Climber Profile: Gene Flood

The following post was written by Eugene Flood, an advisor to IGHID and a member of the 15-person African Long Climb team. On July 10, the AFLC team finished their eight-day climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for IGHID. 

Eugene Flood (right) poses with his son, Earl, as the pair prepares to embark on the eight-day journey up Mount Kilimanjaro.

I had heard of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease (IGHID) for years through my friends Drs. Ada Adimora and Paul Godley, but I only became intimately aware of it when I was at a birthday party at their house about three years ago.  I was cornered by the energetic and inspiring Institute’s Director, Dr. Mike Cohen.  For those of you who have never met Mike – you need to.   He leads a team of doctors, scientists and caregivers who have tackled some of the world’s thorniest and important medical scourges of our time – HIV AIDS, cancer, burns and clean water.  He speaks at an almost unintelligible rate, and always communicates with total conviction, passion, and engaging humor.  My first lecture under Professor Cohen must have lasted about 30 minutes while partygoers circled around us with food and merriment.  I was totally engaged with my lesson —  I only wish I had had a notebook.  I learned so much. And the learning never stops when you’re around this team.

The issues that the Institute has attacked, such as HIV AIDS, obviously have global importance.  Yet some have taken an especially large toll on the earth’s poorest people.  I have been blessed to have had an exciting career in the global financial markets.  But until now I had never experienced the thrill of hearing the unspeakable gratefulness from a family who still has an HIV-positive loved one alive after ten years because of the care given by the Institute’s doctors.  Nor had I felt the joy of hearing a young boy from a village in Africa tell how he can focus and learn all day in school now because he has clean water and there is nothing moving in his stomach.  Nor had is witnessed the awe of seeing doctors and nurses literally snatch the life of a burn victim out of the jaws of death and lead them back into a functioning existence.

I am so proud to be part of the IGHID team.  As Chairman of the Advisory Board, I tell people everywhere I go about the marvelous work that the team is undertaking.  And I am recruiting new and old friends to come be a part of this journey with me.  The Kilimanjaro climb is the first of many adventures of all sorts that I expect to have as we spread the Institute’s story and gather supporters and funds to continue this glorious work of touching lives and improving the world.

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A look into the climb: Photos from the African Long Climb

On July 12, the African Long Climb team finished their eight-day hike up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for IGHID. The 15-member climb team endured treacherous trails and heavy packs as they climbed Africa’s tallest mountain.  The photos below give a glimps into the team’s journey up the mountain.

The team summited the mountain on July 8, after six grueling days of climbing. So far the AFLC team has raised over $60,000 for IGHID. To visit the AFLC fundraising page click here.

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Photo of the Day: Greetings from Kilimanjaro!

Today, the African Long Climb team is scheduled to summit Mount Kilimanjaro! The 15-person team has been climbing for six days to raise money for IGHID projects across the globe. The team is made up of individuals from across the United States and United Kingdom, and so far they have raised over $60,000 for the Institute.

Click to check out their Facebook and fundraising pages.

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The Climb Begins: IGHID’s Kilimanjaro climbers embark

African Long Climb team members Riley Henderson (left), Jared Winoker, Eugene Flood, Jackson Krase, Natalie Rosen and Katie Beiter take a break from climb preparations for a group photo.

Climber Natalie Rosen practices packing her gear up with a climb instructor before the strenuous, eight-day hike. Her father, Brian Rosen discusses climb logistics in the background.

This morning, the fifteen-member African Long Climb (AFLC) team began its ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a large-scale fundraiser for IGHID. The team arrived in Tanzania on June, 29 and are scheduled to summit the mountain on July 8.

The team will be in contact with IGHID throughout the climb, and the institute will continue to post images and updates throughout the eight-day adventure. To visit the AFLC fundraising page click here.

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Climbing Kilimanjaro: IGHID’s 19,341-foot fundraiser

In just three days, the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases (IGHID) will begin a new kind of project in Africa. On June 29, 15 individuals with no official ties to UNC will board a plane and embark on a 12-day journey to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And they’re doing it to support IGHID.

The climb team, which consists of six parent child pairs and three of their friends and colleagues from across the United States and United Kingdom, has set a  $250,000 fundraising goal for the project, with the bulk of their funds going to IGHID.

Andy Ballou, a member of the climb team who lives in Chappaqua, New York, explained that the Institute was chosen because of its 20-year commitment to global health.

“We conceived of the climb in the spring of 2012, but the team in its current form didn’t come together until the fall of 2013,” Ballou said. “At that point, the team’s recognized organizer, Scott Krase, suggested that we add a charitable element to the climb.”

Climbers Mikey Ballou, 17,  (left) and Jared Winoker, 18, (right) wear weighted packs and prepare for the eight-day excursion with a four mile training hike.

Climbers Jared Winoker (left), 18, and Mikey Ballou, 17, wear weighted packs and prepare for the eight-day excursion with a four-mile training hike.

“As a team, we considered several charitable organizations, voted and arrived at IGHID primarily based on its 20 year history and commitment to women’s health, clean water, HIV treatment and burn care in Africa.”

Eugene Flood, the only climber with a connection to UNC and an advisor to the Institute, said IGHID’s long history of public service made it an easy choice.

“We all went to different schools, and want to support our schools, but what has captured our attention is the Institute’s commitment to public service,” Flood said. “We’re joining them to be a public service for the world.”

The money raised by the climb will help benefit IGHID projects like the burn unit in Lilongwe, Malawi that treats over 900 burn victims every year, and the IGHID Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia that has screened more than 140,000 women for cervical cancer.

“I hope this trip encourages the UNC and IGHID community and faculty and alums to see these non UNC and non IGHID people picking up an oar and rowing with the Institute’s mission,” Flood said.

Throughout the climb, the team will be in contact with the IGHID, and the institute will post photos from the mountain, climber profiles and other continued details about the project. The team has established a Facebook page and fundraising site to receive donations, and to keep people updated during the 12-day excursion.

Ballou said the idea for the climb originated during a conversation with Scott Krase, who will be climbing with his son Jackson.

“Scott called me from London, where he and his family were living, and said, ‘I have some friends who’ve climbed Kili recently. Sounds amazing. What do you think?’”

“I basically told him that I was in. And from the way I remember it, there was a palpable silence on the other end, and Scott said, ‘Ugh, I was afraid you would say that.’”

Over the last several months, the team has undergone extensive physical training to prepare for the eight-day climb.

“In addition to hiking and cross training, many of us are training with Hypoxico altitude training systems,” Ballou said. “Basically, some of us are wearing altitude masks while training on stationary bikes and treadmills, or just sitting quietly. Others are sleeping in hypoxico tents.”

“Both devices create reduced oxygen environments, typical of high altitudes.”

Ballou said his son Mikey Ballou, as well as Jackson Krase and Jared Winoker, who are all rising seniors in high school, have been training as well, and can’t wait for the climb.

Flood, whose son is also climbing with him, said he hopes the project acts as an inspiration for the global public health community.

“I am excited and I fully expect that this activity will be an inspiration not only for the Institute, but with the other great teams across the country who are working on these projects,” Flood said. “I hope it inspires people and encourages people to continue working in global health.”

“It’s a great jumping off point for conversation, and it’s a lively way to spread the story of the Institute.”

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Born in Poverty, One Woman Becomes an Agent of Change: Jaussa’s Story

This post was sent in by Janet Fields, a midwife from Raleigh, N.C., who has been working in Malawi at the Fistula Care Center and Malawi Maternal and Neonatal Health Program

Jaussa is training to be a community midwife in Malawi.

Jaussa is training to be a community midwife in Malawi.

In 1981 a beautiful baby girl was born to two impoverished parents in a remote village in Malawi.  The girl’s birth was a source of rejoicing for the whole village, because she was born alive and healthy, despite the lack of a skilled birth attendant at her birth. She was named Jaussa.

Her mother had lost eight previous children, who were either stillborn or died within the first weeks of life.  Three years after Jaussa was born, a sister was born who she also lived.  Later her mother delivered a baby boy, but he died after one week.

This horrific obstetric history left Jaussa’s mother in a deep depression. Her father had been a small businessman, but a terrible accident left him paralyzed on his right side, and he had trouble communicating.  As a result, there was no family income.  Kind relatives gave what money they could to help this small family, but it was hard.  Pretty soon Jaussa’s father began beating her mother, and so her mother left him and returned to her home village with her two daughters.

It seemed that Jaussa was destined to a life of poverty.  But after a few years of primary school, her uncle and aunt stepped in and began paying her school fees.  By the time she was ready for secondary school, her uncle invited Jaussa to move to the city where he and his wife were living, and there she lived throughout most of her secondary education.  Jaussa turned out to be a very bright student who loved going to school and learning. Her favorite subject was agriculture.  Her uncle made it possible for Jaussa to have a chance at a life beyond poverty.

Jaussa had had no specific education or understanding about reproductive health, and at the age of 17 she got pregnant.  Her uncle, who was furious, sent her back to her mother’s village, where she gave birth to a son. There were still no skilled birth attendants in her community;  a family member attended Jaussa at this birth.

When she was 23, Jaussa got married and soon gave birth to a beautiful girl, soon her husband abandoned her for another woman, and she was left to care for her two children and her depressed mother.  Saddened by her inability to find work in the village, Jaussa’s uncle once again invited her and her two children back to his city so that she could complete her education.

With her secondary education completed, Jaussa returned to her mother’s village and tried to find work.  As a volunteer for the Area Development Committee, Jaussa realized that what she wanted in life was to make a difference in her small community.

Jaussa received an invitation to apply for a new midwife education program, an 18-month intensive program that prepares women from the most rural areas for the honorable work of being midwives and health educators in their villages.

Jaussa was accepted into the program and began her education in 2012.  To her great surprise, her class of 25 students elected her as their class president, and she began the role of advocating for her class as the liaison between the administration and the student body.  Her favorite subject in midwifery school was community midwifery.

Jaussa is now preparing for her national midwifery exams.  After qualification, she will be posted, for the first six months, at a district hospital so that she can gain more hands-on experience before being deployed back to her rural community.

She has deep concern for the young girls in her community.  Many of them marry very young, between the ages of 12 and 14.  Few girls are educated beyond the age of 9 or 10. “Girls are for marriage,” the tradition says.  Jaussa would like to be an advocate for change in her community.  Her eyes shine when she describes her dream of being an example to the girls in her community, an example of how one can rise above the poverty and extreme challenges to have a life filled with purpose and meaning. She describes how she will not only be the trained midwife for her community, but also a strong advocate for change in the lives of the girls and young women she will serve.


Increasing the number of trained midwives in Malawi is a critical component of the President’s Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood Initiative, which UNC is helping to implement with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Water. Food. Climate. Energy. What’s the Solution?

How do you solve the world’s greatest water, food, climate, and energy challenges? The integrative, or nexus, approach recognizes that these issues are interconnected and require collaboration from multiple sectors to address, and ultimately solve, them.

Created by journalism students at UNC after the Nexus 2014 Conference, this video illustrates the benefits of the nexus approach and calls for policymakers to keep it in mind while creating the next set of global development goals.  And in celebration of World Environment (June 5), this video highlights the impact of positive environmental action on protecting our planet.

Want to know more? Contact nexus@unc.edu.

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Photo of the Day (Lake Geneva Edition): What Would It Mean to Cure AIDS?

cure-hiv-group-brocher-swissLast month, researchers from UNC and elsewhere gathered at the the Brocher Foundation Institute in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the social science and ethics of finding a cure for AIDS.  The Brocher Foundation is a non-profit that supports scientists and experts in the ethical, legal and social implications of the development of medical research and biotechnologies.

The team are part of the SEARCH Working Group (Social and Ethical Aspects of Research on Curing HIV). The meeting has been Storified here.

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There’s no shame in being PrEPared: Embracing pre-exposure prophylaxis

This post was written by Christopher B. Hurt, MD, clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases at UNC, and was originally published on the blog of the North Carolina AIDS Training and Education Center, which is based at the UNC IGHID.

 

Adam (left), Photo from from his Twitter: http://bit.ly/1p7dsBf

Adam (left), Photo from from his Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/1p7dsBf

Imagine if there was a pill that you could take every day to protect you from having a life-changing medical diagnosis. Imagine if it was readily accessible, convenient, well tolerated, and highly effective when taken properly. Imagine how something like that might give you a little extra peace of mind in your day-to-day life. Sounds pretty good, right?

Consider for a moment if that pill in question was a baby aspirin or a statin, to help prevent a heart attack in someone at increased risk. These are somehow innocuous; there is no moral judgment attached to taking these medications. In fact, I think the vast majority of us would applaud an at-risk friend or family member for taking charge of his or her health and doing something proactive to avert a bad outcome.

Yet, the situation seems to be very different for Truvada, the first and only FDA-approved pill for the prevention of HIV infection. Uptake among men who have sex with men (MSM) has been disappointingly slow, and media outlets like Slate and The New York Times have reported on the stigmatization of men who opt to take it; the term “Truvada whore” has been circulating online since the end of 2012, the year of the pill’s approval for this indication. The dialogue reached an entirely new level when Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said of Truvada inan April 2014 interview with the Associated Press: “Let’s be honest: it’s a party drug.” With that one remarkably out-of-touch statement, lots of people who had never heard of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) began asking questions and talking about it – a nice example of the law of unintended consequences.

Perusing the online comments sections of articles on PrEP reveals how divided opinions really are about this strategy in the gay community. The sentiments expressed run the gamut from “PrEP is for people who are too irresponsible to use a condom” to “we’re in an emergency and need all the help we can get.” The most provocative thing I’ve read recently was published on Gawker in March 2014; it’s worth the long read, when you have the chance.

Part of the author’s argument was that the “slut shaming” making its way into the dialogue about PrEP reflects a bigger conflict in the gay community – a community that is gradually gaining acceptance in society by conforming, rather than questioning and challenging sexual norms. The implication is that we should keep the “sex” part of being gay in the closet in order to gain acceptance in society – and that PrEP, as something intimately tied to sex (gay or otherwise), isn’t an appropriate subject for open discussion.

Read the rest of this post on the NCATEC website.

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On International Women’s Day: Girls and the Power of Education

 

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” – Malala Yousafzai

Nail polish is a very popular way to help retain young women in Pettifor’s research study. Photo: Lisa Albert

Nail polish is a very popular way to help retain young women in Pettifor’s research study. Photo: Lisa Albert

Globally it is estimated that 250 million girls live in poverty and that 65 million girls are missing from primary and secondary school. Three-quarters of all new HIV infections occur among young women; in parts of South Africa, as many as 4 in 10 young women are infected with HIV. Numbers like this are hard to comprehend, but on International Women’s Day we are asked to take time to reflect on the lives of girls.

Let’s start with what we know. We know that girls who stay in school will delay the age of first sexual intercourse. They will have fewer children, and the children they do have will be healthier. Girls who stay in school are also less likely to become infected with HIV and have greater economic opportunities that benefit them and their families over the long term. An extra year of secondary school boosts a girl’s future wages by 15-25 percent, and girls who complete high school are 40 percent less likely to be HIV infected.

And yet many girls are not in school, and the numbers grow as they get older. Secondary school completion rates are less than 5 percent in much of in sub-Saharan Africa. Barriers to schooling for girls include the direct costs of school fees, uniforms, books, and supplies, but there are also indirect costs. Girls are more likely than boys to be kept at home to help with household chores such as collecting water and firewood, and  care for smaller siblings or sick family members. The AIDS epidemic has made this all the more apparent.

There are a number of global efforts to keep girls in school and improve their futures, among them The Girl Effect, Girl Rising,  and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative. The case of Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year-old Afghan who was shot by the Taliban for her campaign to keep girls in school, brought worldwide attention to the issue and highlights the dedication and bravery of individuals in the fight to educate and lift up girls around the world.

My own work is concerned with the relationship between education and HIV risk. There is strong evidence that cash transfers to poor families can help keep girls in school, and there is emerging evidence that cash transfers can reduce HIV risk in young women. In rural Agincourt, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, I have been collaborating with colleagues at the MRC/Wits Rural Pubic Health and Health Transitions Unit to conduct a randomized controlled trial to determine if providing monthly payments conditioned on girls attending school will keep them in school and reduce their risk of HIV. This research is funded through the NIH HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN).

Girls heading home after choir practice at the Hlomani Secondary School. Photo: K. Schatz, University of the Witwatersrand

Girls heading home after choir practice at the Hlomani Secondary School. Photo: K. Schatz, University of the Witwatersrand

We hypothesize that providing cash to both families and the girls themselves will eliminate the financial barriers to schooling and also provide an economic incentive for girls to stay in school. The study started in 2011 and has enrolled over 2500 high school girls and their families,  whom we visit annually to ask questions about things such as schooling, sexual behavior and expenditures. We also test girls for HIV and HSV-2. Results of the study will be available in 2015.

I have a seven-year old daughter who is in second grade. There is no doubt in her mind that she will finish high school and go to college and that her future will be just as bright—she might even say brighter—as her younger brother’s. I know that seven year-old girls in rural South Africa also dream of a bright future. That future should not be in doubt.

As public health practitioners and researchers, we must produce the evidence base for effective programs that reduce structural barriers, such as poverty and lack of education, to enable girls to achieve healthy, bright futures.

– Audrey


Audrey Pettifor, PhD, is associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public HealthPettifor has conducted HIV prevention research in South Africa for more than 10 years; her research focuses on HIV prevention among young people, particularly young women, in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pettifor is also a faculty affiliate of the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.

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