“The wave is the ocean, but the ocean is not the wave!”

In a class I took years ago, my religion professor drew waves on the chalkboard and repeated this quote to the classroom. The wave is the ocean, but the ocean is not the wave! Some classmates nodded in agreement; I sat there puzzled and drew pictures of waves in the margins of my notebook. How can the ocean not be part of the wave? Perhaps it’s something like the “There’s no ‘I’ in Team!” saying, where everyone comes together to form a powerful entity versus standing divided, taking up a vast amount of space with no great movement.

This quote came to my mind as I learned about how six years ago, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and a private medical technology company, Becton, Dickinson, and Company (BD), joined forces to tackle HIV/AIDS and TB in Africa. Efficient healthcare systems are essential for all countries, and the five-year public-private partnership between PEPFAR and BD strived to improve treatment in eight vulnerable countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda). A grand total of $18 million went to training more healthcare workers and improving on laboratory diagnostics of HIV/AIDS and TB. As examined by an outside party, Cardno, the partnership proved its success as medical centers performed higher quality services to local communities. For example, Uganda gained a more accurate representation of the underrepresented multi-drug resistant TB patient group found at 14%, up from 4.4% reported before the partnership. Their success spurred a new five-year $20 million collaboration in 2012 between PEPFAR and BD called “Labs for Life.” The funding went towards quality laboratory services as well as the inclusion of treating non-communicable diseases alongside HIV/AIDS and TB.

There are numerous health organizations working towards the same goals and yet there continues to be crises in global health. Perhaps we can all learn from the success story of PEPFAR and BD and consider the cooperation between public and private entities to be of great value around the globe. As for my professor’s favorite quote, it may not work for everyone, but the message stands as true as ever.

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