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First Children's HIV/AIDS Medical Center Opens in Lesotho; Public-Private Partnership Provides Staffing, Funding

Operated By Baylor College of Medicine and the Government of Lesotho; Funded By Bristol-Myers Squibb's SECURE THE FUTURE(R) Initiative

MASERU, Lesotho, Dec. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The first medical center dedicated to caring for HIV/AIDS-infected infants and children in Lesotho, operated by Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas in partnership with the government and funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb's SECURE THE FUTURE® philanthropic initiative, opened its doors here on World AIDS Day today.

The Baylor-Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Clinical Center of Excellence -- Lesotho will build capacity to fight the disease in one of the world's hardest-hit countries by providing state-of-the-art facilities for testing, treating and monitoring patients and training healthcare professionals. The staff will include at least eight physicians from the Pediatric AIDS Corps recently established by Baylor and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and two Baylor faculty members, representing a more than three-fold increase in the number of pediatricians available to care for children in Lesotho.

King Letsie III of Lesotho hosted the opening ceremonies, which were also attended by Dr. Motloheloa Phooko, Minister of Health and Social Welfare.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY - News) and Baylor also announced that a similar Children's HIV/AIDS clinical center became operational today in Mbabane, Swaziland. The Lesotho and Swaziland centers are part of a growing network of children's clinics in Africa and other resource-constrained parts of the world.

"An estimated 20,000 children are HIV-positive in Lesotho, a country with a total population of 1.8 million and only three pediatricians to treat all diseases. The new center, with ten or more pediatricians trained to treat HIV-infected children, will provide primary care to thousands of children and their families and have the catalytic effect of scaling up HIV care nationally and regionally," said Mark W. Kline, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Head of the Section of Retrovirology at Baylor College of Medicine and President of the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative. Dr. Peter Traber, president and chief executive officer of Baylor College of Medicine also attended the opening of the new clinic.

"On World AIDS Day, as people globally focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS, we are proud to bring this significant resource to the people of Lesotho and to establish similar centers in four other African countries," said Peter R. Dolan, Chief Executive Officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb. "We also are inviting others to join with us in sponsoring physicians to serve in Lesotho, Swaziland and many other resource-limited countries as part of the Pediatric AIDS Corps. Infants and children are Africa's most vulnerable and most underserved, and healthcare professionals are their front line of defense. By creating this network of children's clinics, sending a cadre of specially trained doctors to Africa and reducing the price of pediatric formulations of HIV medicines, we are addressing the major impediments to care of children."

Children's Clinical Centers of Excellence Network

The children's clinical centers network operated by the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative in partnership with host countries includes five sites in Africa funded by the SECURE THE FUTURE initiative -- one in operation in Botswana since June 2003, one opened today in Lesotho, another that became operational today in Swaziland and two under construction and scheduled to open in 2006 in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, and Kampala, Uganda. The Burkina Faso center will be the first pediatric HIV/AIDS center in West Africa. The Kampala center will replace a facility too small for the growing patient population. The centers, all in resource-limited settings, will collaborate with one another in improving care and treatment for HIV-infected children.

Two additional centers will be established in the developing world through the initiative. Sites for these additional centers have not yet been announced. Other Baylor College of Medicine children's centers are located in Malawi and Romania.

The Lesotho center, like others in the network, will be a focal point for providing comprehensive primary care, including antiretroviral therapy where necessary, to up to 3,000 children on site and will have outreach programs serving additional thousands of children in surrounding areas. Located near Queen Elizabeth II Hospital and the National Nurse Training Center, the new facility also will offer training for local health professionals in pediatric HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

Built through a $2 million SECURE THE FUTURE grant, the two-story, 14,000-square-foot center has a large outpatient clinic with 10 examination rooms, procedure rooms, a pharmacy and a small laboratory. The second floor houses the state-of-the-art training facility.

The center is modeled after the Botswana-Baylor Children's Clinical Center of Excellence at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana, which now has more than 1,400 children on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, the largest concentration of HIV-infected children on ARV treatment in any center worldwide.

Pediatric AIDS Corps

"We estimate that one pediatrician can prevent 1,300 AIDS deaths in children per year. Thus, the potential impact of the Pediatric AIDS Corps in countries like Lesotho and Swaziland, each of which has an estimated 20,000 HIV-infected children and not nearly enough trained pediatricians as well as in other African countries, is very significant," said Dr. Kline.

According to UNAIDS and WHO, at the end of 2005 an estimated 2.1 million of the 2.3 million children living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. A recent UNICEF news release noted, "Children represent a disproportionate number of those needing immediate AIDS treatment ... The vast majority of children who become HIV-positive will die before age 5 without treatment. Globally, between three and five percent of deaths in children under age 5 are now attributable to AIDS. In hard-hit countries, AIDS causes between a third and half of child deaths."

The unique Baylor/Bristol-Myers Squibb partnership created the Pediatric AIDS Corps to send up to 50 pediatricians and family practitioners per year over the next five years to Africa to serve at the children's clinical centers of excellence and in surrounding areas. These Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellows will provide care for approximately 80,000 children and train local healthcare professionals. The program was announced in June 2005, and the first 36 physicians from the U.S. and Canada have already been recruited.

The Pediatric AIDS Corps is funded through a $22 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and $10 million from Baylor. The physicians commit to one or two years of service in Africa. They receive pre-service training focusing on HIV/AIDS and tropical medicine, living stipends and student loan debt relief.

"We are hopeful that other funders, from corporations to individuals, will join us in growing the Pediatric AIDS Corps to include more physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and others who can help fight AIDS in resource-limited settings and thus help save the lives of thousands of children who might otherwise die from AIDS," said John Damonti, President of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. He added that plans are being made to expand the geographical scope of the program to parts of China that are hard-hit by HIV/AIDS. And still another clinic has yet to be sited.

The Pediatric AIDS Corps is part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation's SECURE THE FUTURE initiative launched in 1999 to help alleviate the HIV/AIDS crisis among women and children in sub-Saharan Africa. The company has committed $150 million to fighting the pandemic in the region most affected by the pandemic. Some 200 grants have been awarded since the initiative began, including funding for the Community-Based Treatment Support Center at Senkatana Center in Maseru. This demonstration site provides comprehensive care, increased access to medicines and monitoring and broad-based community support for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Opened in 2003, it has served more than 4,300 clients.

In addition to its commitment in Africa, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation funds programs through its Global HIV/AIDS Initiative in Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, the Ukraine and France.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical and related health care products company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life.

Baylor College of Medicine, one of the nation's top academic health sciences centers, is committed to advancing human health through the integration of patient care, research, education and community service.


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