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School of Medicine Awarded Nearly $1 Million for African AIDS Program

Physicians from Penn’s School of Medicine have been awarded a one-year, $933,551 grant from the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to support clinical and educational activities in Botswana, Africa. The money will be used to support Penn faculty, residents and students as they treat, study and research the AIDS epidemic that has gripped the country where the prevalence of HIV is among the highest in the world. About 38% of Botswana’s adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with the deadly disease.

“This is a very important international program,” said Dr. Harvey Friedman, director of the Penn-Botswana Program and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Penn. “Botswana is considered the test tube case in Africa regarding AIDS. If we can’t do something to turn around the epidemic in Botswana it would really be discouraging. This is one of the frontiers in HIV care, and I am proud that Penn is leading the way.”

Penn’s role in Botswana began in July 2001 when the Government of Botswana, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Merck Foundation, initiated a program to make antiretroviral therapies available to citizens with HIV/AIDS. Penn actively participated by providing Infectious Diseases faculty to instruct and train local providers on the management of HIV-infected patients and on the proper use of the antiretroviral drugs.

In January 2004, the Penn-Botswana expanded when Penn physicians assumed leadership roles by becoming responsible for one of six inpatient medical wards at Princess Marina Hospital (PMH) in Gaborone, which is the largest public hospital in the nation. Nearly two years later on November 1, 2005, at the request of the Botswana Government, the Penn-Botswana Program assumed responsibility for a second inpatient medical ward at PMH and expanded to Francistown, which is the second largest city in the country. During the current academic year, more than 40 Penn residents and medical students, under the supervision of Penn faculty, will participate in clinical programs at both hospitals.

Despite the expansion and the continued support of Penn faculty, residents and students, the relationship between Penn and Botswana is mutually rewarding. “While we are helping with the AIDS epidemic, they are helping us by providing Penn students with a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” explains Dr. Friedman. “I am not surprised that, upon returning from Botswana, some students change their career goals.”

The relationship between Penn and Botswana may not stop at the School of Medicine. Representatives from the School of Nursing have investigated the feasibility of starting programs in Botswana. Others Penn entities interested in Botswana include the Wharton School, the School of Social Policy and Practice, and the Annenberg School for Communication.



  Almanac, Vol. 53, No. 1, July 11, 2006


July 11, 2006
Volume 53 Number 1


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