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Posted February 9, 2003

UM given $2.5 million for pediatric AIDS work
By Elinor J. Brecher

Against a backdrop of unprecedented attention to the Third World AIDS epidemic, University of Miami doctors treating patients in Haiti -- the hemisphere's most HIV-ridden country -- have gotten a $2.5 million boost from a South Florida foundation, university officials announced Friday.

Part of the money will go to training local healthcare workers in HIV and tuberculosis treatment and prevention in Haiti, where 30,000 people died of AIDS in 2001, twice the number of deaths in the United States. An estimated 250,000 of Haiti's eight million people carry the AIDS virus.

The Green Family Foundation grant to the Department of Pediatrics also will send medical teams specializing in infectious diseases to the rural town of Thomonde, where an Operation Medishare clinic operates around the clock, seven days a week.

The grant establishes the Green Family Foundation Initiative in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology and International Health, which also supports education, outreach, treatment and research in pediatric infectious diseases in Florida.

The foundation was established by Steven Green -- former U.S. ambassador to Singapore and former CEO of Samsonite Corporation -- and his wife, Dorothea, in 1991.

Miami-Dade County ranks second and Broward County fifth nationally in HIV infection rates among major U.S. metropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UM's pediatrics department operates the nation's largest single-site pediatric AIDS program, treating more than 300 HIV-positive children and screening 200 infants born to HIV-infected women annually.

Florida ranks second nationwide in pediatric AIDS cases, half of them in South Florida, Dr. Gwendolyn Scott, who heads the medical school's Division of Infectious Disease and Immunology, said during a news conference featuring an all-star cast of university medical personnel, UM President Donna Shalala and Thomonde's former mayor, Delva Jean Souverne.

His town of 45,000 residents about 50 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince, most of whom live in shacks lacking electricity and plumbing, already has been transformed by the Medishare clinic, he said. Dr. Arthur Fournier -- who co-founded the Medishare program in 1995 with Neurology Department chairman

Dr. Barth Green, no relation to the Greens who operate the foundation -- explained that Thomonde was selected as the clinic's site because six years ago Souverne had sought one of four large generators that had been donated to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

When Medishare personnel visited the town, they realized the ''dire need'' for healthcare, Fournier said.

Now, besides the clinic, there is an ambulance for ferrying patients to a hospital 10 tortuous miles away over dirt roads.

Improving the area's infrastructure has been key to keeping patients in Thomonde well, Scott said, because local healthcare workers have to distribute and monitor medication.

Barth Green said the healthcare workers make their rounds on horseback and motorbikes.

Posted February 5, 2003  

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