Abbott Fund, Baylor College of Medicine and Government of Malawi to Build New Clinic for HIV-Infected Children

LILONGWE, Malawi -- The Abbott Fund, Baylor College of Medicine and the government of Malawi have announced they will partner in the establishment of Malawis first center dedicated to providing care and treatment for children with HIV/AIDS.  Construction of the new clinic on the Kamuzu Central Hospital campus in Lilongwe is to begin in April and should be completed by December 2005.  The Malawi clinic is the latest addition to the rapidly growing Baylor pediatric network, which forms the largest group of clinics devoted to treating children with HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

Due to the overwhelming impact of the AIDS pandemic, the complexity of treating HIV-infected children, and a lack of resources and specialized training, there has been little focus on pediatric HIV treatment in developing countries like Malawi.  The new pediatric center, which will be staffed collaboratively by Baylor and local health professionals, is designed to help address this unmet need through a comprehensive approach to pediatric treatment and care.

The clinic is being funded by a three-year, $1.5 million grant for construction and ongoing operations from the Abbott Funds Step Forward program, which to date has provided more than $12 million in grants and donated product to Baylor initiatives aimed at advancing programs, knowledge and health professional training to address pediatric HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

The Malawi center will be modeled after the Romanian-American Childrens Center, the first stand-alone pediatric AIDS clinic in the developing world.  Through an innovative approach to treatment at this pediatric center supported by the Abbott Fund, children are provided with state-of-the-art medical treatment, including antiretroviral therapy.  A comprehensive program of support also is provided for children and their families, including psychosocial counseling, support groups, and awareness and prevention education.  This model program has reduced pediatric AIDS mortality by more than 90 percent in four years in Constanta, Romania, the epicenter of pediatric HIV in Eastern Europe.

Abbott Fund and Baylor have pioneered a model in Romania that is now being successfully replicated throughout the developing world and will be instrumental to scaling up treatment and care for children with HIV, said Mark W. Kline, MD, director, Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, Baylor College of Medicine.  With the commitment of the Government of Malawi, were hoping to achieve similar results, and transform the delivery of care for children with HIV in Malawi.

According to UNAIDS, Malawi has an HIV prevalence rate of more than 14 percent, and its estimated that almost 1 million people in Malawi are living with HIV/AIDS.  One in four HIV-infected children die before the age of 5 -- one of the highest death rates in the world.  With more than 65 percent of the population living in poverty, the country has very limited resources to fight the disease.

Malawi currently does not have the capabilities to manage the growing number of HIV-infected children in our existing pediatric clinic in Lilongwe, said Peter N. Kazembe, MD, future director of the new clinic in Malawi.  We look forward to a successful working relationship with Baylor and the Abbott Fund to help us more fully address the needs of this vulnerable population.

In addition to the centers in Malawi and Romania supported by the Abbott Fund, Baylor operates centers in Botswana and Uganda with other donors.  New clinics in Lesotho and Swaziland will be opened by December 2005.  Baylor also is working with health professionals in Libya to enhance the care and treatment of HIV-infected children in Benghazi.

Pediatric HIV treatment in the developing world is a relatively new field, and Baylors approach has proven to be successful, said Jeff Richardson, executive director of the Abbott Funds Step Forward program.  Abbott continues to support the Baylor programs to help make an enduring impact in advancing the care of children with HIV/AIDS.

Source: Abbott