HIV/Aids specialists meet to discuss cooperation

POSTED: 01/28/13 1:57 PM

St. Maarten – HIV/Aids Program Manager Suzette Moses-Burton, Aids Foundation President Dr. Gerard van Osch, and the Laboratory Services Manager Dr. Hose Booi met on Friday with delegations from French St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, and Anguilla at the French side L.C. Fleming hospital. Participants included doctors, healthcare specialists, civil servants, and Interreg representatives. The meeting was held to evaluate the development of an inter-Caribbean HIV observatory project that aims to build regional evidence on the scale of HIV drug resistance in order to equip and prepare countries with the knowledge, skills and systems to respond to patients whose treatment may be failing. This project was signed with the European Commission in December 2010 and has been extended until the end of September 2013.

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg IV Program that helps European regions share knowledge and transfer experiences to improve regional policy projects. This project works with people living with HIV and Aids on the various islands to monitor the effectiveness of their treatment. It is important for a patient to have effective treatment and adhere to it so that he or she can live as long as the average person. The tests are free, done anonymously and codified by a code that only the treating physician can identify. The blood samples are gathered transported to the Lepers Laboratory on French Saint Martin or sometimes to Paris in France. The results of the analysis from the blood samples are then sent back to the doctors; this allows them to tailor treatments and monitor the patterns of resistance to treatment in the region.

During the meeting topics were discussed like the data findings of HIV and Aids prevalence per country for 2011-2012, surveillance methods and ways to enhance the lines of communication between the collaborating agencies. Discussions are also already underway to develop new projects to further enhance cooperation within the Caribbean region.

Two important outcomes of the meeting with regards to the approach of controlling the HIV and Aids epidemic in the Caribbean region included an agreement for continued collaboration and the spark of enthusiasm that came from the other islands and St. Maarten to develop ways of tailoring future projects to meet the specific needs of the communities. The next meeting is scheduled for June.

Combating HIV and Aids in the Caribbean continues to be a major challenge on all the islands especially in relation to monitoring prevalence. Many people travel to neighboring islands to access health care and treatment due to the fear of being stigmatized and discriminated against. Patients from Anguilla go to St. Martin or St. Maarten, or to Puerto Rico, residents from Montserrat go to Antigua, and residents from Dutch St. Maarten often go to French St. Martin, Puerto Rico or Miami. This makes regional collaborations important to develop ways to enhance monitoring procedures for accurate case based surveillance.

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