The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a $69.8 million grant to Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation–Malawi (Baylor–Malawi), an affiliate of the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital, to support and expand HIV/AIDS programs in Southern Africa.
The grant, through the USAID Regional HIV-AIDS Program, will fund a dynamic and innovative project called Technical Support to PEPFAR Programs in the Southern Africa Region, or TSP. Designed by the Baylor-Malawi team, TSP is a collaborative program that includes ICAP at Columbia University and Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundations in Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and Angola to support programs of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
“While Southern Africa remains the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, recent progress toward global elimination goals provides an impetus for coordinated, regional efforts,” said Dr. Saeed Ahmed, assistant professor of pediatrics with BIPAI who will lead TSP. “The program will address challenges related to HIV care and treatment, including pediatric and adolescent care, HIV prevention from mother to child and the unique gender aspects of the epidemic, providing a common regional platform for dissemination and rapid adoption of best practices.”
In support of the primary goal to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, TSP objectives are to:
- Improve clinical and other technical outcomes of partner programs in the region by providing mission programs with technical support and short- and medium-term program assistance and capacity building toward sustainability;
- Improve and rapidly expand pediatric and adolescent treatment services in the region by providing technical assistance in the short and medium term and long-term program support;
- Implement PEPFAR programs directly, in close cooperation with USAID.
The TSP will provide a wealth of technical expertise, Ahmed said, including human resource capacity, physical infrastructure, existing networking and program implementation experience, bringing together formally the unique and complementary strengths of the Baylor network and ICAP at Columbia University. The Baylor foundations are the leading providers of pediatric and adolescent HIV care and treatment in their respective countries with Centers of Excellence anchoring broad networks of satellite clinics. ICAP, the second-largest PEPFAR implementing program, offers incredible geographic scope and technical, programmatic and monitoring and evaluation expertise. Combined, the Baylor network and ICAP have managed more than $1 billion in funding over the past 5 years, and are implementing more than 50 U.S. government supported initiatives.
To provide assistance to regional HIV/AIDS programs, Baylor-Malawi and its partners have organized a ‘Dream Team’ of experts who will provide the technical advising backbone of the program. Through its implementing partners, the Dream Team will have access to an extensive network of more than 1,500 people, including doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, community health workers and volunteers, and pharmacists to provide HIV/AIDS program assistance and implementation.
“The high-quality assistance and program implementation provided by this project will strengthen the efforts in the region to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 benchmarks, which call for 90 percent of HIV-infected individuals to know their status; 90 percent of patients who know their status to be started on and adherent on anti-retroviral therapy; and 90 percent of patients on ART to be viral suppressed by 2020,” said Dr. Mark Kline, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Women and children are a special focus on the TSP program. It aims to achieve elimination of mother-to-child transmission, doubling of the number of children on anti-retroviral therapy and, through the DREAMS Initiative, assisting partners in developing interventions to address gender-based violence and reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women. DREAMS, or Determined, Resilient, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe Women, is a PEPFAR program to reduce HIV infections among girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This award is a true testament to the BIPAI Network’s ability and capacity as a global leader in pediatric HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Baylor–Malawi continues to excel in innovative program development,” said Michael Mizwa, chair, Baylor–Malawi Board of Directors, chief operating office/senior vice president of BIPAI and director of global health at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“With the resources from this award, I am pleased that Baylor–Malawi will lead a consortium that leverages the extensive expertise that is in the BIPAI network with its partners ICAP and regional ministries of health to accelerate the region’s advances to the 90-90-90 targets,” said Dr. Peter Kazembe, executive director of Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation–Malawi.