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Aurum: Public health champions

Aurum: Public health champions

"The Aurum Institute knows diseases very well, particularly the epidemic ones. We have been fighting them since we came into existence. The first was TB, a hyperepidemic on the gold mines and an epidemic in South Africa. It still is. Then came HIV made far worse here by its pernicious association with TB. It is still an epidemic," writes Dr Paul Davis: Aurum Board Chairperson. 

In 2018 there were 301,000 new cases of TB in SA. 59% in HIV positive people. There were 63000 deaths from TB (42,000 amongst HIV positive cases 21,000 amongst HIV negative cases. On average 175 people die from TB each day.)

And now it is the COVID-19 pandemic which has caught the whole world by surprise. The sudden arrival of a new virus, spreading faster and more widely than anything we’ve ever come across so far. We have been caught with our pants down. We have no pre-planned safety nets for combatting this pandemic nor were we in any way prepared to deal with the economic fallout and social dislocations that our hastily constructed emergency disease prevention strategies have demanded.

Aurum is not insulated against, nor exempt, nor excluded from the fallout. On the one hand we don’t want to lose any of the hard-won impetus which we have gained from our battle against TB and HIV. Our choices must particularly be directed to preserve and safeguard our efforts to treat and manage TB and HIV. It is crucial for that fight to continue. On the other we also have to do whatever we can to be part of the fight against COVID-19. Aurum has a unique perspective and an unusual understanding of the virus. We also know the battleground well. We have to take on this fight in the face of a dramatically changed world. A world where all humanity is grappling with an avalanche of uncertainties while at the same time trying to understand the nature of the virus to be able to combat it successfully and ameliorate the effect it has had on our lives and livelihoods.

There is no one person on whom this organization relies. Its success lies in the importance we have placed in our 5 critical values Teamwork, Integrity, Respect, Excellence and Innovation and the belief that they are inherent in each one us. It is what has seen us through so far, and key to our achievements. Not one of them is more important than any other. They are the package of qualities we rely and depend on in being in each one of us. We are blessed with knowledge, some wisdom, and a certain ability to organize ourselves and others. We have lots of determination. Aurum is a formidable team, a major fighting force. We, us and South Africa, are taking the fight to all three of these communicable epidemic diseases.

As far as I am aware not in all of the recorded history  of any nation, have three major epidemics had to be dealt with simultaneously. A task further complicated by its mix of causes. Two very different viruses and one very resilient bacteria. They will certainly stretch our brains and our resources and our reserves. We have to do this in the face of some diminished funds, changes in emphasis, changes in attitude, as well as finding ways to take on the new foe.

The board is obviously concerned about the impact of Covid-19 has on all of us at Aurum, and we support the Aurum COVID-19  plan and risk management strategies that have been developed to reduce as much as is possible the impact of COVID-19 on us all  and on Aurum and its missions. We are, for sure, going to be tested. Hard financial times lie ahead. But even greater opportunities are opening for us.

Over the years I have watched how the Aurum spirit has risen to every challenge presented to it, I am confident it will do so now. I am sure that we have the skills and the ability to reorganize and re purpose, substitute and innovate ourselves to; as the motto ‘Per Ardua ad Astra’ invokes - to rise through adversity to reach the stars.”

For a brief moment there is a well-deserved world-wide appreciation for the work, effort and risks taken by you and all the frontline people that care for us. This acknowledgement is greatly cherished.

I do know that kites fly higher in the face of contrary winds. Thank you from the hearts of and on behalf of the board members.

Strength and respect to you all.

Dr Paul Davis: Board Chairperson- The Aurum Institute