NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Dr. Gary Blick will soon take another step toward his stated goal: “Saving the next generation of Zimbabweans.”
Blick Is chief medical officer of World Health Clinicians, (WHC) a Norwalk-based group dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. Blick is making another trip to the southern African nation of Zimbabwe to continue his work there to fight the disease.
Nearly 1.1 million Zimbabweans are affected by HIV/AIDS, and more than 1.2 million children have been orphaned by the disease. WHC and its local partner, Beat AIDS Project Zimbabwe, hope to treat those already afflicted, prevent transmission from mothers to children and help orphans and children with HIV.
“Through our recently acquired clinic in Victoria Falls, we believe that it will become the prototype for comparable clinics in other communities of Zimbabwe and HIV/AIDS-ravaged countries throughout Africa,” Blick said in a press release.
Blick first successfully treated an HIV-positive Zimbabwean mother, preventing the spread of the virus to her child, more than 10 years ago. His technique is to administer a three-drug cocktail called a Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy to pregnant women, which reduces the prevalence of the virus in the woman’s blood. The lower viral amounts reduce the risk of spread to the unborn child to as low as 1 percent, Blick says.
In addition to the direct treatments, Blick and WHC plan to carry out other projects in Zimbabwe. For example, the group and other nongovernment organizations will target truck stops popular among sex workers for education programs. And WHC will continue its work with the “HIV Equal” program in Zimbabwe.
The HIV Equal program asks people from a wide variety of backgrounds to pose for photos, including celebrities, athletes and politicians. The idea is to show that all people are equal — regardless of HIV status — and to help remove some of the stigma of receiving an HIV test.
“HIV Equal goes a step further to include testing so that everyone photographed knows their status,” Jack Mackenroth, a former "Project Runway" participant who co-founded the project, said in a press release. “We need to take care of ourselves and each other, as well as to reignite the global conversation about HIV to stop the spread of misinformation, fear and judgment.”
HIV Equal started in the U.S., with photo sessions in Los Angeles, New York and the WHC headquarters in Norwalk. The program did its first round in Zimbabwe in December. The clinic photographed and tested more than 70 residents near Victoria Falls, and will do more on Blick’s upcoming trip.
For more information on WHC's’ work or to make a donation, visit the organization’s website.