Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa Breaks Ground On State-of-the-Art Infectious Diseases Institute for HIV/AIDS Care, Training, Research and Prevention

KAMPALA, Uganda -- Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in late February at Makerere University for the construction of the new Infectious Diseases Institute. Professor N. Sewankambo, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Makerere University and co-director of the Academic Alliance, announced plans to build a state-of-the-art Institute for HIV/AIDS care, training, research and prevention in East Africa. Speakers at the event included The Hon. Professor Gilbert Bukenya, Minister for the Presidency, His Excellency, The Ambassador, Mr. Jimmy Kolker, and Professor J. Ssebuwufu, University Vice-Chancellor.

The Infectious Diseases Institute is the vision of the Academic Alliance, formed in 2001 by a group of 14 prominent infectious diseases physicians from Makerere University and North American academic institutions under the leadership of co-directors Professor Sewankambo and Dr. Merle A. Sande, professor of medicine, School of Medicine, University of Utah.

The Infectious Diseases Institute will deliver comprehensive outpatient healthcare services to those suffering from infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS. Training programs for health care providers from many African countries and prevention/outreach activities, operational research, and state-of-the art laboratory services will be operated through the institute.

Professor Ssebuwufu, vice chancellor of Makerere University, announced: "We are pleased to be a part of the establishment of the Infectious Diseases Institute. Makerere has been a center for important scientific research in AIDS vaccines, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases for decades, and intends to continue this tradition in finding progressive ways to treat diseases, and to train students. The Institute will be a welcomed addition to the university."

The construction of this facility is made possible through donations from Pfizer Inc., the Pfizer Foundation and many corporate donors, in partnership with Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, United States government and the government of Uganda.

"Investments like this are critical to the strengthening of health care services which is an essential part of the care and prevention of HIV/AIDS, and mitigation of the long-term economic impact of the disease," said U.S. ambassador, Jimmy Kolker. "It takes the initiative and partnership of people from academia, private industry, non-government organizations and governments to make important projects such as this happen."

"This new facility will serve as a powerful symbol of how public institutions and private businesses can work together to create the health care infrastructure necessary to fully address the HIV/AIDS pandemic," Pfizer chairman and CEO Hank McKinnell wrote in a letter to participants in the groundbreaking ceremony. "Through the Infectious Diseases Institute, hundreds of healthcare professionals will be trained each year who will return to districts across Uganda and countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa to train others who will care for millions of people living with HIV/AIDS."

The Institute will be constructed on land donated by Makerere University adjacent to Mulago Hospital and the School of Medicine. Parsons Brinckerhoff Constructors Ltd will provide the construction management, and has engaged a Ugandan-based design and construction team. Upon completion in 2004, the Institute will come under the ownership of Makerere University.

Comprehensive, HIV/AIDS training sessions will be offered for healthcare providers from African countries. The facility will accommodate up to 100 students at any one time. Training for physicians in HIV/AIDS care and prevention has already begun with 60 graduates to date. In November 2002, the Academic Alliance accepted the first candidate for the 3-year Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program.

The laboratory will provide microbiology, virology and immunology laboratory support for patient care and research projects. The laboratory space has been dedicated to the performance of operational research which can have direct clinical applications such as antiretroviral resistance testing, clade/subtype identification, development of new, rapid and inexpensive diagnostic tests, and molecular amplification assays for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, training for clinicians and laboratory technologists will be offered under the guidance of experienced staff.

The institute will be a center for HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention activities. This is a proactive step in ensuring that anti-retrovirals and other HIV treatments do not supercede HIV prevention, but rather become part of an overall prevention strategy. HIV prevention remains central to the control of the AIDS pandemic.

A wide range of research studies will be launched through the institute in the areas of HIV/AIDS clinic care, HIV prevention, and laboratory science. Finding answers to important questions concerning HIV/AIDS in Africa is the foundation on which new clinical and prevention services must be based.