A weeklong workshop took place in the Maputo DREAM center of the Community of Sant’Egidio with the participation of computer engineers working with the Dream Program in Tanzania, Malawi and various areas of Mozambique.
The workshop provided updates and thorough analyses of topics covering information and communication technologies, data protection and security and the use and improvement of software developed by the DREAM Program. The program in fact has been investing in ICT expertise since its beginnings to assist more than 350,000 patients already reached through the program located in the 11 Sub-Saharan countries.
The workshop aimed at improving technological support and problem solving without forgetting that people, not technologies, are the Program’s focus: not only how to build and maintain digital networks, but also an in-depth look at how to improve human networks and fully benefit from joint collaboration and efforts, taking advantage of the technological tools used in treating patients.
A training course for health personnel took place in Kinshasa last week, organized by the DREAM Program of the Community of Sant’Egidio, called “The challenges behind HIV therapy and the HIV/TB co-infection in Africa”. Amongst the topics discussed were the shift to the third line of antiretrovirals and the use of the resistance test. The course was attended by 40 doctors, nurses and paramedic personnel from the DREAM center in Kinshasa and other local health centers and hospitals which collaborate with the DREAM Program in various ways, as well as representatives of the personnel of the DREAM center in Mbandaka (Équateur Province) and the Bandundu area. The course was held from the start by Professor Pasquale Narciso, an experienced infectious disease specialist in Europe, and a health consultant from the DREAM Program. The combined experience from both the African and European fronts laid the foundations for high-level training and impact at a local level. The attendees actively participated by presenting complex cases which they had to tackle over the course of their careers and welcomed the effort and effectiveness of sharing experience and know-how. A collective wish to participate in similar high-level courses was shared by the attendees, but most of all everyone felt more united and powerful in tackling the challenges posed by the HIV disease and tuberculosis together, which still take many lives in Kinshasa and the DRC.
In occasion of the presence of Prof. Narciso, a conference took place at the Medical School of the Kinshasa Unikin State University titled “The HIV virus and its resistances to antiretroviral drugs”. The conference was aimed at about 50 final year students, doctoral students and interns specializing in infectious diseases. Following the interest generated by the conference, the Dean of the Faculty, who was also the moderator during the event, asked DREAM to draw up an exchange agreement with the University to host the young doctors in training. This would give them the chance to put to practice on the field the theory acquired during their studies, all in a context of excellence.
A new agreement was signed on 15 March between the Japanese Embassy and the Community of Sant’Egidio for the construction of a new DREAM center in the city of Dubreka, located about 60 kilometers from the country’s capital, Conakry. The suburban area of Conakry is undergoing an intensive urban development program which is slowly enveloping the city in the urban fabric.
Rent prices are very high, leading many people to look for a home further away from Conakry’s city center. Consequently, the prefecture of Dubreka, which is mainly a rural area, is witnessing a high population growth. DREAM began working in the prefecture of Dubreka seven years ago, when the decision was made to rent and renovate a small building thanks to a small contribution by UNAIDS. The UNAIDS project was started with the intent of providing about 30 HIV+ women with the prevention program impeding the mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus. It slowly grew larger, encompassing 300 patients who are currently being treated free of charge by DREAM. The small center was inaugurated in September 2011 by the Première Dame and met with local celebrations.
The center currently opens once a week and is part of a network of “satellite” centers built by DREAM to reach patients which reside far from Conakry’s center (a second center can be found in the prefecture of Coyah, and another inside the maternity ward in the Matoto neighborhood in Conakry). These centers can benefit from the work of the molecular biology laboratory, located in the main center in Conakry, which includes the daily transport of blood samples and mobile medical teams who guarantee the same consultation and drug delivery standards found in all of the centers.
The wish to strengthen DREAM’s presence in these areas and particularly in Dubreka can be achieved by building this new center, assuring increased stability and daily presence to the local patients.
The center will be built on a plot which was bought a few years ago thanks to a donation and which was awaiting support in order to begin construction. The signing of the agreement marks the start of this project, which is expected to be completed within the next 12 months.
The ceremony, which took place in the residence of Ambassador Hisanobu Hasama, saw the participation of a few representatives of the institutions which accompanied DREAM’s story in Dubreka and in Guinea in general: the UNAIDS representative in Guinea, Dr. Dado Syd Gnakassi, the representative of the Première Dame Foundation, Mme. Traoré, the segretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Guinea and the coordinator of the National program for the taking charge of HIV/AIDS representing the Ministry of Health. It was an occasion to thank who, in their own way, supported DREAM in its efforts to offer a free quality treatment especially to the people living farthest from the capital. Special thanks went to the Episcopal Conference of Italy for its contribution to the DREAM program over these years, the Eight per thousand and the Papal Foundation, as well as the state of Japan for this new collaboration
Relations with the country have strengthened also following the projects launched in Mozambique through the Japanese Embassy in Maputo, which allowed the construction of the health center in Matola dedicated to women, while the construction of a new DREAM center in the neighborhood of Zimpeto is almost completed.
The conference “The DREAM Program in Africa. The Mozambican case: from peace agreements to the fight against HIV” took place on 18 January at the Clinica Moncucco in Lugano.
The clinic counts amongst its partners the FAI foundation (Fondation Assistance Internationale), which has been supporting the DREAM Program in Mozambique and has provided its continuous help and contribution for almost a decade.
Speakers at the conference included Dr. Noorjeahn Magid, Clinical Director of the program in Mozambique, Dr. Laura Zagrebelsky, Italy’s representative for the Global Fund and Dr. Guidotti, Secretary General of the DREAM Program.
The FAI President and Vice-president, Dr. Respini and Dr. Mancini, expressed their enormous enthusiasm and passion for the program. They looked back on the work and collaboration over the years and the huge success and strength which characterized them, making the program a key example of the FAI foundation itself.
Dr. Noorjeah recalled the fight, the challenges and successes through her own story, arousing deep emotions and sympathy for both Mozambique and DREAM.
Dr. Zagrebelsky cited the program as being a true model of success and effectiveness for the Global Fund. She highlighted how this great collaboration helped spread the program throughout Mozambique, reaching many sick, which in turn contributed to a 40% increase of people receiving treatment.
The audience was moved by the touching images from the program and the voices of the activists, heard in a video, who received great admiration.
Towards the end of the conference a new agreement was signed which will allow DREAM to open a new center in Bangui, Central Africa.
The humane, scientific and spiritual adventure of the program continues with growing passion and new friends.
The ICASA conference is the main conference on AIDS in Africa. About 7,000 delegates participated in the conference this year in Abidjan, from 4 to 9 December. It was an occasion to take stock of the strategies for controlling the epidemic which, as is known, is especially rampant in Africa. Over the course of the conference the topics covered were the critical points of the 90-90-90 approach, HIV’s peculiarities amongst teens, and the new opportunities regarding drugs and prevention.
The DREAM program presented two projects, one from Malawi and one from Cameroon: a presentation on the screening of cervical cancer in Malawi, in which more than 3000 women participated over the course of two years; a poster showing DREAM’s results in Cameroon in terms of retention and virological success.
The conference was an occasion to meet and share experience. Many asked about DREAM, including Ivory Coast’s representatives from the Ministry of Health.
On 20 November a delegation of representatives of the cooperation between EU countries visited the multipurpose DREAM Center of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Beira, Mozambique. The representatives, who collaborate in common projects of development aid, decided to visit the DREAM program together as an example of best practice in the partnership between Europe and Africa.
They received a warm welcome and their visit covered every area of the center. This allowed them to esteem the quality of the molecular biology laboratory and its technical equipment and the degree of training of the lab technicians, health workers and the personnel in charge of social support. What caught the attention of the guests was the concern and dedication personnel demonstrated when interacting with the patients, and how priority is given to continuous therapy and assistance, also thanks to thorough research on the patients who miss their appointments to make sure they do not abandon the treatment.