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Botswana-Baylor pediatric HIV/AIDS program celebrates 10th anniversary

Zero versus 6,000: Those numbers represent the number of children in Botswana who received lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment before and after the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital opened its first clinic 10 years ago in the region of Africa hardest hit by the disease.

This week, at the 10-year anniversary celebration of the opening of the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence, dignitaries from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the Botswana Ministry of Health reflected on the significant role this program has played in catalyzing expanded access to lifesaving treatment for African children suffering from HIV/AIDS.

"We began working in Botswana 15 years ago when many medical and public health experts were saying that the situation with HIV/AIDS in Africa was hopeless," said Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, chair of pediatrics at BCM, and founder of BIPAI. "We were able to establish a family-centered model of HIV/AIDS care delivery that now has been replicated across the African continent, saving the lives of tens of thousands of children. Today, BIPAI has more than 168,000 HIV-infected children and family members in care and treatment, more than any other organization worldwide."

Special ceremonies

Attending the special ceremonies were Dr. Paul Klotman, president and CEO of BCM; Michael Mizwa, CEO of BIPAI; Nancy R. Calles, Senior Vice President of BIPAI; Lamberto Andreotti, CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb; John Damonti, President of Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, and Hon Rev Dr.John Seakgosing, Minister of Health of Botswana.

"We are so proud of the successes of the BIPAI program and the incredible physicians, staff, past and present, who have developed this model of improving access to life-saving care for children and families around the world," said Klotman.

In June 2003, BIPAI, coming off the success of its pilot program in Romania, set its sights on the region of sub-Saharan Africa with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS - 39 percent.

Support from Bristol-Myers Squibb

With support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the BIPAI team was able to renovate two old store rooms to set up an HIV/AIDS clinic at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana.

The team quickly had 200 children in treatment and that number has continued to grow. With the construction of the COE, the first comprehensive pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment center on the African continent, and establishment of decentralized outreach programs, the BIPAI program now provides HIV/AIDS treatment to approximately 6,300 of Botswana’s children. Today, the COE in Botswana is one of the world’s largest pediatric HIV/AIDS centers.

BIPAI also celebrated the official opening of the Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Phatsimong ("place to shine") Adolescent Centre in Botswana in order to meet the needs of its growing adolescent population.

Working together to save lives

"The new Adolescent Center is a success story on many levels and we are proud to be a part of it," said Andreotti. "Working with our partners at Baylor College of Medicine and the people of Botswana, we have demonstrated the importance of everyone - government, people living with HIV and their families, community organizations and health care companies - working together to improve the lives of children whose lives are affected by HIV/AIDS. The Adolescent Center is an important step in ensuring that young people in Botswana can pursue productive careers, start families, contribute to their communities and realize their dreams."

The center is the new home of the BIPAI Teen Club. The club was established shortly after the Botswana clinic opened in 2003 to help teenagers in treatment for HIV/AIDS manage their chronic illness and transition into adulthood.

When originally established, the Teen Club had five members and today includes more than 1,000 members. The club has been duplicated at other BIPAI sites, including in Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania, with a total membership of more than 4,000.