HIV/AIDS research program
Activity in the African Pod significantly expanded recently when the Foundation took on an innovative HIV/AIDS research program in Mali late last year.
The program, which is being guided by Dr. Jaquelyn McCandless and Jack Zimmerman, both with long associations with TOF, has both medical and social/cultural facets. The medical portion is a controlled (non-placebo) evaluation of 'Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN),' a medication that has shown great promise in treating autoimmune illnesses such as MS, fibromyalgia, Crohn's Disease and more recently, autism. Naltrexone is an FDA approved generic opiate antagonist and at less than one-tenth the usual dosage modulates/strengthens the human immune system in a way that significantly reduces the symptoms of these illnesses. Clinical experience has shown that LDN can prevent HIV- positive adults from developing full-blown AIDS for up to 18 years to date in the first group of users. However, the Mali Project will be the first controlled study to assess its effectiveness. LDN is inexpensive, non-toxic, and simple to use with no known side effects--and it can be made into a transdermal cream for treating children. Since the HAART medications are costly, have side effects requiring extensive medical monitoring, and are too toxic for most children to use, the implications of LDN's usefulness in dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic are enormous. This program is being supported by the Government of Mali.
The second facet of the Mali Program arises from the need to stem the tide of HIV infection by facing the inequality of empowerment between men and women in traditional African Cultures. It is widely accepted by international health experts and local authorities alike that gender inequality and men's traditional cultural entitlement are primary factors in creating and maintaining the AIDS catastrophe in many developing countries, with 65% of new cases now occurring in girls and women. In Africa the majority of women who are HIV-positive have been infected by their husbands. Traditional gender mores dictate that women cannot refuse sex and cannot insist on condoms. U.N. officials and others have stated that this epidemic will not abate until women become empowered to protect their own health and the health of their children.
To implement this part of the project the 250 participants in the medical study will be given an opportunity to participate in monthly two-hour education and communication councils (either men's, women's or mixed groups), one private hour-long interview and the evaluation of a comprehensive questionnaire with a counselor. Ten counselors from Bamako University and Bamako AIDS Center will be trained in the council process by experienced TOF trainers, Amber McIntyre and Jesse Jessup, currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. If this LDN/Gender Education program is shown to be effective, it can become a prototype for initiatives to help reduce HIV/AIDS incidence in other developing countries that face similar challenges.
For more information please visit the LDN Africa AIDS web site