Dartmouth Medical School receives $1.6 million in AIDS funding

December 01, 2004

HANOVER, NH -- A national foundation with a mission of supporting programs for children with AIDS made its final grant on Wednesday - World AIDS Day - with the distribution of $1.6 million to the section of Infectious Disease and International Health at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

The money will go to the DARDAR project, a collaboration between Dartmouth Medical School and the Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. According to Gary J. Noel, MD (Dartmouth '77), one of the founders of the Foundation for the Treatment of Children with AIDS (FTCA), this grant allows the decade-old organization to close its doors while ensuring a legacy of continued emphasis on the needs of HIV-infected children throughout the world.

"For 10 years, we have been making grants that directly impacted the lives of HIV-infected children in the U.S," he said. "Happily, during that time, we have seen the incidence of HIV in American children decline steadily. At the same time, the epidemic continues to swell in other parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. By turning over our remaining funds to support Dartmouth's efforts in Tanzania, we are supporting a project that holds great promise for growing and serving a community that has been severely affected by the AIDS epidemic."

Noel, a Senior Director for Clinical Research with Johnson & Johnson, was joined for the Wednesday announcement by fellow founding board members Richard R. Grassey, Jr. of Merrill Lynch, and Michael Hirschberg, Esq. of Piper Rudnick LLP. Also attending was John (Launny) Steffens, a Dartmouth alumnus and major financial supporter of FTCA.

The funds were accepted by C. Fordham von Reyn, MD, Chair of the Section of Infectious Disease and International Health at DMS and DHMC. For five years, von Reyn has been principal investigator for the DARDAR project, which focuses on HIV-associated tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa. Von Reyn said a major portion of the $1.6 million grant will go toward building, staffing, outfitting, and operating a clinic in Dar es Salaam for treatment of HIV-infected children.

Another portion of the funding will support the Launny Steffens Endowment in Infectious Disease and International Health, thus ensuring a continued focus on this issue within the Dartmouth Medical community, von Reyn said. The Steffens Endowment will support the director of the program for children in Tanzania, he said.

"We are honored that the FTCA has chosen to award this major grant to the Section of Infectious Disease and International Health. This will allow Dartmouth Medical School to expand its focus on HIV and tuberculosis in Tanzania to children and pregnant women and to carry on the wonderful legacy of the FTCA in a country with an overwhelming AIDS burden," von Reyn said.

In a presentation to the FTCA group, von Reyn shared results of the DARDAR group's work, including a tuberculosis vaccine trial now underway. It was in the course of this trial, he said, that the study team began to consider how they might be able to provide treatment to HIV-infected children in Tanzania. "We were seeing HIV-positive women in the vaccine trial struggle when one of their children was diagnosed with HIV, knowing that there were no programs in Tanzania for providing anti-viral treatment to children." DMS student Cara Mathews worked with the DARDAR study director, Dr. Lillian Mtei, to survey women in the study and determine the number of their children with HIV. These results were included in the DMS application to the FTCA.

"As a result of this grant, Dartmouth physicians will be collaborating with physicians in Tanzania to establish a clinic and deliver comprehensive care to HIV-infected children in Dar Es Salaam," Dr. Noel said. "Our intention in awarding this grant is to play a role, albeit a small one, in placing the spotlight on the needs of children and to address issues that have the greatest promise in affecting the lives of HIV-infected children."

DMS Dean Stephen P. Spielberg, MD, PhD, calling FTCA "a truly visionary humanitarian organization," said DMS was proud to be chosen as the recipient of its final grant. "For 10 years, FTCA has kept its focus on the most neglected and often most helpless victims of HIV-AIDS: the children. As a pediatrician myself, I know that their work has made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and families in the U.S. We look forward to carrying their passion and their dedication to Africa, arguably the epicenter of this worldwide epidemic."

Noting that FTCA was almost entirely volunteer-driven, Spielberg thanked Noel, Hirschberg, Grassey, and Steffens. "You are truly unseen heroes. For all you have done over the last 10 years, for your energy, your compassion, your determination, and your commitment, thank you."

The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

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