We have much to learn from research in Haiti Although Haiti is a small country, it’s home to cutting edge research that benefits us all. A number of diseases that currently threaten small numbers of Americans are quite prevalent in Haiti, which provides scientists working there with a unique opportunity to accelerate progress on diseases important to Haitians and Americans alike. I had the pleasure recently of visiting grantees Jean (Bill) Pape, Warren Johnson, and Dan Fitzgerald from GHESKIO, the Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections and Cornell. I met their Fogarty trainees, young Haitians and Americans, who presented their research—each addressing a major public health challenge of our time.
GHESKIO was originally formed in 1982 to combat HIV/ AIDS, as it emerged in Haiti. In the decades since, its scientists have been at the forefront of research studying how to most effectively prevent and treat the disease. More recently, GHESKIO and partner Cornell University became engaged in research on other Haitian priorities, such as tuberculosis, cholera, and infections with chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses. The country has the highest rate of TB in the Western Hemisphere, with 22,000 new cases per year. TB will soon pass HIV as a leading cause of death worldwide killing 1.5 million annually.
Why should Americans care about research in Haiti and what could Fogarty trainees do to address these
global problems? For TB, we have been using many of the same drugs for decades and are now confronting growing numbers of people with multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains—estimated at nearly 500,000 cases around the world. In the U.S., the cost of treating a patient with MDRTB is about $150,000.