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Our Founders

Committed to the Cause

Dr. Francis Ntowe

Founder and Executive Director

Dr. Ntowe grew up in extreme poverty in Cameroon and was later educated as a pharmacist in the U.S., thanks to the sacrifice of family and friends. As an adult, the loss of loved ones to HIV/AIDS, combined with a desire to give back to the many who helped him accomplish his dreams, motivated him to pursue solutions to the problem of AIDS in Africa. Working with friends at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Dr. Ntowe answered a request for support from long-time friend the Rt. Rev. Dr. Nyansako-ni-Nku.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Nyansako-ni-Nku, who at that time was president of the All-Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), to bring into existence a prevention and treatment program for Cameroon. Dr. Nku’s vision was to develop a pilot program that could be replicated throughout Africa, with the help of the AACC.

The All-Africa Conference of Churches, which previously was headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu, is an ecumenical fellowship representing 120 million Africans. Founded in 1963, it has been a guiding force in Africa’s nation-building process.

Bernard Blaauw, M.D.

Founder and Medical Director

Dr. Blaauw, Medical Director of PAA, developed a great affection for the people of Cameroon when visiting the country in 2005 and later, when working with Dr. Ntowe and Dr. Nku. He returned in 2006 and worked with PAA to establish an HIV/AIDS diagnostic and treatment clinic in Kumba. Drawing on his HIV/AIDS expertise and experience at Rush University Medical Center and the Chicago Department of Health, Dr. Blaauw brought the latest medical treatment to a part of the world that had been woefully behind in its response to the AIDS crisis.

Board of Directors

Leading the Cause

Coming together from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, our skilled team of professionals is the backbone of Prevent AIDS Africa. Their ideas help shape the direction and mission of our organization as it continues to develop. Read on to learn more about some of our incredible team members.

Constance M. Benrud

Constance brings more than 15 years of global marketing experience from her career in the corporate sector.  She began her career in the hotel industry and then transitioned into the publishing industry.  As an executive with World Book International, she oversaw the company’s marketing efforts in 30 countries around the world in addition to developing and executing major events throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.

Constance has worked with and supported a variety of philanthropic organizations in Kenya, Tanzania, China, Romania, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Indonesia, and Cameroon.  While working in Africa at orphanages filled with children whose parents had died from HIV/AIDS, and at women’s cooperatives that were filled with women who had been ostracized by their communities after their husbands died from HIV/AIDS, and at clinics that were filled with HIV/AIDS patients, Constance felt there could never be enough orphanages, women’s cooperatives or clinics if the AIDS issue wasn’t dealt with more proactively.  As a believer that education is the answer to almost everything from passing 1st grade to world peace, she traveled to Bamenda, Cameroon to attend one of PAA’s conferences.  After listening to the questions asked, interacting with the attendees and experiencing the impact of the conference, she departed firmly committed to education as the path to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic.   She joined the PAA board in 2010.

Constance is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison and lives in Chicago.

Judy Thomas

Judy Thomas joined the PAA Board in 2012.  Attending the first PAA sponsored women’s HIV/AIDS conference in Kumba, Cameroon in October 2013, showed her the effectiveness of  PAA’s grass roots education model.  Judy is an attorney, who has practiced international and commercial law for over 25 years at Baker & McKenzie, Motorola and Alberto Culver.  More recently she and her husband started a social enterprise on the west side of Chicago that provides local jobs through vertical hydroponic vegetable farming. She is active in her church and has served on the boards of various educational, theater and social service non-profits.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas joined PAA in 2012.  He has been involved in numerous non-profit, education and government boards throughout his career and has a heartfelt compassion for those in need.  He is energized by PAA’s novel and successful efforts in HIV/AIDS prevention, especially with its emphasis on education and prevention, treatment, care and support.  Mark has lived in Chicago and its suburbs his entire life.  He spent most of his business career at Tribune Company, managing different facets of newspaper production.

Jan Lohs

Jan Lohs joined PAA at its inception in 2006 and has served as secretary from that time.  She attended the organization’s first conference, in January 2007 in Kumba, Cameroon, and witnessed first-hand the conference’s power to eradicate misperceptions about the disease and how it spreads, and to foster understanding and compassion for those affected.  Professionally, Jan is president of Lohs Research Group, a Chicago-based qualitative market research consultancy that serves large and mid-sized corporations both domestically and internationally.

Consultants to the Board

Andrew Buchanan, Marketing
Amy Volpe, Communications
Dr. Nyambi Ebie
Kelly Lewis
Chris Valentine

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