Canada is Leading the Fight to End AIDS, TB and Malaria for Good

 

Introduction by Patrick Bidulka 

McGill University was fortunate to participate in the Global Fund Replenishment conference held in Montreal this September. The Global Fund side event at McGill, organized by the McGill Global Health Programs office, saw a high turn-out of world-class global health researchers and students. With its contribution of nearly $800 million, Canada has repositioned itself as a key contributor to the field of global health, and a stakeholder in the mission of the Global Fund to end HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria for good. However, as the Honorable Jane Philpott said as she addressed the event, these goals will not translate into tangible results until society collectively deems current health disparities as “outrageous, and solvable”. It is outrageous that a third of the world is infected with TB, with the majority of those infected being in developing countries. It is outrageous that here in Canada, we have a TB epidemic concentrated in our Aboriginal communities, where the rate of TB in Indigenous populations is 34 times higher than in non-Indigenous Canadians. It is outrageous that here in Canada, there are 50 new infections of HIV every week, and this rate has not changed in the last two decades. And so, it is these glaring inequalities that must be recognized, and deemed outrageous by more than just researchers and health care workers, but collectively by the global population. Progress has been paralyzed by barriers such as stigma, racism, gender inequality, and prejudice against LGBTQ people. It is not until these basic issues surrounding human rights are resolved that we can truly put an end to AIDS, TB and Malaria. As Mark Dybul, CEO of The Global Fund said at the McGill side event, “To end these diseases, we must become better humans”.

Panelists at the McGill event (from left to right): the Honourable Jane Philpott, Mark Dybul, Lucica Ditiu, Peter Singer, Mark Wainberg, Philippe Gros, and Marcel Behr.

Panelists at the McGill event (from left to right): the Honourable Jane Philpott, Mark Dybul, Lucica Ditiu, Peter Singer, Mark Wainberg, Philippe Gros, and Marcel Behr.

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Dr. Madhukar Pai & Dr. David Eidelman

As Montreal gears up to host the biggest leaders in global health, it is our hope that Canada will go well beyond provision of international aid, and find a way to harness the abundant scientific talent in Canada. Doing so will not only amplify the financial contributions by Canadians, but also show our global solidarity.

The past year has seen the re-emergence of Canada in the international development arena. In addition to maternal and child health, if there is one area where Canada is showing tremendous leadership, it is in the fight against the “big three” — AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria — infections that kill over 3 million people each year.

To tackle the big three, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria was created in 2002. The Global Fund raises resources, engages a variety of partners, and invests funds in supporting programs to tackle the epidemics. Programs supported by theGlobal Fund have saved 20 million lives, by providing 9.2 million people with antiretroviral therapy for HIV, 15.1 million people with testing and treatment for TB, and 659 million mosquito bed nets to prevent malaria.

Canada is blessed with some of the best academic researchers and innovators working in global health.

If the Global Fund is to continue making progress towards ending these epidemics for good, it needs to be replenished by donor governments, private foundations, corporations, and philanthropists — and Canada is showing the world how to get this done!

On September 16-17, 2016, the Government of Canada will host the Fifth Replenishment Conference in Montreal that will bring world leaders to set funding for the next three years. The Global Fund has set a target of raising US$13 billion. Canada has already pledged CAN$785 million, a 20 increase compared to the last round. The USA has pledged up to US$4.3 billion, France has pledged €1.08 billion, and Germany has pledged €800 million. These pledges, hopefully, will inspire others to contribute and meet the target of US $13 billion which can save an additional 8 million lives.

In addition to supporting the Global Fund, the Government of Canada has made a renewed investment of CAN$85 million for the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative, to reach, treat and cure many of the 3.6 million people affected by TB who every year go without proper care. The Government of Canada has also invested inGrand Challenges Canada, an agency that is funding several innovative projects in TB, HIV and Malaria.

We can be proud of all these developments that show commitment and leadership from the Canadian Government. However, in addition to providing development assistance, Canada has much more to offer. Canada is blessed with some of the best academic researchers and innovators working in global health. For example, an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian scientists has already attracted international attention.

In the area of HIV, TB and Malaria, Canadian researchers are making valuable contributions. Canada has led the way in identification of anti-retroviral drug targets, development and promotion of the Treatment as Prevention strategy, development and evaluation of new diagnostics, treatment of HIV and hepatitis co-infections, and leadership roles in prestigious societies to influence policy and advocacy.

Epidemics such as SARS, Ebola and Zika have shown us that infectious diseases respect no boundaries.

Canada has a rich history of research in tuberculosis, a disease that still affects our Aboriginal communities. Canadian researchers have identified the genetic basis of susceptibility to TB, used innovative DNA fingerprinting methods to track the epidemic, evaluated novel tests for TB, conducted clinical trials to develop shorter drug therapies, and contributed to international policies. Canadian researchers have identified promising malaria drug targets, documented malaria strain variations, and developed a global molecular surveillance system for drug-resistant malaria.

McGill University and its affiliated hospitals are home to several teams that focus on HIV, TB and parasitic diseases. With over 100 scientists working on infectious diseases, McGill has much to offer in global health, from fundamental science to policy, and, in particular, training of the next generation of researchers. McGill Global Health Programs coordinates the University’s global health work, and is making strategic investments and partnerships to make sure McGill’s faculty and students are actively engaged as global citizens, in solving the biggest global health challenges.

Epidemics such as SARS, Ebola and Zika have shown us that infectious diseases respect no boundaries. We are excited that Canada is showing impressive leadership in global health, and particularly thrilled that the Global Fund Replenishment Conference is being held in Montreal. We hope the Global Fund replenishment targets will be met, and Canadian researchers will be actively engaged to translate the dollars into saved lives.

Madhukar Pai is the Director of McGill Global Health Programs, and the Associate Director of McGill International Tuberculosis Centre. (@paimadhu)

David Eidelman is the Vice Principal of Health Affairs at McGill University, and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. (@VPDeanEidelman)

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post. See the original article here.

MEDLIFE McGill presents MICC 2016: Access to Water Conference

Access to clean water is an issue that afflicts hundreds of millions of people around the world and is one of the barriers that prevent communities from escaping the constraints of poverty. In an effort to bring awareness to this problem, MEDLIFE McGill chose Access to Water as the theme in this year’s MEDLIFE Interchapter Conference Competition (MICC).

MICC, which was started by MEDLIFE McGill in 2015, is a weekend-long annual case competition where delegates from MEDLIFE chapters across North America are invited to learn how to make real change in impoverished communities.

This past March, MEDLIFE McGill hosted MICC 2016: Access to Water in Montreal. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the challenges related to access to water through talks given by experts in the field and a number of interactive workshops.

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Participants listening to talks given by experts in the field of access to water.

Participants were then given a chance to incorporate what they learned through a case competition based on Kilimanswaki, a real community in the Moshi District of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. In Kilimanswaki, there is one well that serves as the water source and some families must travel up to 2 hours to reach it. MEDLIFE is actively working with Kilimanswaki community leaders to provide medical, educational and developmental support.

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Kilimanswaki, Tanzania

Participants were tasked with the development of a four to six year plan to address the lack of access to water in the community, as well as a development plan for the future that would improve the quality of water. There were numerous considerations to keep in mind, such as budget, community statistics, and major ongoing health crises.

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The winners of MICC2016 were McGill’s own Timothy Cheng, Andrew Kim, Jessie Ouyang and Amber Zhao!

Over the weekend-long event, students had the chance to learn from experts, apply their own problem solving skills and collaborate with others to address the real-world problem of the lack of access to water. More information on MICC 2016 and other events hosted by MEDLIFE McGill can be found on the MEDLIFE McGill website.

Follow MEDLIFE McGill on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

The Global Engagement Summit: Inspiration and Innovation in a Community of Global Leaders

Vivienne Walz

From April 3-10, I attended the Global Engagement Summit at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The annual Summit connects and empowers young leaders from across the US and around the world to inspire and nurture social innovation. In a mix of workshops, seminars and speakers, the Summit deeply inspired me, allowed me to build my networks, connected me with mentors and gave me opportunities to build specific skills important for working in global health.

The GES is not an academic conference. Rather, young innovators bring projects to share, workshop and improve with the help of GES staff, guests and peers. The project I have been working on is called Skátne Ionkwatehiahróntie’ (“Our families grow together”).

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Vivienne (centre) with fellow attendees at the Global Engagement Summit.

The Summit was an opportunity to find solutions to project-related challenges, especially through our small group sessions. In groups of 4-5 Delegates and 2 Facilitators, we each presented our projects, answered others’ questions, and received feedback on project strengths and weaknesses. On another level, the GES was also an opportunity for personal and professional development. In particular, I developed my public health skill-set by learning about social impact assessment and practicing my public speaking and grant-writing skills.

For the first few days of the Summit, the International Delegates toured Chicago in a pre-conference session called Engage. We toured the underground Pedway, visited the Shedd Aquarium, appreciated the modern art collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, and learned about past activists at the Hull House. I took this opportunity to get acquainted with my fellow Delegates before the rush of the conference started and to reflect on my intentions for the GES.

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Vivienne gets the chance to tour Chicago, snapping this shot at the famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture at Millennium Park.

After three days of Engage, we kicked off the Summit by getting to know each other through theatre exercises. This set the stage for the rest of the Summit: we all came from different places, with different experiences, and at different points in our projects. I soon realized that despite all these differences, what we all had in common was our willingness to make a positive change in our communities.

For the next three days, I attended many workshops, seminars and talks. In our session on Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) with Seva Gandhi, we learned how to look for solutions by focusing on community strengths rather than deficits. In my reflections on this workshop, humility and respect were central values in this approach. It’s easy to perceive a problem when we are looking from our particular perspective – especially when we are trained to assess the social determinants of health. When we take the time and make the effort to question our own position and put the preferences and needs of those we wish to serve first, we can arrive at more sustainable and ethical collaborations. Asset-Based Community Development is one tool we can use to engage with communities. More tools like ABCD can be found at the University of Kansas’ Community Tool Box.

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Vivienne (second from left) with her small group at the Global Engagement Summit.

I also took away valuable lessons for global health work in a seminar on Social Impact Assessment, led by Joanna Cohen. Here we learned about how to build measurement mechanisms into the design of our innovations in three steps: by understanding our issue, by determining our approach to solving the issue, and by identifying our intended results through a results framework. Here my biggest take-aways were not to impose my own beliefs on other people, to redefine my own concepts of success, and to always hold respect at the centre of my work.

A highlight of the GES was my mentorship session with Erica Colangelo. The Summit staff match each Delegate to a Mentor with relevant experiences and passions. Erica connected me to excellent resources, and helped me develop ideas to generate sustainable funding for my project. Another memorable part of the Summit was the Pitch Competition. The GES staff selected three outstanding project pitches to compete for a $500 prize before a panel of judges and Delegates.

There are so many more moments from the GES that I could write about. If you would like to read more about this year’s facilitators and speakers, you can check out the GES blog.

I am grateful to have been able to attend the GES, with the generous support of Global Health Programs and the Office of the Dean of Students. I connected with incredible young change-makers who share my values, I got thoughtful feedback on my project, and I deepened my understanding of global issues affecting health. To top off an amazing week, I also returned to McGill having won the $700 Open Shutter award for Skátne Ionkwatehiahróntie’s engagement of media and arts. I encourage anyone with an idea or with an existing social change project to apply!

 

Vivienne Walz is a Masters in Public Health student at McGill University.

McGill Summer Institute 2016 – An Infectious Series of Presentations!

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Patrick Bidulka

And that’s a wrap! The 2nd annual Summer Institute on Infectious Diseases and Global Health has ended after two weeks of exciting discussion covering a variety of topics including TB, HIV, worms, malaria, and more worms. With the addition of two courses to the Summer Institute arsenal, things got pretty busy!

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TB Research Methods Small Group Session

As a member of the organizing team for the Summer Institute, I had the opportunity to observe the mechanics of what goes on front and back stage. As participants got to hear from an extensive lineup of top-quality researchers and diagnostic industry specialists, the Institute’s top-notch organizing committee worked tirelessly to ensure operations went as smoothly as possible — easier said than done. Between organising the catering, and dashing between classrooms pretending to be an AV specialist, I managed to slip into a few lectures to get a feel for what the Summer Institute is all about.

The 2016 edition of the Summer Institute offered 5 different week-long courses:

1. Global Health Diagnostics

2. TB Research Methods

3. Advanced TB Diagnostic Research

4. Molecular & Genetic Epidemiology *New*

5. Tropical & Parasitic Diseases (including Ultrasound and Microscopy tutorials) *New*

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Clinical Ultrasound course at the Summer Institute

All the courses provided lectures in varying format, including tech pitches from industry specialists, clinical case studies, panel discussions, and small group sessions. During breaks, participants from all different courses had the chance to mingle, and discuss the hottest topics in global health research (all while drinking record amounts of coffee!)

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Global Health Diagnostics Course Panel Discussion

Some personal highlights from the Summer Institute:

• Having my entire abdomen, from bladder to heart, examined via ultrasound in front of the Tropical and Parasitic Disease Ultrasound class, held at the Glen Site

• Being reassured that everything in my ultrasound was normal (phew!)

• Seeing my global health-fanatic McGill professors Drs Pai and Gyorkos debating diagnostics and treatment centre stage

• Lunch!

• And finally, being introduced to so many accomplished global health professionals, and hearing the energetic debate these people brought to the conference

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Lunch at the Summer Institute

Boasting about 400 participants from 46 different countries, the Summer Institute was a huge success. The conference fostered a welcoming environment for global health experts and novices alike, to engage in academic discussions centred around pertinent global health issues the world faces today. See the Summer Institute 2016 Dashboard for a brief overview of the conference statistics.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of such a fast-paced and information-packed two weeks! Taking part in the conference gave me valuable insight into the many different facets of global health, and allowed me to envision which stream I would like to pursue as I move towards my own post-graduate education.

Planning is already underway for 2017’s Summer Institute – stay tuned at the Summer Institute and the McGill Global Health Programs websites for more details to come!

patrick

 

About the author:

Patrick is a recent graduate from the undergraduate pharmacology program at McGill. Now working at the GHP office, Patrick is happy to be immersed in the field of global health. His interests include infectious diseases, learning languages, and ‘The Office’.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.