Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation: ‘Combining research, program implementation and advocacy for pediatric AIDS fight’

Children smile at a Rwanda Ariel Camp, an annual camp named in honor of Elizabeth Glaser’s daughter, Ariel, for children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Photo: James Pursey

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was selected as a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator based on a poll of thousands of global development professionals who are part of Devex, the largest network of aid and relief workers in the world.

Announced on April 18, Devex Top 40 Development Innovators is an impressive listing of the world’s leading donor agencies & foundations, development consulting companies, implementing NGOs, and advocacy groups.

We asked each of the Innovators four questions to learn how they stay ahead to the curve and tackle old development challenges in new ways. Here’s how the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation responded:

‘The Foundation’s ability to combine its research, program implementation, and advocacy work to effectively address the issue of pediatric AIDS has established a reputation of innovation in the global health community’

If you had to condense it to just one or two sentences, overall, what is it that makes your organization innovative?

The Foundation’s ability to combine its research, program implementation, and advocacy work to effectively address the issue of pediatric AIDS has established a reputation of innovation in the global health community. By tailoring each of those activities in the countries where it works —and working to assess their effectiveness—the Foundation is making a greater impact for those it serves, and is accelerating progress toward the elimination of pediatric AIDS.

Can you provide a specific example of something your organization has done that is particularly innovative?

Operations in each country where the Foundation works are specifically tailored to address the needs and challenges of particular populations. In order to achieve success, the Foundation must be agile in its implementing approaches, and have a willingness to experiment with new techniques and tools that ensure it is effective in delivering high-quality services to the people that need them most.

One such example is in Lesotho. With one of Africa’s highest HIV prevalence rates, Lesotho presents a special challenge of how to reach some of the most remote communities with HIV testing and medicines for mothers, infants and families. The villages in the mountainous Mokhotlong District are inaccessible by any modern form of transportation, and are far from larger cities where health services are readily available.

Foundation staff in Lesotho developed a unique solution for the delivery of essential health services for these hard-to-reach areas. Called Horse-riding for Health, this innovative program uses a special breed of Lesotho horse – known as the Basotho pony – to travel between villages and health centers. The riders transport blood samples and medicines in a shorter amount of time, allowing the lab to make a more accurate diagnosis to determine who needs HIV treatment. This is particularly important to help prevent pregnant mothers from transmitting the virus to their infants.

Looking ahead 10 years, what are some of the innovations in international development that your organization wants to be a part of?

Given the changing landscape of international development, it might be difficult to predict what innovations will exist in 10 years. One of the Foundation’s key organizational imperatives, however, is for more children, women and families to get the lifesaving services they need — and new endeavors will definitely play a significant part in that. Reaching individuals through mobile means, particularly texting, is an innovation that the Foundation surely will use in the future. Mobile devices will improve connections between health centers and clients, and enhance how data, test results and important health information is managed and communicated.

Likewise, in 10 years, the Foundation will be using innovative knowledge management tools to share information within the development and scientific communities, and to locate individuals around the world with expertise in particular subjects. Collaboration and education through knowledge management will improve how the Foundation and the global health community address pediatric HIV/AIDS, and strengthen efforts toward elimination.

New technologies in point-of-care (POC) diagnostics are another innovation that the Foundation will embrace in the next decade. POC diagnostics will transition many specialized laboratory procedures from labs to local clinics through new, cost-effective equipment. These improved technologies will provide faster patient testing results, and establish a more robust system for testing, diagnosis and data collection.

These innovations, along with many others, including the empowerment of local entities, improvements in drug packaging, and a commitment for elimination among global leaders, organizations and stakeholders, are forward-thinking approaches that the Foundation envisions as essential elements toward reaching its goal.

One factor in driving innovation at any organization is the talent you hire and the partnerships you make. How does your organization take into account innovation when it comes to cultivating talent and partners?

The Foundation is proud to employ passionate professionals to fulfill its mission to eliminate pediatric AIDS. Foundation staff around the world works with innovation, creativity and forward-thinking spirits to create a unified culture of hope and accelerate momentum toward a common goal. Innovation is a core employee value, and a descriptor the Foundation seeks in its new hires.

Likewise, the Foundation is uniquely positioned to partner with a variety of organizations, governments and individuals. These partners are the driving force behind the Foundation’s success, and through collaboration, the Foundation is able to reach the children, women and families that need support most.

When cultivating new talent and partners that meet these expectations, the Foundation seeks individuals and organizations that bring diverse experiences and skills to a shared vision of eliminating pediatric AIDS. Foundation partners include companies in the fields of global health, communications, transportation, entertainment and education. Working together with these partners, the Foundation ensures a wide variety of skills and tools exist for establishing its programmatic, research and advocacy strategies. Similarly, the Foundation seeks individuals with experience in the private sector, government and other fields. These diverse backgrounds generate unique strategies and help shape how the Foundation responds to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Check out the full listing of all Devex Top 40 Development Innovators on Facebook.

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