Washington policymakers spotlight AMPATH

September 18, 2014

A group of congressional, nonprofit and government officials, including representatives from the IU School of Medicine and the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, or AMPATH, recently gathered for a luncheon in Washington, D.C.

From left: Deborah Birx, M.D., ambassador-at-large, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, Department of State; Jemima Kamano, M.D., associate program manager of chronic disease management and lecturer at the Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret, Kenya; Jennifer Kates, Ph.D., vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation; and Cindy Hall, president of Women’s Policy Inc.

"Global HIV/AIDS and Women: Current Challenges and Opportunities," sponsored by Women’s Policy Inc. was held Sept. 9 on Capitol Hill.

"It is gratifying to see how much of a reach AMPATH has, and how many people are learning from what we have implemented in Kenya," said Robert M. Einterz, M.D., executive director of the AMPATH Consortium and director of the IU Center for Global Health. "It is very exciting to see the passion that these individuals have for addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, both nationally and abroad."

A consortium of North American academic health centers led by the IU School of Medicine, Moi University and the Moi Teaching and Learning Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya, AMPATH is one of the largest and most comprehensive academic centers for the treatment of AIDS in the world.

Event speakers included Jemima Kamano, M.D., associate program manager for chronic disease management at AMPATH and a lecturer at the Moi University School of Medicine, and Deborah Birx, M.D., ambassador-at-large and U.S. global AIDS coordinator for the U.S. Department of State.

"I want to thank Indiana University and Moi (University)," Dr. Birx said. "When I went to Kenya in 1998 and didn’t know how to address the depth and breadth of this epidemic, we copied everything that they did. We have to remember that there is a lot of innovation out there and we have to be open to seeing what others are doing and learning from others as we move forward.

"Not all of it is in the scientific literature, but a lot of it is being innovatively implemented," she added.  "I want to thank the group for their work at AMPATH, because a lot of us have copied it."

Jemima Kamano, M.D., associate program manager for chronic disease management at AMPATH and a lecturer at Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret, Kenya.

The issues facing women in developing countries was the topic of remarks from Dr. Kamano, who was chosen to participate in the panel from among a large number of experts across the globe. These challenges include  socioeconomic disempowerment and cultural issues, particularly as they relate to trying to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the aging population of HIV-positive patients, who are now facing other chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

More than 2,400 women around the world are newly infected with HIV every day. Half of all people living with HIV are women, with 80 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa. AMPATH serves a population of 3.5 million people in Kenya and has enrolled over 160,000 HIV-positive patients at more than 500 clinical sites in both urban and rural western Kenya, where the program also provides income and food security programming.

"If we invest in women, this is the only way we will ensure population health," Dr. Kamano said. 

Jennifer Kates, Ph.D., vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, moderated the event. Opening remarks were delivered by U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, co-chair of the International Women’s Issues Task Force, and Lois Capps, co-chair of the Women’s Health Task Force.

"Dr. Kamano really brought to life the plight of women struggling with HIV in Kenya," said Dr. Einterz, who also serves as associate dean for Global Health and Donald E. Brown Professor of Global Health at the IU School of Medicine. "I have no doubt that this group will continue to do great work addressing this burden."