Award Recognizes Clinical, Research and Educational Efforts of Organization Led by Weill Cornell Faculty Member Dr. Jean Pape
Award Also Honors GHESKIO's Humanitarian Work in Aftermath of January's Earthquake in Haiti
NEW YORK (May 18, 2010) — GHESKIO, an institution in Haiti founded nearly three decades ago to fight a mysterious killer disease later identified as AIDS, has been awarded the prestigious 2010 Gates Award for Global Health for its years of groundbreaking clinical service, research and training to effectively treat and prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS and other related illnesses.
GHESKIO — it stands for Groupe Haïtien d'Étude du Sarcome de Kaposi et des Infections Opportunistes — becomes the 10th winner of the annual Gates Award. Judges not only lauded the group for its impact from a long record of work but also for its life-saving and swift response to treat the sick and injured in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Despite sustaining substantial damage to its own facilities in Port-au-Prince, GHESKIO managed to open its doors to several thousand suddenly homeless people, and later opened a field hospital.
The group is led by Dr. Jean William Pape, professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. A Haitian native who has been one of the leading clinicians since the early days of the epidemic, Dr. Pape has been able to achieve AIDS patient survival rates and treatment adherence with patients that rival those of the most advanced hospitals and clinics in the United States and Europe. In addition, its research has informed the treatment and care of AIDS patients worldwide.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the award at a World Health Assembly symposium today. The Global Health Council has managed the award since its inception 10 years ago.
"No organization deserves this recognition more than GHESKIO. It has been a pioneer in developing comprehensive HIV/AIDS research, training and services in Haiti," says Sebelius. "And in the immediate aftermath of the January earthquake, GHESKIO responded by opening its doors, mobilizing its staff, and working side-by-side with U.S. medical and surgical teams to provide relief to the people of Port-au-Prince."
In thanking the committee and institutions for selecting GHESKIO, Dr. Pape cited the long-term commitment of people in the organization.
"For almost 30 years GHESKIO has tirelessly served those most in need in Haiti and translated its metric-based outcomes into effective policy for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and associated diseases such as tuberculosis into models for the developing world," says Dr. Pape.
He adds, "I could not be more proud of our Haitian staff who have worked diligently before, during and after the earthquake to meet the multiple needs of the population. They are the ones who, with our partners, have earned this recognition, which honors our country, Haiti."
"It has been 30 years since we began work in Haiti," says Dr. Warren Johnson Jr., director of the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell, a co-founder of GHESKIO and Dr. Pape's adviser and mentor since Dr. Pape was a student in medical school at Weill Cornell. "It started with a rehydration unit for infants, progressed to treatment of AIDS and TB, and continues with the earthquake and its devastation. The challenges never diminish, but continue to be met by the indomitable spirit of GHESKIO and its partners. The award is a hard-earned honor."
"GHESKIO won this award because of the amazing impact that Dr. Bill Pape and his colleagues have had in saving lives and strengthening the health system in Haiti," says Global Health Council President and CEO Jeffrey L. Sturchio. "They have built GHESKIO into a rare institution — one based in a developing country that has become a leader in the global research community. That dual character — world-class research capabilities tied to deep roots in the local community — is what sets GHESKIO apart and makes them the natural recipient of this recognition."
GHESKIO will receive $1 million as part of the award, which was established by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to recognize organizations that have made outstanding contributions to improving health, especially in resource-poor settings. The winner was chosen by a jury of international health leaders from 179 nominations received from around the world.
GHESKIO: From Earthquake Relief to HIV/AIDS Care
Just 24 hours after the earthquake, GHESKIO's downtown Port-au-Prince staff began establishing a first-response trauma center, which has since evolved into a major source of care for the injured. Roughly 7,000 Port-au-Prince residents, homeless because of the earthquake, moved onto GHESKIO's campus. Within a week of the earthquake, GHESKIO was able to ensure that 95 percent of those under care of HIV and tuberculosis were returned to their life-saving medications and care despite the destruction.
Prior to the earthquake, the GHESKIO network was providing palliative care to more than 50,000 HIV-infected patients and antiretroviral therapy to more than 13,500 — roughly 55 percent of all patients on AIDS treatment in Haiti. In 2009, GHESKIO tested more than 500,000 patients for HIV, providing prevention counseling and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases for those who are negative, and treatment for those who are positive.
GHESKIO was created in 1982 after Haitian physicians from different specialties began observing a rise in mortality rates from previously treatable diseases such as diarrhea and Kaposi's sarcoma. In 1983, GHESKIO published the first description of HIV/AIDS in the developing world in the New England Journal of Medicine. Since its inception, GHESKIO has worked in close partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the Haitian Ministry of Health, the Haitian Medical Association and more than 100 public and private institutions in Haiti.
In 2000, the Haitian government designated GHESKIO a "public utility," a status usually reserved for institutions "essential to the welfare of the Haitian people," such as the Red Cross. In 2003, the Haitian government asked GHESKIO to expand its integrated prevention and care model to 26 public and private hospitals throughout the country. They provide training, supervision and administrative support at all of these sites, which include Haiti's four largest public hospitals.
The organization has been a major implementer of programs funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. It also has been a critical scientific partner in the HHS's AIDS Clinical Trials Group and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
Weill Cornell Medical College
Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Cornell University is the first in the U.S. to offer a M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston, making Weill Cornell one of only two medical colleges in the country affiliated with two U.S.News & World Report Honor Roll hospitals. For more information, visit www.med.cornell.edu.
Global Health Council
The Global Health Council is the world's largest membership alliance of public health organizations and professionals dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the world. The Council's members work in 140 countries on six continents. For more information, visit www.globalhealth.org.