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Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete Visits the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete met with military medical researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) Saturday, May 23 to review and discuss U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) infectious disease research efforts. During his visit to Washington DC, he also visited with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
President Jakaya Kikwete and his delegation spent three hours at WRAIR headquarters in meetings with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) and other military medical researchers with WRAIR and DoD. The leaders held informative discussions around HIV and malaria research, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and DoD’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (DoD-GEIS).
WRAIR’s Commander, COL Kent Kester, said, “The long-standing partnership between the United States Military and the United Republic of Tanzania is evident by President Jakaya Kikwete's visit and further demonstrates the U.S. military's commitment to world health.”
MHRP has been conducting HIV vaccine research in Tanzania since 1999, and began supporting prevention, care and treatment activities in 2004. Through this work, strong relationships have been built with local communities, in-country researchers and local and national health officials. At this meeting, President Kikwete reiterated his government’s desire to work more closely with DoD medical researchers, and to enhance research collaborations on malaria and other emerging infectious diseases.
COL Nelson Michael, Director of the MHRP at WRAIR outlined the worldwide threat HIV presents and the international efforts to combat HIV. He summarized MHRP HIV research efforts in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Thailand, and underscored the desire to develop a safe, global HIV vaccine and to provide effective prevention, care and treatment.
Dr. Tiffany Hamm, Chief, Department of International HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment (MHRP) provided an update on the program’s support of PEPFAR, the largest commitment any nation has ever made for an international health initiative dedicated to combating a single disease. The U.S. Military HIV Research Program currently supports more than one-quarter of the USG-supported patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Tanzania. Efforts also include prevention activities for youth and married couples, programs for orphans and vulnerable children, prevention of mother to child transmission and the provision of anti-retrovirals to extend the lives of those infected with the disease.
COL Chris Ockenhouse, Director, Combined Military Malaria Vaccine Program and COL Colin Ohrt, Chief, Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Translational Medicine, Division of Experimental Therapeutics, also spoke. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 90 percent of the global malaria burden, which stands at one million deaths per year. In Tanzania, malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, claiming the lives of 80,000 people, particularly young children and pregnant women, per year. Through this collaboration, they hope to improve malaria diagnosis and treatment across Tanzania and also build capacity within the country for national malaria surveillance and malaria vaccine development.
CDR Kevin Russell, Director of DoD-GEIS closed the meeting with a discussion on collaborative research opportunities in identifying new infectious disease threats in Tanzania. DoD-GEIS is currently building influenza surveillance and response capabilities in Tanzania.