Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top 10 reasons to donate now

In February, I kicked off my fundraising campaign for Enduro Africa 2009. So, it is a bit of a surprise, three months later, to be in the position to say that:

I’m now ~80% of the way to the required $7,500

in donations to participate!!

You read that right – I’ve successfully raised over $6000, including online and offline donations, and my own personal contributions to the effort. The outpouring of encouragement, donations, and expressions of interest have simply been amazing.

We’re now firmly in the homestretch. My intention is still to raise $10,000, but my short-term goal is to raise the remaining ~$1,300 as soon as possible to meet the minimum.

So, if there are any superheroes out there who want to save the day and put us over the minimum, now’s the time to make your donation. Please, make your contribution using my secure PayPal widget or e-mail me to discuss other ways to give or to spread the word.

Why give? In donating, you’ll:

1) Contribute to four regional charities doing incredible work in Southern Africa;

2) Join many others in putting their money to work in direct support of their values;

3) Help raise awareness that there’s no recession for HIV, neither here nor abroad;

4) Receive a highly prized, embroidered Enduro Africa t-shirt (donate $100 or more);

5) Get upcoming monthly donors-only behind the scenes updates;

6) Help offset adverse impacts of the economic crisis on NGOs & charities;

7) Gain early access to ride details, GPS coordinates, maps, and posts from the trailside;

8) Enable one of only 6 people in the U.S to ride Enduro Africa in 2009;

9) Join my exclusive, valued, donor hall of fame; and,

10) Enjoy my eternal gratitude.

So there you have them - 10 excellent reasons to give to my Enduro Africa project. Beat the rush during this pledge drive, donate now. Thanks so much.

And stay tuned. The adventure continues.

Addendum: What an unbelievable response to this pledge drive! A very warm thanks to Marc, Dianne, Daina, Vicki, Monica, Margaret, and others for their generous contributions. I'm just floored. There's now only ~$800 left to raise to meet the $7,500 minimum donation for EA! So, if you still want a piece of the action (and a very cool customized tee), please donate now and help me wrap this up today!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poor thing...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Enduro Africa: Kit List

Many of you have asked what exactly I'll need to pack for Enduro Africa 2009. Well, here's a start, from the organizer's website:
Apart from those items listed as essential, please use this list as a guideline only; you really do not need to bring excess clothing unless you are planning to stay in Africa after the trip. Do not bring clothing, baggage or any equipment that you are worried about ruining, facilities are basic throughout the event and all luggage will be carried on a truck.

  • Hydration Pack (3 litre capacity). This is the best way to carry drinking water; the pack is carried in a purpose-made rucksack and the water fed through a drinking tube. This enables the rider to keep hydrated without the need to remove the helmet. The rucksack can also be used to carry small items of kit.
  • Helmet. A Motocross or Enduro-style helmet is a must. These are specifically designed for off road use and have particular features that you won’t find on a full face road helmet. The peak is great as a sun shade, but its main use is to protect your eyes when the bike in front starts kicking up mud and stones – just tilt your head down. The design also allows goggles to be worn, another essential item.
  • Goggles. There are many dusty and sandy trails along the route, and purpose made mx or enduro goggles are the only effective solution to protect your eyes. There may also be rain during the rally. A clear lens is definitely required, but most goggles have interchangeable lenses so a tinted lens could be carried for particularly bright days.
  • Upper Body Armor. There are a few different styles of body armour available; the hard plastic ‘rooster-tail deflector’ or tabard style, the ‘all-in-one’ mesh jacket (which includes hard armour in all the vulnerable areas and a kidney belt) or separate pieces of hard armour fitted into a jacket. It is down to personal choice as to which is most comfortable. It is important that elbows, back, shoulders and chest are as well protected as possible.
  • Riding Pants. Hard wearing and breathable are the important features. Motocross or enduro pants are ideal. It is essential that adequate knee protection is worn, the hard type being recommended.
  • Motorcycle Boots. Off road boots are strongly recommended as they offer far better protection than road or race boots. The main sub types are Trials, Enduro and Motocross. Trials are lighter and more flexible, motocross offer more protection but are the heavier. Enduro boots may be the best compromise, but it’s really down to personal choice.
  • Gloves. Very much down to personal choice. Off-road style gloves, usually synthetic in construction, are ideal as they purpose made, comfortable and cope well with the conditions en route. There are numerous river crossings and also the possibility of rain, and therefore leather is not recommended as water can weaken it considerably.
  • Rain gear
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Antiseptic alcohol-based hand wash
  • Sunscreen
  • Roll/Sleeping mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • Torch/Lantern/Flashlight
  • Wash kit
  • Towel
  • Scarf/Bandana
  • Fleece pullover
  • Trainers or sandals
  • T-shirts
  • Casual trousers
  • Swimwear
  • Ear plugs

For last year’s riders: What was the most critical piece of gear that you brought (or wish you’d brought)? What should you have left behind?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BBC: Mobile technology fights HIV

Two weeks ago, the BBC featured a story highlighting a Ugandan health clinic led by Dr. Paul Williams that is using promising new technology for HIV treatment and monitoring, one that has the capacity to improve HIV care in rural communities in developing countries. 

The PointCare NOW, is an automated, portable device with the capacity to obtain hematology parameters and CD4 t-cell counts within 8 minutes, drastically reduce the need for costly reagents, and avoid time-intensive follow up clinic visits for patients in order for them to get updates on their immune functioning and receive related adherence and risk reduction counseling.

Before we had this machine, we'd see somebody in the clinic, then we'd have to see them on another day to collect a blood sample," said Dr Williams. 

We had a system of motorcycle riders that went round all of our outreach sites on a particular day to collect samples. They would have to ride for four hours along a muddy road through the impenetrable Forest, to a laboratory on the other side, where we could get them tested. 

It took us three days to get the result, and we couldn't get it back to the patient until we saw them again two weeks later. 

Now, with this simple piece of technology, we can deal with problems immediately.

With technological advances like these, the potential to reach remote communities with state of the science treatment and monitoring for HIV disease offers real promise for reducing HIV-associated morbidity and mortality.
Now our death rates from HIV are very low We're able to diagnose it early, manage it early and keep people living with HIV fit and well," says Williams.

Source: Mobile technology battles HIV. Victoria Gill, BBC News, 4/12/09. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend fund drive update

Just a brief, heartfelt thanks everyone who has donated to my Enduro Africa project this weekend, including Birgit, Ed, Charlotte, Julia, Sridar, and others. I'm well over a third of the way toward my $1000 weekend fundraising goal. But I still need your help. To donate, just use the secure PayPal donation widget to the right. 

Also, with the recent Gazette article in hand, this weekend I visited several motorcycle dealerships, local restaurants and other businesses in an effort to secure new business sponsorships. When I do, I'll send out a press release, add active urls to my blog, and create a special business sponsors' section. I'm expecting a strong turnout. So, big plans are in the works. Stay tuned.

Addendum: I'm now about halfway to my weekend fund drive, which ends later today. If you are waiting to push us over the goal line, please donate now. And remember, spiffy embroidered Enduro Africa t-shirts for all donations of $100 or more. Thank you donors and supporters, one and all. 

Addendum II: The final total was $725 in donations and pledges! Thank you so much to everyone for your incredible generosity!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Local Media Covers Enduro Africa 2009

On Wednesday, I was tickled to receive an email from a colleague alerting me that the online edition of our community paper, the Gazette, had published an article on my participation in Enduro Africa 2009.

Here's a snippet:

On his next motorized adventure, he may not find a lot of stress relief. But Forsyth, who works at the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health, can't wait for the 1,500-mile off-road motorbike ride to start.

The ride, Enduro Africa 2009, will start on Oct. 2 this year and will take about 100 riders all around the southern part of the continent, beginning in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The ride is expected to take about eight days and will test the riders' endurance as they traverse the beautiful natural terrain and countryside of the area, from mud-jammed streams to mountain passes and open plains.

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous speaking with the journalist - it simply isn't a big part of what I've been trained to do as a scientist. But I quickly found that my enthusiasm for the work that the charities do, the tremendous need in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the prospect of a long distance, off-road ride through one of the most beautiful countries in the world took over. Within minutes, I was practically standing on my chair, hands gesturing wildly ... the whole routine.

Forsyth is trying to prepare for the grueling trip by taking off-road courses in Virginia, and jokes that he'll end up mimicking previous bikers who are shown in a 2006 video tumbling off their bikes into a rocky stream. He has a lot of mountain biking experience he thinks will help, even though he isn't sure what the exact route will be yet for the Enduro Africa race.

The interview was fun and offered important lessons about being well prepared. But the article has already led to a number of fascinating discussions about HIV, including what it is doing to Washington DC as well as other urban and rural areas of the U.S. Makes me wonder if the next trek should be Enduro America. More on that later.

Two important corrections to the article are noteworthy. The first is that no UNICEF-specific sites will be visited, although others will be. And second, because EA ended its affiliation with Riders for Health last year, it will not donate our bikes to charities, which will enable it to maximize the amount of funds donated.

Click here to read the Gazette article, which includes an interview with another one of the 6 U.S.-based riders.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Enduro Africa T-Shirts are here!!

They're here! My first shipment of customized, embroidered Enduro Africa t-shirts has arrived and, let me tell you, they look and feel great - and they'll make you happy and smile, just like in the picture.

I've started distributing these exclusive t-shirts to everyone donating $100 or more to my 2009 Enduro Africa ride and fundraiser. So, keep an eye out for yours (or for one on a hipster near you)! There should be about 20 out there in the next few days.

And a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has given so generously thus far. Based on pledges and expressions of interest, I am expecting for a record turnout that will help me exceed my fundraising targets. At this rate, I'll have to re-order shirts very soon.

Other News

Four other updates are worth mentioning: First, those interested in getting automated blog posts from my Enduro Africa site have several new options: a) sign up for RSS feeds, b) sign up for updates by email, or c) follow my notes in Facebook. The first two options are available from the column on the right side of this page -- just click whichever option you'd prefer and Fanny's your aunt. The latter requires a Facebook account. Email me if you have any trouble.

The second item is very exciting: On Friday, I was interviewed by a local newspaper journalist about my participation in Enduro Africa. It isn't clear yet when or if the article will be published but I'll post it here, if it is.

Third, I'm in negotiations with a favorite local pub to see if it would be willing to host a special Enduro Africa Pub Quiz for friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family. More as that develops.

And finally, last week, I requested and received from Dave at Enduro Africa assistance in reaching out to the 5 other US-based riders in this years' event. So far, I've learned that they are from VA, TX, and CA (2). One has yet to surface. I'll keep readers posted as I learn more about them and perhaps invite them to contribute a blog post.

So, stay tuned. The adventure continues...

Addendum: Here's a 5th update: If you Google enduro and africa, this blog appears in the 3 or 4 position! I feel like a proud parent!

Addendum II: Ok, scratch that last one. I had previously managed to be in the 3 - 4th positions but on some days, I'm buried somewhere in the 5 - 10th. I'll just have to work harder -- and you'll have to share my site with your bestest buddies.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Has HIV Become More Virulent?

ScienceDaily (2009-04-08) -- Damage to patients' immune systems is happening sooner now than it did at the beginning of the HIV epidemic, suggesting the virus has become more virulent, according to a new study in the May 1, 2009 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.
Unfortunately, it may no longer be true that there is a time period of several years between diagnosis and the need for treatment – instead this time-span is shortening” according to author and San Diego Naval Center investigator, Nancy Crum-Cianflone MD. “Early diagnosis is important for several reasons including that patients can enter into medical care and begin treatment before the immune system becomes weak and opportunistic infections develop.

: Crum‐Cianflone et al. Is HIV Becoming More Virulent? Initial CD4 Cell Counts among HIV Seroconverters during the Course of the HIV Epidemic: 1985-2007. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2009; 48 (9): 1285 DOI: 10.1086/597777

Thursday, April 9, 2009

2006 Enduro Africa Trip - Video

Curious about what I'll likely experience during my 2000-km off-road motorcycle Enduro Africa ride in October? Well, take a look:

Source: Enduro Africa. Video by Cass Productions.

Watch for the poor rider who dunks a bike and takes a bath in a stream (~1.10 min). That's going to be me when it is my turn, sadly.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

HIV prevention failing in rural South Africa

A recent modeling study suggests that existing HIV prevention strategies in rural South Africa, a nation with an HIV prevalence rate of 18% and logging 500,000 new infections per year, are simply insufficient to reduce the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.

Bärnighausen et al. (2009) estimated that the incidence rates – or the numbers of new cases per year – is 4.2 and 2.2 per 100,000 person-years for women and men in rural communities, respectively.

Worse, the study finds that high levels of HIV incidence in rural South Africa showed no signs of abating in women or men between 2003 - 2007, perhaps due to a lack of large scale changes in risk behavior.

The study examines 3 possible reasons for the stability of HIV incidence in these South African communities:
  1. Existing HIV prevention strategies are insufficiently scaled to reach rural populations;
  2. Programs fail to target prevention to the needs of those most at risk for infection; or,
  3. Governmental and other service providers are deploying ineffective prevention strategies.
Bärnighausen et al. (2009) posit that progress stemming the tide of HIV in the ZA countryside will only come with the implementation of new, innovative biomedical and behavioral prevention strategies or with an intensified effort to deploy proven prevention strategies effectively.

Either way, curbing the epidemic in rural South Africa will require vast economic resources and a renewed commitment by political and community leaders to bring HIV to a halt in that besieged country.

Thankfully, it appears that the new South African Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, is indeed up to the task, which includes cleaning up the mess left by her incompetent predecessor. It turns out that former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was
a close ally of [world-class AIDS denialist and former] President Mbeki and someone who [shared] his sceptical attitudes on AIDS. Indeed, Ms Tshabalala-Msimiang's views are even more outlandish. At a conference in Toronto last year she extolled the virtues of garlic, lemons and beetroot as an alternative remedy for the disease. - The Independent, 8.10.2007

So, Hogan's plan is to resume a science-based approach to fighting HIV/AIDS in the country's rural and urban communities alike. Let's hope she succeeds before her administration succumbs quite literally to the disease.

Source: Bärnighausen, T., Tanser, F., & Newell, M-L. (2009). Lack of a decline in HIV incidence in a rural community with high HIV prevalence in South Africa, 2003 – 2007. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 25 (4). [ePub ahead of print].

Friday, April 3, 2009

Donors, you got to give a little love - Tom Jones

Here's a little entertainment while you write a check or make an online donation to my Enduro Africa 2009 fundraiser and 2000-km offroad motorbike ride through Southern Africa in October, which benefits 4 key charities serving those vulnerable to HIV in rural communities.

Now, put the needle on the record (and hang on to your knickers...)

Not bad for a 70-year old, eh?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

UNICEF: Donations critical during crisis

Here's the first in a series of posts that highlights the work of UNICEF, one of the beneficiaries of Enduro Africa 2009. UNICEF Fundraising Initiatives Officer, Arlene Rosser, makes a far more eloquent case than I could for the continuing need for the agency's efforts, particularly in the midst of the global economic crisis. Take a look:
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Alyrene Rosser
To: adforsyth @
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 6:47:24 AM
Subject: RE: Fundraising Question - Enduro Africa 09

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for getting in touch and thank you so much for taking part in Enduro Africa. The ride is a wonderful challenge; I was on it last year and am sure you will have a fantastic time!

In terms of the economic crisis it because of this that charities, such as UNICEF, need even more support. With people across the globe loosing jobs this puts more pressure on families. Children may have to drop out of school because their parents can't afford the fees/books/uniform. Children themselves may be forced into work to support their families. With less house hold income families may have to reduce the amount of meals they are able to eat a day. They may also have to buy cheaper food which is not as nutritious and can lead to further health problems. There are also the issues surrounding medication with the cost of medicines rising.

UNICEF is constantly monitoring the situation of children on the ground in over 150 countries and territories. Current assessments are paying particular attention to the unfolding impacts the financial crisis is having on various aspects of children's lives, to see how we can adjust and augment our programming and support in areas such as health, nutrition, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, education and child protection. For already vulnerable families, humanitarian assistance will also play a particularly important role in UNICEF operations. While information on the impacts of the financial crisis is still being built, the organizational response to the recent food price increases gives an example of possible future actions. As a result of these price increases, UNICEF identified 45 countries where children were at severe risk and allocated over $50 million of our resources towards programmes to provide an immediate response to the crisis and enhance nutritional security.

UNICEF is also conducting economic and social policy research on the crisis, advocating for policy changes to protect children and providing governments with upstream policy advice and technical assistance. A key element of this work is the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), in which UNICEF works with over 50 countries to fill data gaps in monitoring the situation of women and children. We are also working with national governments to ensure that budgets are child-friendly and that children are offered social protection to help ensure that their well-being is protected as internal and external financial flows become threatened. Further, with the full impacts of the crisis on children and possible policy responses still uncertain, UNICEF is conducting research on the crisis with partners to build a stronger knowledge base for informing upstream policy responses and implementing efficient programming. These research projects are underway at global, regional and country levels, resulting in various conferences and research products in the coming year.

Do let me know if you need any further information or assistance with your fundraising. UNICEF receives no funding from the UN; we rely entirely on voluntary donations so your support through Enduro Africa really will make a difference to the children in South Africa [emphasis added].

Very best wishes and I look forward to meeting you in October.

Kind Regards

Alyrene Rosser
Fundraising Initiatives Officer
_________________________________ /AlyreneR @
Tel: + 44 (0)207 375 6138 Fax: + 44 (0)207 250 1733

UNICEF UK , 30a Great Sutton Street , London EC1V 0DU