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AHF on Ebola: World must rethink role of World Health Organization

In a letter addressed to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS nonprofit organization in the U.S. that provides HIV care, treatment and testing services to over 350,000 individuals in 36 countries, expressed its concern regarding the Organization’s handling to date of the Ebola crisis ravaging West Africa.

In the letter, AHF let Dr. Chan know that it has been directly affected by the African Ebola outbreak: First, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, AHF’s Medical Officer in Sierra Leone overseeing AHF’s HIV/AIDs care there and who was also that country’s leading Ebola specialist, died due to Ebola infection on July 29th. Subsequently, Dr. John Taban Dada, a consultant with AHF’s partner organization in Liberia, People Associated for People’s Assistance (PAPA), died October 9th of Ebola. In addition AHF’s service delivery operations in Sierra Leone have been severely disrupted.

In its letter, AHF also expressed to Dr. Chan that it has been engaged in a close and constructive dialogue with a number of WHO officers handling the Ebola crisis. However, at this time, AHF shared remaining concerns and specific requests that AHF thinks will benefit and improve the Ebola response to help bring the outbreak under control more quickly and effectively while achieving a positive long-term impact.

AHF urged WHO to commit to the evacuation of any healthcare worker infected with Ebola in West Africa, not just foreigners and to provide written assurances to healthcare personnel in the three hardest-hit countries that they will be evacuated and receive top-quality care in case of infection. AHF also urges WHO to mobilize more well-trained healthcare workers from around the world and deploy them in the West African Region and to procure appropriate protective gear and ensure that it is delivered and distributed without delays in the areas of need.

The letter was signed by AHF’s President Michael Weinstein and six additional global staff members of AHF, including Miata Jambeau, AHF’s country program Manager in Sierra Leone, who is actively involved at her country’s Ebola Emergency Operations Center.

Terri Ford, AHF’s Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy, and a signatory to the letter commented, “AHF’s letter to WHO is based in good faith, but at the same time we are demanding and expecting changes and rapid action. Thousands have already died, the World Health Organization could slow the rate of deaths by adopting these recommendations.”

“The world needs a different kind of international public health body, probably one that can be created via a UN Security Council resolution—and one without the bureaucracy that involves the current international health system -- that is capable of directly intervening to bring effective and rapid control to situations involving emerging or transmittable diseases that can metastasize and grow to become global threats as Ebola has become,” suggests Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the U.S. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to over 354,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia.



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