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Nikon Owner Issue 21
Marc Koska, OBE
A Mission Impossible
Interview and article by Gillian Greenwood
It is more than two decades since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; during that time, over sixty million people globally have become infected with HIV, including more than twenty million who have already died. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has placed unique challenges on the public health infrastructure of individual governments worldwide, specifically in the developing world, where whole communities and young people in particular seem to be afflicted disproportionately by the effects of the epidemic. It is estimated that almost 64% incidents globally of people newly infected by AIDS are from Sub-Saharan Africa, with 18% from South and South-East Asia. A bleak picture until now ...
Marc Koska is a very successful company director, a subscriber to Nikon Owner magazine, a keen photographer and Nikon user; he lives in an idyllic part of Sussex with a beautiful wife and three children and enjoys growing his own vegetables and playing backgammon.
But that is not all to Marc's life. Marc Koska is a man with a mission.
It was in 1984 that Marc, an unfocused twenty-three year old, read a harrowing newspaper report about the inevitable prediction of an AIDS epidemic and the transmission of AIDS through the misuse and re-use of infected needles and syringes. It was a formative moment, and he knew then with absolute clarity what he wanted to do with his life - to design a syringe that would be single-use only.
He describes what followed. "I chose to learn all I could as fast as possible, from the bottom up. I learnt how drug addicts used syringes, went to Geneva to learn about Public Health Policy, visited several syringe factories, studied plastic injection moulding, and read everything I could find on transmission of viruses like HIV."
Against all odds, lack of funding, lack of support, covert cynicism, even downright ugly opposition, Marc has never once wavered from his goal, and this year he was finally acknowledged and awarded for his dedicated tenacity and single-minded commitment. In October, Marc's company was awarded The Queen's Award for Enterprise: International Trade 20061. He was presented with an OBE by HRH The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace for his singularly important contribution to mankind. This contribution is by no means small. He has in fact, saved over a million lives. Marc Koska is the Founder and President of Star Syringe. The syringe he has invented is an auto-disable or AD syringe - K1. It has the advantage of being made from the same materials as a 'normal' syringe and can be used in the same way without additional training. Most importantly, all the injections given with a K1 syringe are sterile and safe. It destroys itself after one full use, so cannot be used again. From his first K1 syringe sold five years ago, seventeen years after starting his mission, hundreds of millions are now sold every year.
Not content with simply inventing a syringe that would be a pivotal turning point in preventing the transmission and perpetuation of disease, Marc went one step further. He realized that without the factor of re-education, the old-style needles might still continue to
be used in the poorer communities
of the developing world, fostered by the lack of interest of the ill-informed, or worse - the pecuniary greed of the unscrupulous. It was in these struggling communities where most disease transmission and iatrogenic2 infections would take place, adults as well as children often not aware of the consequences of re-using syringes.
Marc explains more fully. "Unsafe injections can lead to possibly the largest source of iatrogenic infections in the world today. Imagine a young kid, in India for example, taken by his mother for a jab to protect him from Hepatitis, a routine immunization from the local doctor. The village trust the doctor, but they do not know that he is regularly re-using his syringes, perhaps because he thinks it does no harm, or he cannot afford to use a clean one for each injection on each patient. Or he is pretending to use a new syringe and charging the patients money, but really cheating them and their families in the worst way. For whatever reason, he is violating the trust people put in him as a 'doctor'. Years later many of the kids treated in this way can develop HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis, and many never link the infection with the treatment from the doctor in the past."
To that end, Marc founded the charity SafePoint to educate and raise awareness in a new generation of public. Responsible re-education and factual enlightenment on the subject of syringe re-use and misuse is an area that he feels passionately about. Indeed, this commitment could not be considered lightly, and he has taken on the mantle of a knight fighting a raging battle.