OUR STORY

From inspiration to action.

AIDSfreeAFRICA was created when I asked myself two questions: What is my life for? And what will I do when I’ve completed my doctorate in Chemistry?

I was inspired by the United Nations after visiting 14 years later, I attended a UN conference, this time as a UN representative for Servas, an international peace organization I had been a part of for over 15 years. It was during that time I had the good fortune to attend a speech by Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, Present of Brazil, in which he shared his country’s successful strategy to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic at that time. His solution? He boldly ordered Brazils pharmaceutical industry to produce affordable, generic HIV/ADS drugs. He challenged fellow government officials to work towards releasing existent patents in order to promote the manufacture of generic, thus more affordable, versions of antiretroviral drugs.

Lula da Silva’s mission had shown results. By 2005, a few crucial HIV/AIDS drugs were released from patent protection, liberating generic drug manufacturing in developing countries.

A PROJECT IS BORN

That being said, the fight has only just begun. The politics of AIDS still manifests in thousands of lost lives, and even with all those who are trying to make a difference, we are far from turning the tide. After hearing Lula de Silva’s moving words, I took action. However, a year later in 2004, I was unsure of how to proceed after my $15 million grant proposal was rejected by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But I have given a simple, yet valuable piece of advice by my college at Servas, Gary Sealey. He said “you need a community to pull this off,” and I knew just where to go to.

The Self Expression Leadership Program under the Landmark Education Corporation offered what I needed. On Monday, August 2, 2004, I submitted AIDSfreeAFRICA to the 75 participants of my Landmark Education seminar as my mandatory community project. I did not expect it to be accepted, it was just too off the walls. But it was accepted, and the rest – as they say – is history.

THE JOURNEY TO CAMEROON

Marlene Rubins introduced me to Michael Steuerman, a member of The Hunger Project, who, in turn, introduced me to Hunger Project Staff member, Jennifer R. Thomson. Jennifer and I met and she told me about her experiences setting up a micro loan system in Uganda as well as HIV/AIDS prevention programs implemented by The Hunger Project. An experienced traveler to Africa, she generously shared her knowledge, right down to her favorite kind of malaria pills and which ones to avoid.

pill

In June of 2004, I visited my friend and long-time mentor Dr. Gunda Georg, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas in Lawrence KS. Over lunch, talking about AIDSfreeAFRICA she mentioned that she has a friend who visits Cameroon three times a year. Knowing only that friends name and phone number, I called her on August 1 and told her about AIDSfreeAFRICA and that Gunda had referred her to me because of her knowledge of Cameroon. She immediately asked me what I needed. I responded that I was looking for a place in Africa; people that want to be trained, teachers that can do the training, water, electricity and a connection to the government.

She just kept saying “Yes, we have that.” And within a few minutes, she said: “Yes, come, we need you in Cameroon.”