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World AIDS Day Reflection

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Editor’s note: World AIDS Day, which is Monday, Dec. 1, serves as a reminder that while significant progress has been made in the global battle against HIV/AIDS, there is still much more to be done and we must recommit to the goal of Getting to Zero. Johnson & Johnson, driven by our purpose of caring, remains committed to the prevention, detection, education and treatment of HIV/AIDS. This blog post is the second in a series intended to provide a glimpse of these efforts and some of the individuals leading them.

World AIDS Day

Pictured: A Street in Port au Prince.

Today is World AIDS Day – a day of both reflection and action, of mourning and celebration. Today is a day when the global health community comes together to consider all that we have accomplished and the remaining challenges that need to be overcome in the fight against HIV. Having worked in HIV and infectious diseases for most of my medical career, this day is of special significance to me on both a professional and personal level.

This time last year, I was in Haiti as part of a cross-industry delegation to learn about the country’s specific needs in HIV, and what we at Johnson & Johnson could do to meet those needs. I documented my reflections on this trip, and I am proud of the tremendous strides we’ve made since this visit. What were then mere ideas have since flourished into concrete actions.

For example, over the course of just one year, we developed and launched a pediatric HIV medicines donation program for children and adolescents living in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative, which was just a concept last year, has now become a multi-partner, multi-country endeavor which could impact on the lives of patients in need. We are now exploring ways to expand this program to other countries in the region and beyond.

Similarly, on this last visit to Haiti, we were simply “exploring possibilities” for facilitating medical education and training for physicians and nurses across the country on best practices in HIV treatment. I am proud to say that my colleagues and I returned from Haiti just two weeks ago, where Johnson & Johnson was, indeed, a co-sponsor of a three-day training session on the unique challenges associated with pediatric HIV in the country.

This workshop was a great example of what can be done when individual will is put towards a collective vision – and action. The training session, which took place in Port-au-Prince, was the joint result of a cross-sector effort – involving non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and the Haitian Ministry of Health. All of the partners involved share a mutual passion and vision and it was this commonality that brought us together in Haiti. More than 85 healthcare professionals – HIV specialists, general physicians, nurses, psychologists and social workers – from across the country came to the meeting, to share best practices and learn from one another on how to best ensure the health of children living with HIV.

Following Through on Our Commitment to Haiti

On this trip, the Johnson & Johnson team also visited Hôpital St-Damien Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs (Our Little Brothers and Sisters), a pediatric HIV clinic in the nation’s capital, to deepen our understanding of the on-the-ground situation in the country. Here, we spoke with doctors and met patients and families to learn about the challenges they face, every day, as they battle this disease.

This visit was a staunch reminder of the work that remains to be done in the fight against HIV, in Haiti and abroad. We have done so much over the course of a single year, yet we must not become complacent. Each day, there are still too many children becoming infected with HIV. Making matters worse, the HIV mortality rate has increased among adolescents over the past decade – a disturbing trend that must be reversed. The Executive Director of UNAIDS has recently declared that we have a tiny five-year window to end this devastating epidemic. We must ensure that children are not left behind in this global effort. We must do everything we can, turning ideas into actions, to win this long lasting fight against HIV – the time is now to act, and we are ready to head this call.

New Horizons Advancing Pediatric HIV Treatment

To learn more about our fight to combat and prevent HIV/AIDS read the first post in this series.

Dr. Perry Mohammed, M.D., is Medical Director of the Janssen Global Access and Partnerships Program. He is responsible for improving sustainable access to Janssen’s HIV medications in the developing world. This includes the development of partnerships with non-profit, government and non-government organizations. Working as a junior doctor in Trinidad and Tobago, his passion for working in the area of HIV grew after treating patients for opportunistic infections and providing palliative care to those who had no access to HIV medicines.

About the work Johnson & Johnson is doing to prevent and combat HIV/AIDS:

As a transformational medical innovator Janssen, the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, is committed to developing medicines and comprehensive solutions against HIV/AIDS. Through the Janssen Global Public Health HIV Medicines Access and Partnerships Program our efforts to ensure affordable and sustainable access to our HIV medicines in least developed countries are working. During the course of 2014 we launched a collaborative commitment, New Horizons Advancing Pediatric HIV Treatment, to build awareness and incite action around the unmet needs of HIV treatment-experienced children and adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition we have more than 100 philanthropic programs in more than 50 least developed countries that attempt to address the needs of those affected by HIV/AIDS.

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