Monday, December 27, 2010

Advancements in Technology Lead to Early HIV Detection in Kenya’s Infants

By guest blogger, Jack Lundee -

With over five million people infected with HIV in South Africa, it’s close to a fourth of the total number of Africans living with the virus today. Worldwide, there are approximately forty million individuals infected with HIV, half of which can be located in sub-Saharan Africa. And in 2009, nearly one point three million Africans died from the virus known as AIDS. With the passing of World Aids Day (Dec 01), it’s important that we remember the severity of the virus and some of the great advancements we’ve made in medical treatment and technologies.

Advanced, yet inexpensive vaccines and micro-bicides are amongst the top developments in medicine as preventative measures. Similarly, low costing, antiretroviral drugs have given infected populations the ability to live longer, healthier and happier lives. As important as these medicines, technologies and treatments are however, it’s even more important that we understand who’s doing what. The AFCA (American Foundation for Children with Aids) is a non-profit group that lends a hand to infected children in sub-Saharan Africa who ultimately have no other means of medical treatment. They are amongst a handful of organizations that provides critical AIDS and HIV related medications, nutritional supplements, medical equipment, and emergency supplies that are at high demand in their areas of focus. Globally, 9 out of every ten children affected with the HIV virus live in sub Saharan Africa – 90 percent of these children have contracted the virus directly through pregnancy.

Early detection is very crucial to the survival of this 90 percent. Behind such early detection technologies are the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI 2005) and The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI 2002). As the brainchild of close personal aid Doug Band, the CGI has done exceptional work in the areas of global health, technology, education and more. Similarly, Clinton’s Health Access Initiative is committed to strengthening health systems in developing nations like Africa. In fact, part of their mission is to “…expand access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.” This includes investing monies into technological studies surrounding medicine and treatment programs.

In the technology sector, Doug Band, former President Clinton and The CGI, alongside CHAI, continues to receive funding for HIV related projects in third world countries like South Africa. Lately, they’ve joined up with Hewlett Packard (HP) to deliver technologies that will take, manage and return early diagnosis for infants in Kenya. In other words, this new technology will identify the virus in an infant within one to two days, which is a significant upgrade from traditional detection, derived from paper based systems.

However, the AFCA is amongst a very miniscule handful of organizations that actually provides anti-retroviral medicines to children ages pre-birth to 19 years old, as some organizations consider childhood to be over at 15, but adult providers of anti-retroviral medicine don’t give to children under 19 years old. At present, AFCA provides aid to this particular group and their HIV+ guardians in the following areas:
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe
The AFCA does not forget that although a majority of the people in South Africa affected by HIV/AIDS is of reproductive age, children and seniors are amongst the most vulnerable to death. Equally understood are the statistics; “…at least 14 million children under the age of 15 have experienced the death of one or both parents due to AIDS.” The only practical solution to keep elders alive is through anti-retroviral therapy, thereby giving living parents to the children affected by this horrible virus.

Without immediate care, infants infected typically don’t make it past age two. In their first year, HP will be able to help over 70,000 infants in Kenya. These technologies will also permit real-time medical data, which will be viewable to health professionals across Kenya.

Still, Africa remains one of the biggest challenges for associations and non-profits like the AFCA, CHAI and the CGI. Recent improvements in technology, along with improve anti-retroviral medications have helped lessen casualty rates and lengthened lives. And although a cure remains missing, the AFCA, HP, CHAI and the CGI have provided a great technological progress towards abolishing the virus for good.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Africa Update #3

I was unable to get on the Internet yesterday, so a few days worth of updates.

Spent Wednesday morning working in the clinic. Sorted pills, did filling and watched a class being taught on how to correctly take your medication. Students were very attentive and the teacher was great. It was in Swahili, so I did not understand much but could tell by the way the class was responding that it was well done.

Bought an instant camera to bring with me and it has proven to be a good investment. Everyone wants pictures of themselves and they proudly pose for the camera. Explaining that it takes a while for the photo to show has been a challenge but we are somehow able to understand each other. Wish I had brought twice as much film, but will leave the camera at the center and try to send film for them to continue the picture taking.

Many of the clients also volunteer in the center. Very inspiring to see them work so hard helping in any way they can. They are grateful for the free medication and the kindness of the staff. Several of the men helped to repaint the center since I have been there. I tried to help, put painting is not my strong suit and it was pretty clear I was the weak link in the bunch.

Spent the afternoon at another AIDS Clinic in a smaller village. We had “kids club” where they did art therapy and talked about being responsible for taking their medication and taking care of themselves. Many of the participants will start Secondary School later in the year which is very rare. Apparently it costs money and most families cannot afford it. Exploring how I can help sponsor some of the children to go to school. Not much money to us; likely the cost of our weekly coffee. Gave them their own soccer balls (thank you Nike) to keep at the center and they were very happy.

Thursday was a day spent in the field going on client home visits. The poverty was worse than I could have ever imagined. We had to walk much to most of the homes because they were in remote areas. The clinic goes out to the homes to make sure the clients are taking their medicine properly and that they are doing well. Incredible work from the staff and the community volunteers. Truly amazing.

So many heart breaking stories from today. Many families where all the members are HIV positive. The children generally do well on the drugs, but the poverty is debilitating. Again, just going to school is a big effort financially. We brought food stables for them and some small gifts like crayons and pencils. Met Martin and his family. Martin is doing well but cannot afford to go to school much longer. I am working on paying (it is $100 per year) for his school. He wants to be a lawyer and is very bright and a wonderful boy. After we left, he walked two hours there and back to the clinic to get his medication.

During the walk to the last home we visited, I created quite a stir. Many of the children rarely, if ever, see a white person. Children started running around the village telling each other that a white person was there and pretty soon I had about 20 children following me saying “how are you”. It was really great and I took their pictures and they wanted to touch my hand. Heart warming and impressed that even in dire poverty, these children seemed happy.

Tomorrow is my last day and will do some more field visits in the morning and Senior Teen's Club in the afternoon before I leave. I will leave with mixed emotions. Very ready to come home and have a hot shower, sleep in my own bed and feel safe, but what I have seen and experienced will remain with me on many levels. Knowing all I have makes me feel a little guilty that by the luck of the draw I was born in the United States where for most people, things are much easier. I know I cannot let myself dwell on this because feeling guilty does not do any good. I will channel that energy in figuring out how I can continue to help and would like to focus on making sure some of the children I met can get their school fees paid. I am very glad I was able to have this experience and hope my pictures and stories will raise awareness for my friends and family.

And Now we Say Kwaheri

The question really is whether this is the beginning or the end. We started by beautifying a physical facade, which led to the further beautification of individuals, families and communties...and ended in our own beautification... me personally... as I feel I am leaving this wonderful corner of Kenya a much better person.

Our home visitations continued again this morning. We started with the home of Stephen, shared by his sister and their total of 4 children. Stephen was part of the crew the helped paint the medical centre earlier in the week.

At each of the next two stops, chairs, tables, empty water containers.. whatever could be had...was brought in for us to sit on. This is a true sign of respect and hospitality - what is means to have a visitor in your home.

We then attended the Teen's session in the afternoon at the centre. A remarkable group of children that participate in a facilitated session to discuss their circumstances, stigmas, medical treatments etc. They are a confident bunch, so it made for some very animated discussion.

Then it was off to an open patch to kick around a few new Nike soccer balls.

The memory of this trip will remain with me for a very long time. We must first start by acknowledging our good fortune, and then ask what we can offer to those that are less fortuneate... not needy... just a little less fortunate than us. As I have come to learn, what we do is not charity... these people have pride, confidence and the will to change... they just need compassion and an enabling environment.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Right from the Core... Wishing we Could do More

Today was a day of shedding.... shedding our preconceptions, perceptions and insecurities. 
We visited the homes of four of our clinic patients today, as part of the Home Visitation Program. And you'll see that the word "home" is used in the most generous sense...these we little more than mud, corrugated metal, dirt and string.

At its most basic level, this was about showing another family that we cared.... extending hand for hand, looking eye to eye and open heart for a needy heart.

There was Lucas - father of two - with ill child and wife, who prayed for us as we entered his home and as we left. Mariam gave us the perspective of the care-giving grandmother, with stories about how the ARV medication saved her grand-daughter's life.

All this we learned and experienced while treking through dirt, sewage, goats, chickens and filth. But each time we landed on a doormat, we were greeted with warmth, "karibu sana" (warm welcome), genuine thanks... showing us that common dignity prevails.

And this dignitiy of humanity persists regardless of circumstance.

I am a better person today. 


Day 2 - from Beth

Today I spent my second day in the AIDS Clinic. The staff is unbelievably good. The clients who come to the clinic are treated with compassion, dignity and respect. The grace of the nurses and the other clinic workers is something to behold.

The clinic had TB (tuberculosis) day today. Many, many patients came to get tested. There are several patients, including children, who have both AIDS and tuberculosis. I found out that you cannot get a very inexpensive drug, Streptomycin, in Kenya. This drug is crucial in treating TB and is readily available in most countries. A doctor from the US tells me that the Kenya Government is so unorganized that they did not order the drug even though it is free to get. I feel helpless to do anything, but will write to politicians all the same. Makes you appreciate our system in the US in spite of it's flaws.

Many shipments come in to the clinic from USAID. The boxes say “From the American People” and include water bottles, mosquito nets, condoms, and other essentials. Other boxes, including medicine has been arriving from the Clinton Foundation. Makes you proud that the US is trying to do something, but the poverty and disease are so vast, I am sure it does not put a dent into the problem. A valiant attempt, however and pleased that the US is trying to make an impact.

I had my first breakdown in the clinic today. Two girls were in the clinic yesterday and we had a bit of a connection (pencils seem to be a universal ice breaker with children). They were back today and I was trying to figure out who their mother was. One of the nurses told me the mother has to go to work so the older sister, age 12 or so, takes responsibility for the younger sister's heath treatment. She forgoes school so she can make sure her sister gets the care she needs. I asked why they were waiting around so long today ( 5 or 6 hours with no food) and the little girl who already has AIDS was being tested for TB as well. I tried to hold it together, but could not. The nurses told me that you quickly have to get over the individual situations to make it through the day. This is one of many situations I have heard about that are unfathomable to most people I will ever encounter.

I will spend the day tomorrow at a satellite clinic and then to the “kids club” where they have support groups for children with HIV/AIDS. They do art therapy and other activities as well as giving the children a warm meal. I will be giving out some soccer balls as well. They are a well received gift for the children. I have a few videos but I am not sure the Internet connection is strong enough to send so it may have to wait until I return to the States. One child told me I was a “very good visitor” which gave me tremendous joy. It is hard to feel any contribution one makes will have any impact on such a dire situation, but nonetheless I will not stop trying.

Thanks again for your support.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sitting Under a Shady Tree.... Using the Psychology of Art

Armed with a few supplies from the local Nakumatt (Kenya's Wal-Mart), a group of us made our way to the Mbugoni district of Mombasa today to conduct a Teen Couseling Session at the local clinic. These sessions are held monthly for adolescents who are enrolled with the clinic, as a way of supporting and reinforcing the importance of their treatment.  With children who might not have parents to help remind them to take their medicine or to drill into them the importance of taking their medications daily, the counselors at the clinic supported by AFCA take on this role, as we.  They are amazing women and men who work with the kids in various ways, with this remote teen counseling sessions being one of them.

So it was under a shady tree that a group of 10 youth, ages 13-17 years, introduced themselves to us and listed off the medications they were taking. For me this was the moment of reality - these chlidren are infected with HIV/AIDS, coping with their circumstances and here to attend a support session where two new foreigners are sitting and watching.. I'm sure it was daunting.

Lucy and Sister Regina took the children threw a drawing session to bring forward some of the emotions and feelings that were being kept deep inside. I must say that each child had considerable talent... very expressive in their piece and what they drew about. They were asked to explain the significance of what they drew.

And then a couple of new Nike soccer balls were brought out and we played with the children for a while. There was enough time for me to show a couple of the young boys the famous Ronoldo step--over move. They seemed pretty amazed that "mzee" (old man) still has some fuel in the tank.

A very gratifying day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We Paint... and We Paint... and We Paint Some More

They say that beauty comes from within. This clinic in Mikindani has done some of its most beautiful work withiin its four walls.... treating those with little to no options related to HIV/AIDS, TB and a host of other infections. But this institution now needs a makeover of its own, so we embarked on a painting project this morning that would give back to this building some of the same shine that we find on the inside.

"Pole" (slow) is a word you come to appreciate and use quite a bit in Kenya.... but "pole sana" (very slow) is gernally the more apropos term. Took a while to get the troops all set up and ready to work this morning, but we quickly came together and put our minds to the one task of giving this old lady (our medicial centre) her day at the spa.

Some children and mothers waiting in queue for treatment or counseling were also introduced to our friendship bracelets. They say a smile is worth a thousand words... what they don't say is that it's worth 10 million shillings to these children in Kenya :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

From Painting Walls to Soccer Balls

After being in Mombasa for a few days, you become accustomed to the sites and smells that are so uniqure to this part of Africa. It was my first time in the Mikindani part of town this morning. We were ready for a full day of work at the Volunteer Counseling and Testing Medical center.

We worked shoulder-to-shoulder with a local crew prepping the medical center's exterior facade for painting. Everyone chipped in equally, using "msasa" (sandpaper) and "fhagia" (broom), not to mention a variety to other tools, to get the exterior ready for painting. Unfortunately, painting must be a booming business in Mombasa, as our painter did not show up... but we will get to the fun part of the job tomorrow.

But this allowed us time to visit a couple of adjoining schools and surprise the young primary children with brand new Nike soccer balls. To see the action and excitement is something that cannot be put into words. A typical ho-hum recess was turned into complete euphoria.

We hope to do more of the same in the coming days.

Beth and Al in Mombasa, Kenya

Beth (Nike) and Al (Board of Directors, AFCA) arrived in Mombasa, Kenya on Saturday. They are working at the Mikindani slum -painting the clinic AFCA supports. They are also spending some time with the children in the program, playing and getting acquainted.

Here's some photos sent by Beth today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is Nike Up to?

Good question! Some Nike employees are busy raising funds and getting into shape so they can climb Kilimanjaro in September. While this might not seem like such a big deal, it really is. These 12 folks are climbing to save the lives of children affected and infected by AIDS.

Check out this little video to learn what Nike is up to - it is amazing what this team is doing. I find it inspirational and hope that many others folks, from all walks of life will decide to do something for others. If you want to volunteer with AFCA or if you want to organize a hike or climb to raise funds for kids in our programs, please get in touch with us. We'll get you going!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Helen Does it Again!

Helen Clark, volunteer extraordinaire, has done it again! Read below to see what this young lady has been up to this summer:

"Helen won both of her events at the 4H Competition: Project Achievement - International - there are 40 project areas, of which International is one, with over 2000 4-Hers competing in one. Helen won 1st!

She also was one of two winners in the state Leadership In Action event. Students submit portfolios about there community service projects - many spring from their Project Achievement work, just like Helen's. She was one of the two state winners and earns a trip to next year's National Conference in Washington, DC - she went this year as one of four state delegates chosen in a stiff application and interview competition! She is so, so excited to be able to go back again.

But the BIGGEST news is she was awarded one of two $1500 grants to continue her leadership project work!!!!! Mosquito nets for kids in Uganda!! This is really coming together!!!! Thanks to Jason Mills, this grant, and all the kids who'll participate, the mostquito nets will be made for the happy about that!

We are exhausted. Tonight is the big banquet with 100s of donors coming. Helen will have at least three groups of donors with which to interact and thank. I hope she can get a nap today as she's getting a little cranky. Pray that she will get a chance to rest and be at her best. She will have great opportunities to talk about AFCA and the mosquito net project in addition to the medical supplies collection work.

Thanks SO much for your work with Helen and me. It's been amazing."

Helen, thanks for caring and thanks for helping our kids. You are an inspiration.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't forget the other people

This year has started with a slew of natural disasters, affecting thousands of people. Because of all this suffering, it is hard to decide whom to help. Whatever you do, whomever you help, please be sure not to forget other programs which still count on your support, though!

And, be sure to vet the organizations you help...make sure you know where your donations are going and what they are accomplishing. There is nothing worse than giving because you care just to find out that a LARGE percentage never made it to the people you intended to help. and other watchdog organizations are good sources to help you figure out these questions.

Thanks for caring!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Anti-retrovirals could halt Aids spread in five years

BBC News reports that anti-retroviral treatments (ARVs) and universal testing could stop the spread of Aids in South Africa within five years, according to Dr. Brian Williams, a leading figure in the field of HIV research based at the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (Sacema) in Stellenbosch.

"We've been using drugs to save lives, but not stop the infection," Williams told BBC. "It's time to look beyond that." He says that if clinical trials started now, all of the HIV positive people in South Africa could be on ARV treatment within five years.

Click here to read the article on BBC.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Program for AFCA recently launched the 2010 Ideas for Change in America competition, and I just submitted an idea that I'd love your support on. The title of the idea is "Launch an Educational and Exercise Program to Teach Children About Africa, AIDS and What They Can Do To Help "

To vote for my idea, all you have to do is click here and you can vote in less than 20 seconds.

The top 10 voted ideas will be presented at an event in Washington, DC to relevant members of the Obama Administration, and then promoted to's full community of more than 1 million people. So we could have a real impact.

Thanks for the help!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our Kids Still Need Us, and We Still Need You

All of our hearts are breaking for Haiti, and rightfully so. But please don't forget our own children who equally need all the help they can get, just to survive, every single day. Please keep your hearts open and continue to help children with AIDS to receive life-saving medicine and emergency supplies.

American Foundation for Children with AIDS has been blessed by the generous donations, large and small, by so many of you over the years. We, especially the kids, are so grateful and hope that you will continue to give what you can to help us keep these children alive and healthy. Without you, we couldn't do what we do.

You can make a donation online to give toward getting medical supplies where they're most needed. Or, if you have other items you wish to donate, you can bring them to us. We always need:
  • wheelchairs - pediatric and adult
  • blankets and sheets
  • toys for the kids are always appreciated
A full list of medical supplies and other things we need is available on our website.

On behalf of the kids, THANK YOU!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Calling All Climbers for Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up 2010 Events!

This year's Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up event planning is under way. If you're a climber, we would love for to join us once again in our efforts to raise funds to help us save kids lives while doing something you love -- climbing! Save the dates, and spread the word!

CLIMB UP THE 50 - Summer 2010
Climb, hike or run up the highest point in your state.

CLIMB UP KILIMANJARO - September 11-22, 2010
Join a team of climbers as they travel to Tanzania where they will climb up Mount Kilimanjaro while getting to see a bit of the African continent.

CLIMB UP THE WORLD - September 18-19, 2010
Run, climb, hike or cycle wherever you happen to be—no geographical boundaries can stop you from helping children while doing something good for yourself.

CLIMB UP IN CHARLOTTE - November 6, 2010
Run, climb, hike or cycle in and around Charlotte, NC.

We also have a women's climb in 2011!

CLIMB UP KILIMANJARO - Women's Team - February 5-15, 2011

Join a team of women climbers as they travel to Tanzania where they will climb up Mount Kilimanjaro while getting to see a bit of the African continent.

More information, including registration, is up at the Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up website!

We've also posted some Climb Up stories from last year's participants who called it an opportunity of a lifetime and an experience that they will never forget. While fulfilling a dream to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, they helped save the lives of children. What could be better than that?

These climbing/hiking events benefit the American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA). AFCA is a non for profit organization which provides life-saving medicine, nutritional support, humanitarian relief, and medical supplies/equipment to HIV+ children, their HIV+ guardians and HIV+ pregnant women. We work in Sub-Saharan Africa – Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Won't you join us in helping save kids' lives?