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Haiti Earthquake and Relief Efforts: NIH AIDS research and training site survives and resumes operation

“We have done it before, we can do it again… we are the only hope for those who have lost everything."

~ GHESKIO Director Dr. Bill Pape

Photo: Dr. Bill Pape seated at his desk in his office, surrounded by papers and books

GHESKIO Director and Fogarty grantee Dr. Bill
Pape, pictured above, in his office in Feb. 2009.
Pape sustained a leg injury from falling debris
during the earthquake.

Photo: Outside of tan buliding, GHESKIO's second site, sign reads 'IMIS / Institut des Maladies Infecteuses'

File photo of GHESKIO’s second site, located
on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, which
opened in Feb. 2009.

Photo: a child with his back to the camera hands a sample to a nurse behind a desk

File photo of GHESKIO’s downtown clinic, which
reopened two days after the earthquake.

Photo: Outside of a tan building with a sign in green text on the side, text is too small to read, the first GIESKO clinic

File photo of GHESKIO’s downtown site, which
suffered structural damage and the loss of its
security walls.

Photo: Two women, seated at a counter, the counter is covered with test tubes and research equipment, a man stands behind

File photo of GHESKIO’s research training
activities, supported by Fogarty.

Updated June 2010

Haiti's largest HIV/AIDs organization resumed operation two days after the devastating earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. GHESKIO, a longtime NIH partner and Fogarty grantee, suffered structural damage at both its locations but no one was seriously injured at either site. GHESKIO Director Dr. Bill Pape called the situation "apocalyptic" and asked for urgent assistance with food, supplies and security.

GHESKIO has been providing HIV/AIDS treatment, conducting research, and training scientists since 1982 at a downtown site and more recently at a second site on the outskirts of the capital. Perimeter walls were badly damaged at both locations.

"We have over 1,000 people who are on the soccer field as they have lost their home and have no place to go," Pape reported. "I need urgently water, food and some security to avoid chaos. We must put the wall back to have some control and assure security."

Not all GHESKIO staff have yet been located but Pape has reported the loss of Maryse Thimothee, head of GHESKIO's bacteriology lab, who was killed when her home collapsed. Pape paid tribute to her in an e-mail. "Maryse was extremely well trained, a fine person and a dedicated worker and teacher. This is a huge loss to her family, to GHESKIO and to the country."

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement of support for Haiti. "I want to express my deepest condolences to those who have experienced tragic losses and to thank all of you who are contributing to the rescue and relief effort. We can be tremendously proud of the work HHS employees are doing and will continue to do on the ground in Haiti."

Some NIH staff who are Commissioned Corps officers have been deployed to Haiti, according NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, who pledged further assistance. "I am proud that the NIH can provide this support to medical care for people in Haiti, and we will offer other services as we identify NIH capabilities that can be helpful."

In a dispatch, Pape identified three priorities for his organization in the months ahead:

  • Offer immediate basic assistance to the large population seeking refuge at GHESKIO
  • Provide basic medical and surgical care to earthquake victims
  • Continue treating patients with HIV, TB and other infectious diseases

Despite the gravity of the situation, Pape remained determined to continue his mission to improve the health of Haiti's poorest people.

"We have done it before," he said. "We can do it again... we are the only hope for those who have lost everything.

Fogarty's Role in Haiti

GHESKIO, the first institution in the world exclusively dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS, is a long-time partner with Fogarty in the training of a new generation of infectious disease researchers.

Haiti in the News

The GHESKIO clinics in Port-au-Prince, and GHESKIO's affiliates such as Weill Cornell Medical College and Vanderbilt University, and have been featured by various news sources.

Other Haiti Information

Many other U.S. Government sources are also providing ongoing information about the earthquake in Haiti.

Updated January 2017