This is a guest blog by John Donnelly of Burness Communications from the World Assembly in Geneva.
GENEVA, Switzerland – Global Health President and CEO Jeffrey L. Sturchio announced Monday night that the Haitian health organization GHESKIO was the tenth winner of the Gates Award for Global Health.
Standing on a stage in a Geneva ballroom, before 250 people, including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Sturchio said that the group was a worthy winner for its nearly three decades of work fighting AIDS and for its Herculean job in helping people survive after the devastating earthquake in January.
“GHESKIO shows the world that it is possible even in the most difficult environment” to produce first-class health care, Sturchio said.
The Haitian group, one of 179 nominees for the prize, chosen by a jury of international health leaders and carrying a $1 million award, was severely tested following the earthquake. The earthquake heavily damaged the group’s headquarters, and yet the organization’s leaders pushed ahead to help those in need. It put on hold its research work, opened its campus to 7,000 displaced people, performed triage on those in need of immediate life-saving care, and opened a field hospital for patients with contagious tuberculosis.
“When the earthquake hit, they met the need head on,’’ Sebelius said. “The last five months, we’ve seen GHESKIO at its finest. They have shown their commitment to the people of Haiti for more than a quarter-century.’’
GHESKIO – it stands for Groupe Haïtien d’Étude du Sacome de Kaposi et des Infectieuses Opportunistes – was founded by Dr. Jean William (Bill) Pape. Pape was in Haiti at the time of the award, although he described his work in a short video produced by the Global Health Council and shown at the Geneva event.
The film, shot four months after the earthquake, shows Pape moving around the organization and saying the group has been able to keep 7,000 AIDS patients on anti-retroviral treatment; he said 2 percent of the patients died in the earthquake.
It was clear that the earthquake had taken its toll. “From day one,’’ Pape said,’’ I received patients who were the worst I’d ever seen. Young babies who were in need of amputations. Pregnant mothers who had all kinds of abscesses.’’
Pape, a Haitian by birth and a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, will be given the award on June 17 during the Global Health Council’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.