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.
The DREAM program has since the beginning believed that the use of diagnostics and laboratory monitoring is necessary to guarantee quality treatment to its patients. It was the first program that opened in Africa, and the first to steadily make use of molecular biology laboratories. Considering only Mozambique and Malawi, the DREAM laboratories have carried out until now more than half a million viral loads. With 300,000 people assisted, of whom the first few in treatment for about 15 years, new challenges came up, among which the need to look into HIV drug resistance. It is for this reason that, in collaboration with various institutions and research institutions, DREAM is committed to studying drug resistances and describing existing mutations and polymorphisms, also considering the various subtypes circulating in the areas DREAM operates. The program is also involved in developing a sustainable method for diagnostics that answers to the local needs.
To this effect, a training and operational research internship took place in June in Novara (Piedmont), in collaboration with the University of Eastern Piedmont (UPO) and the doctorate school of medical biotechnologies. The project saw the collaboration of biologist Richard Luhanga, Country Director of the DREAM laboratories in Malawi. His presence was also an opportunity to hold a seminar depicting the HIV / AIDS situation in Malawi, paying particular attention to the role of the molecular biology laboratories. It was also a chance to explain how, also thanks to the help of the DREAM program, Malawi is fighting the disease. Thanks to the willingness of many people in the University and the availability of the laboratories, but also to local supporters that contributed economically to the fulfillment of the internship, we work towards making accessible a test which will become increasingly necessary also in Africa for better managing the HIV patient in treatment.
The “Global approach to health” course organized by the DREAM program ended today. It was attended by 32 people from 6 countries: Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The classes took place in the DREAM program’s field office in Rome, in a room crowded with specialists who work in the DREAM centers managed by the Daughters of Charity located in the 6 countries. The main subjects of the course featured an in-depth analysis of the new approach to health of the DREAM program, aimed at providing complete health services to the people afflicted with HIV/AIDS enlisted in the health program. Not only antiretroviral therapy, but also diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases such as tumors. University professors and medical specialists from various universities and hospitals all over Italy, some of whom steadily collaborate with the non-profit organization GHT (Global Health Telemedicine), attended the course offering their knowledge and experience and providing guidelines for the African doctors when dealing with various medical cases. The main subjects included the HIV-tuberculosis and HIV-hepatitis coinfection, the resistance to antiretroviral drugs, dermatological and neurological diseases, and much more.
The course was also an opportunity to compare the different realities of the DREAM program in the 6 countries which participated. An interesting moment of the course was when the attendees answered the questions of the colleagues with their experience on the field, citing practical medical cases and suggesting a course of action.
Each day ended with a visit to the services offered by the Community of Sant’Egidio to migrants, the homeless, the elderly and the poor. These services intervene in support of those most vulnerable, and are carried out in Rome thanks to the commitment of hundreds of volunteers.
Organizing a course for more than 30 people coming from 6 African countries required an enormous effort, and was facilitated thanks to the financial aid received from various donors, among whom are the Fondation Assistance Internationale (FAI), Fondazione Generali and Cooperazione Italiana.
The pan-African training Course began in Maputo, Mozambique. It is organized by the DREAM Program of the Community of Sant’Egidio and by Global Health Telemedicine, in collaboration with the Mozambican Ministry of Health, and is called Disease Relief through Excellent and Advanced Means: “DREAM 2.0 – The global approach to health”.
The course is aimed at health operators (doctors, nurses, health technicians, medical officers) coming from public and private health centers in 11 African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo).
The lessons will be hosted by European and Mozambican specialists from the main clinic and university centers from their respective countries.
It is an international training course, expression of the globalization that is constantly making us more connected and interdependent. Unfortunately, considering that the intensity of migrations, trade and communications is steadily increasing, access to treatment is still a privilege for the few in many countries, particularly in Africa.
It is also for this reason that the strengthening of individual health systems represents a priority in the development agenda of the poorest countries, and it is a key point for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN’s General Assembly (No poverty, Zero hunger, Good Health and well being…).
DREAM’s work over the past years has shown how investments in treating AIDS have had a huge impact on health systems. DREAM is today a model in fighting not only HIV/AIDS, but also other infectious diseases and chronic pathologies which are increasingly spreading in the southern countries of the world. Drugs aren’t enough to fight this battle, but instead training and support is required from everybody.
The teachers of the training course come from different Italian and Mozambican realities which represent clinical excellence in specific fields: The Besta Institute in Milan for neurology, the Department of Medical Biotechnologies of the University of Siena for infectious diseases, the San Giovanni hospital in Rome for telemedicine, the Cardiovascular and Transplant Department of the S. Camillo hospital for cardiology, the business Operating Unit ASL Romagna for dermatology and the DREAM Program of Mozambique, to name a few.
The lessons will contain various subjects such as: HIV, resistance to new therapies; tuberculosis; hypertension and cardiovascular pathologies, electrocardiography and medical therapy of the main heart conditions; radiology and ultrasound diagnostics; mother-child health; dermatology; neuropathy and epilepsy.
Various clinical cases will be discussed during the training course, some of which have been the subject of tele consultations between Africa and Europe. The IT platform designed by BS Innova and implemented by Global Health Telemedicine has in fact created a network of 13 African centers which benefit from an innovative multidisciplinary tele consultation service. As of today, 13 medical subjects are active with about 80 voluntary european professionals.
It is possibly one of the first models of health globalization supported also by SIT, the Italian Telemedicine @ e-Health Society.
The services offered by the DREAM Program and the training course are available thanks to the concrete contribution of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Foundation Assistance International and from the Swiss Cooperation.
The course will end with a week of clinic experience and practical semiotics lessons in the DREAM health centers in Maputo.
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The last 5 years have seen great changes in the fight against AIDS: The pharmaceutical treatment has reached 12 million people in countries with limited resources, mortality has sharply declined and, in the last years, also the incidence has started to decrease. But how can we close the gap between life expectancy and the health of the people affected by HIV in african countries?
Which strategies should be used so that the tools which we have available, such as the antiretroviral therapy, are fully used and their potential is fully exploited? Furthermore: which therapies should be used in the event of the failure of the second therapeutical line, how to improve the circuit of the precocious diagnosis, how to guarantee patients access to lasting cares? These are the arguments and questions that were raised during the “DREAM a model of HIV/Aids Treatment” training course which opened today in Arusha, Tanzania.
Mount Kilimanjaro which rules from above has saluted the various teams coming from all over Tanzania that have undertaken very long journeys to attend this training week. Many are part of religious congregations operating in health centers of the country, others are health operators of government facilities.
The treatment of AIDS still constitutes a great challenge in Tanzania and requires an articulate and professional response to guarantee solid and quality treatment systems. DREAM has been present in the country for many years: from 2003 a first collaboration began in Iringa which has then determined the decision to offer that territory, one of the most afflicted by the pandemic, a clinical center for the cure and prevention of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Since then a network of collaborations was built around that center which was inaugurated by President Kikwete.
managed by the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity was opened.
An increasing demand of replication and support of the DREAM program has pushed the organization of a new meeting which brings together health professionals, who wish to further increase their knowledge and to share the experience of these years, with a great desire to learn more and to specialize.
The presence of the RMO of Arusha, doctor Frida Mokiti, wished to underline the participation and the support of the Tanzanian authorities to the DREAM program, towards which there are big expectations and gratitude to what has been achieved. The Provincial superior of the Spiritans, father Amandus, has then expressed the great joy of sharing for years this happy treatment experience with the Community, hoping that it will continue to grow.
Karibu DREAM, welcome DREAM!