Pharmacist combats AIDS in Malawi

In August 2004 Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the UCSF School of Pharmacy, traveled to Africa's developing country of Malawi as a trustee of the San Francisco-based Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA). Youmans brings her pharmacy expertise to a country where there are:

  • few physicians
  • fewer pharmacists and
  • dwindling numbers of nurses.

The World Health Organization estimates that HIV infects 11.3 to 17.7% of Malawi's adult population. Youmans cautions that because data is difficult to obtain, infection rates might be as high as 30 to 40%. Along with her GAIA colleagues, Youmans is teaching women to provide AIDS education and care to people within their homes and to orphaned children, many of whom have lost their entire families to AIDS. Their project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This is a picture story of her journey.

Youmans, Conol, pharmacist

Sharon Youmans, PharmD (left) with Sister Lilia Conol. Sister Lilia is a pharmacist trained in the Philippines. Her specialty is herbal medicine.

Adolescents, HIV, class

Adolescent boys and girls attending a class. One of the topics is the transmission and prevention of HIV


grandchild, blind,income

The woman in the center is holding her very ill grandchild. Another of her grandchildren, who is blind, sits to her right. For income this grandmother crushes rocks and sells the small stones used to make cement.


yard, rock crushing

This is the yard of the grandmother who makes a living crushing big rocks.


orphans with meals

These orphans are enjoying a meal provided by a community support organization. This complete meal is provided usually once a week. GAIA supports this organization.


HIV education, plays

As a way to educate the community about HIV/AIDS, dramas are presented. Villagers gather to watch the plays.



These men are community workers who help fellow villagers who either haveHIV/AIDS or take care of someone who does. For example, the men built a cooking hut for a widow.


Malawi woman and child

This young woman and her daughter by her side have HIV/AIDS.


Malawi woman HIV/AIDS

The woman in the center has AIDS. The two other woman are community workers who assist villagers who suffer from HIV/AIDS. The workers are part of GAIA's women's empowerment program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


child with infant

This is a typical scene -- a young child with an infant, usually a sibling, cradled on her back.


choir and audience

A youth choir singing a song for the visitors from America, the GAIA staff and trustees. This village is supported by one of GAIA's programs.



A sea of orphans. The children put on their "Sunday Best" to greet the GAIAvisitors. The number of Malawi's children orphaned by AIDS is in the tens of thousands.

Malawi woman and child

This young mother and her daughter both have HIV/AIDS. The little girl is about 9 years old.


man helping child

Open Arms is a care facility for children up to two years old. The mothers of most of these children either died in childbirth or are too ill to provide child care. GAIAsupports this organization.


men with musical instruments

These young men built their own instruments, a positive activity.


Malawi pharmacy

This is a pharmacy at a Catholic hospital in Malawi. Notice the lack of drugs.


examination room

This is a typical exam room in a clinic with very limited supplies and equipment.




School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.