By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
Your Subtitle text

Fundraiser for African healthcare

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ventura County Star

Ed Bjurstrom was inspired to take healthcare to Africa after a three-week trip to rural villages where people not only were suffering from HIV/AIDS but also were in dire need of the most basic services.

"There's evidence that human life began in Africa, but what's happening now, in remote villages and towns of this cradle of civilization, is that life is dying out," said Bjurstrom, of Westlake Village, who visited Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana and the Ivory Coast in 2002 with his wife, Wendy, and their then 10-year-old daughter, Stina.

"The basics — medicines, antiseptics, doctors, disease prevention as simple and cheap as mosquito nets — tragically may not reach those most in need," he said. "And it's not only an African problem; it's global."

With that, in 2005 the Bjurstroms established the CareNow Foundation with the goal to provide basic healthcare to the world's least-served people.

In its continuing efforts to provide its services, the foundation is having its second annual fundraiser, SafariNow: A Passport to Hope, on Sunday at the Moorpark Country Club.

The event will feature keynote speaker Nick Vujicic, making his second appearance in four days in Ventura County. (The motivational speaker also addressed a prayer breakfast Thursday in Westlake Village.)

There are several goals for the CareNow event, Wendy Bjurstrom said.

"We want to build understanding and awareness of the significant healthcare needs in Africa," she said, "and demonstrate clearly how every individual can make a direct and meaningful difference in the healthcare crisis facing Africa today."

The primary focus of this year's fundraiser is CareNow's mobile clinic in Zambia.

"We would like to add an additional healthcare professional to our existing team and expand our capacity to provide basic healthcare services to an additional 8,000 to 10,000 people a year," she said.

Ed Bjurstrom said: "The U.S. spent $2.8 billion on AIDS worldwide in 2005; three-quarters of those infected with HIV in the world live in Africa. Sadly, less than 10 percent of those who are in desperate need are getting treatment today. As a private healthcare agency working in remote and rural villages and towns, we offer practical solutions for poverty-stricken people."

Within two years after the 2002 trip, he had left his job at Amgen and made a decision to address the African HIV/AIDS crisis.

With years of pharmaceutical experience, he first had the idea to start a generic pharmaceutical company and manufacture anti-retroviral drugs for treating AIDS victims and export them to Africa. But after nearly a year of making no progress with African governments, he shifted to working with existing medical clinics in Africa or helping people to start clinics where none existed.

"Unfortunately, one of the repercussions of the AIDS crisis is that fewer resources are now available for providing basic healthcare as governments scramble to focus on AIDS," Bjurstrom said.

"The most impacted are rural areas outside of major population centers," he said. "CareNow is helping to bridge this gap by focusing our efforts on those that are the least served in terms of available healthcare. The clinics currently supported by CareNow are each working to be qualified to treat AIDS patients, but it is a lengthy process."

CareNow does not build hospitals, he emphasized. Rather, "we bring much-needed basic healthcare to patients in faraway villages. We help fund salaries of healthcare professionals to live and work in remote villages to fight infectious diseases on a daily basis. We provide support to African doctors who stay in Africa to care for the people in their home community," he said.

Additionally, CareNow "is committed both to distributing anti-retroviral drugs and to realistic prevention of AIDS, as well as other equally debilitating diseases."

Website Builder