SECURE THE FUTURE: A Decade of Hope
SECURE THE FUTURE: 10 years on the ground, changing the landscape in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. Please click this video link to see it first-hand.
This year, we observe the 10th anniversary of SECURE THE FUTURE
Ten years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation first committed $100 million to address the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa. At the time, the company’s investment – which grew to $150 million – was the largest private pledge to the cause. Here are the numbers:
- Established in 1999
- More than $150 million committed
- Presence in 19 African countries
- Funding for more than 240 projects integrating clinic-based medical care with community-based health education and supportive care
- Created six pediatric centers of excellence and about 20 satellite clinics to treat thousands of HIV-positive children and their families, in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine
HIV-positive child being treated at the Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Center of Excellence in Maseru, Lesotho.
This year, we observe the 10th anniversary of SECURE THE FUTURE
®.These are the numbers, and they’re impressive. But the numbers only tell part of the story. The other part is told in human terms.
For instance: Leisha’s recovery. In March 2005, Leisha (not her real name) was a five-year-old girl in dusty Mogoditshane, Botswana, with fulminating AIDS, tuberculosis and infected sores all over her body. She was at death’s door … but the doors that opened for Leisha were those of the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence, funded by SECURE THE FUTURE. With appropriate treatment and follow-up, Leisha now runs and plays like other children.
What about Steven’s dreams? This rambunctious 10-year-old – and his six-year-old sister – is an AIDS orphan. Steven (not his real name), too, is HIV-positive. He and his sister suddenly found themselves homeless in the AIDS-stricken Caprivi Strip of Namibia. Thanks to the Mapilelo Project and Kids Care, a program funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb employees and SECURE THE FUTURE, Steven and thousands of other AIDS orphans have shelter, are being cared for and are receiving medical treatment. Steven is also attending school. Now, Steven looks forward to the day when he will complete his education and can support his younger sister.
And another human story involves Deborah’s hopes. In Swaziland, Deborah (not her real name) was abandoned by her husband, pregnant with her first child and HIV-positive. She entered drug treatment as part of a SECURE THE FUTURE program to prevent mother-to-child transmission. When her baby was born – HIV-free – she proudly showed off her beautiful, healthy child to the doctors and nurses at the Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Pediatric Center of Excellence. She had tears in her eyes.
The success of SECURE THE FUTURE over the past 10 years has been due in large part to the people on the ground with their ideas and their passion. This is their story, too.
One of those people on the ground is Phangisile Mtshali, director of SECURE THE FUTURE in Johannesburg, South Africa. When she thinks back over the last 10 years, there are many achievements that come to mind: empowering community organizations to provide health care, supporting medical researchers who have achieved medical innovations, the construction of children’s centers of excellence, all in quest of slowing the AIDS epidemic.
A GAPA granny at a child center in Cape Town, South Africa.
One of Mtshali’s most memorable organizations is Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS, or GAPA. This is a group grandmothers in Cape Town whose children were dead or dying of AIDS and who suddenly found themselves forced to care for their grandchildren. GAPA grannies organized to support each other, generate income through selling handicrafts and help each other support their families.
“The grandparents are the last line of defense,” says Mtshali. “Yet no one knew about them or was talking to them.” SECURE THE FUTURE, working with the University of Cape Town School of Gerontology, organized the grannies into support groups, helping them to expand their crafts programs and open a store and an after school center.
Now, GAPA is exporting its knowledge and expertise. “We had a granny presenting as part of our satellite symposium at the South African AIDS Conference last year and she was the star of the show,” says Mtshali.
Phangisile Mtshali was there at the very start of SECURE THE FUTURE, when Bristol-Myers Squibb launched the program in 1999. She began the program with some doubt about its ability to make a difference on this continent. But she knew, as a South African, that she had to do her part in the fight against AIDS.
The success of the program has proved the value of that dedication.
Pushing the envelope
A little love goes a long way at the Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Center of Excellence in Maseru, Lesotho.
Beryl Mohr joined Bristol-Myers Squibb’s SECURE THE FUTURE
staff in 2001. She remembers meeting Debbie Glencross, M.D., at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Hematology at the South African Institute for medical Research at Johannesburg Hospital. Glencross took Mohr through her lab and showed her the new method of testing patients CD4 counts, funded by SECURE THE FUTURE
, which improved dramatically on the standard method of monitoring the progress of HIV/AIDS. Glencross’s method made it possible to deliver the test in many of the rural areas of southern Africa.
Mohr was impressed. “In South Africa, female researchers were few and far between. So supporting her landmark research that would change the face of HIV was certainly a very positive stride for SECURE THE FUTURE. I think the one distinctive thing that we did for local researchers was to allow them to decide what was required within a southern African setting. Instead of dictating a research agenda, we let researchers push the envelope to identify research gaps.”
Understanding the local context has given the program significant advantages, says Mariam Kassambara-Sow, M.D., director of SECURE THE FUTURE in West Africa. Kassambara-Sow lists among her key successes Rail-Link, a cross-boarder program focusing on the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections operating on the Dakar-Bamako and Abidjan-Ouagadougou railroad network that succeeded in the face, in at least one country, of civil war. Also, a community-based HIV/AIDS treatment program supported by SECURE THE FUTURE in Mali’s Koulikoro region has been replicated across the country by the government. Important for Kassambara-Sow is the knowledge that SECURE THE FUTURE in West Africa made its mark despite a smaller budget.
“Some people told me when they first heard that the BMS Foundation had committed $100 million for southern Africa and $15 million for West Africa that they thought we wouldn’t be able to do anything significant with that. At the end of the day, they recognized we did have an impact. SECURE THE FUTURE has contributed significantly to human capacity building, resources and training, and has had a positive impact on national public health policies, opening the door to neglected groups vulnerable to HIV,” says Kassambara-Sow.
“Bristol-Myers Squibb SECURE THE FUTURE employees have lived and are living with the HIV/AIDS epidemic every day of their lives," says John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “As a result, they have a perspective that has been critical to establishing the kinds of sustainable programs we have in the communities where SECURE THE FUTURE exists. Their unique perspective has kept the program relevant, culturally sensitive and on strategy – helping to ensure that we met our goals.”
“We are lucky,” Mtshali says. “We get to see the mission of this company, to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases, up close. We meet people who say, ‘Oh, before your program came, people were planning my funeral. Now look at me.’ I couldn’t have spent the last ten years of my life any better. I couldn’t have been more fulfilled as a professional, as a South African or as a black woman.”
SECURE THE FUTURE. It’s a story that’s told, after all, in human terms.