Among the many participants at the Toronto AIDS Conference is an organization called “A Global Public Healthcare Foundation.” It’s based in a suburb of Washington, DC, and for three years, it has worked with more than 50 community-based groups in Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria and Togo.
Kilian Songwe is the president and founder of the foundation. VOA English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked him what led to its creation.
“I ran into lots of people from sub-Saharan countries in desperate need for people to hear their stories, find out what they were doing, and network. All these people fly out to meet somebody who’s going to help increase their capacity. The conferences do not address that. I decided to create the link between the desperate need on the African continent and the excesses of the West.” He expresses the hope that over time, and based on its theme “Time to Deliver,” the Toronto conference will be able to address such issues.
Songwe’s foundation has been working in countries where he says geographical location and other factors facilitate mobility and put people at higher risk. He says the big challenge for the region remains stigma, discrimination and denial. He recently had to pay a patient to admit his case openly in a Nigerian university!
Working with a tight budget, a Global Healthcare Public Foundation has created community partnerships, for instance placing AIDS orphans in permanent homes. The foundation conducted a campaign that tested almost 5,000 people, some of whom are now in treatment centers. “Our medication program donated medication to local clinics in the amount of almost 200 thousand US dollars. They have been where no one has spoken about AIDS, so they used different means to bring them out to listen: traditional dances in Togo, soccer in Benin; and while abstinence is encouraged, they promote condom use where unemployment is high.”
Songwe says because of donor fatigue, fundraising is the biggest challenge for NGOs. But their goal is keeping more people productive, because death has a ripple devastating effect on families. “Once we can take testing to these people for free, we are going to come up with true numbers, then, with programs on how to reach them, put them on medication.”
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