfreeAFRICA Malaria Free Zone Program: A Behind the Scenes Look

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite. It is transmitted from one person to another by the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected person, it picks up a small amount of blood, which contains the parasite. The parasite, mixed with the mosquito’s saliva, is injected into the next person the mosquito bites, and this person becomes sick as well. Malaria symptoms include fever, chills, body pain, vertigo, loss of appetite and sleepiness. When left untreated, malaria can result in kidney failure, seizures, and even death because the parasite destroys red blood cells. Malaria is a serious problem in Cameroon, especially for children below the age of five.

In 2015, AIDSfreeAFRICA spearheaded a malaria-free zone (MFZ) program in Yaounde, Cameroon (for more information visit The goal of the program is to reduce the malaria infection rate while educating the residents on how malaria can be transmitted and/or prevented. As a part of the MFZ program, bed nets are permanently affixed to windows to make the entire structure a malaria-free environment.

In this post, Hilbert Kamo, a Cameroon native employed by AIDSfreeAFRICA, helped to answer important questions regarding the malaria free zone program.

Are most people willing to get the nets put on their windows?
“At the start, it was not easy, but now the number of people willing to get mosquito nets fixed is increasing.”

What materials are needed for installing netting to a window?
To install netting on a window, the following items are needed: nails, hammer, a net, gloves, detergent/soap, a bucket and sometimes wood. Many items are donated or purchased by AIDSfreeAFRICA, but old bed nets are often collected from trash sites.

Collection and washing of old mosquito nets

How do you decide which homes to put the netting?
Individuals who bring their bed nets to AIDSfreeAFRICA become a priority for having netting installed on their homes. Sometimes people offer to help to install the netting, moving them to the top of the list.

Homeowners may also come forward and request to have nettings put on their homes. If they offer to pay a small amount of money for the service we make an appointment immediately. Some people understand that participating in the program will save them money on hospital bills since they avoid getting malaria. We also work with local community institution such as schools, health centers and places of worship.

How long does it take to install the netting on the windows for one home?

It takes anywhere from four to ten hours to install netting on the windows of a home. The time varies depending on the number of windows that need to be netted and whether or not volunteers, who often live there, help with the installation. Fortunately, two locals recently applied to volunteer with the malaria-free zone program.

Windows with affixed mosquito netting

To contact us directly, please visit the AIDSfreeAFRICA website ( and send us a message letting us know how you would like to partner with our organization to help Cameroon!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cameroon’s Need for Basic Laboratory Services: A Call for Action

AIDSfreeAFRICA’s mission is to implement and advance pharmaceutical drug production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although AIDSfreeAFRICA has been working in Cameroon since 2005, the organization has only recently decided to tackle the problems that arise because of the general lack of basic laboratory services in the African nation.

AIDSfreeAFRICA is often approached and asked to take samples of pharmaceutical drugs to the USA and test them for their composition and/or quality. The import of pharmaceuticals in Cameroon is largely unregulated. Much of the imported drugs are brought into the country from Nigeria by salespeople who buy and sell drugs with little regard for the origin of the drugs. Additionally, the salespeople are not educated on how to transport or store drugs properly. We suspect that the main problem with drug quality in Cameroon is degradation due to heat and humidity rather than the counterfeit drugs. However, without the ability to quality control drugs on a large scale, it is hard to say.

Another problem is created by falling drinking water levels, which causes people to drill more wells. However, once water is found the question is: is this water suitable for consumption? 

The ability to analyze drugs, water, animal feed, and soil samples is just one area that needs attention. When you add to this the need to enhance laboratory education in high schools and universities it becomes apparent why AIDSfreeAFRICA is asking Chemist Without Borders readers to respond to this article and help with our efforts. We are looking for chemistry/biology equipment, especially for quality control work and science laboratory education. Please consult our website to see a list of equipment needed.

We are fortunate that the Cameroonian government is welcoming our efforts. We are currently negotiating a contract to receive one laboratory room in a government research facility in Bamenda/Mankon. We are looking forward to finalizing the discussions, signing the contract, moving in and getting started.

To contact us directly, please visit the AIDSfreeAFRICA website ( and send us a message letting us know how you would like to partner with our organization to help Cameroon!