MSU develops Caribbean HIV prevention plan
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 13:11
- Published on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 13:11
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The MSU Institute of International Health has developed a new approach to HIV prevention in the Caribbean, where many people are infected with the disease because of a lack of knowledge and resources.
Reza Nassiri, associate dean of global health programs and the director of the Institute of International Health, is leading a project to help curb infections in the Caribbean, particularly Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He is slated to present his work at Global Risk Forum’s One Health Summit 2012 in Davos, Switzerland, on Feb. 19-22 and said he also hopes to extend the HIV prevention tactics to countries including Uganda, Kenya, Russia and India.
HIV is a virus that harms the body’s immune system, eventually progressing to AIDS. There still is no cure for HIV, but there are medications that can slow AIDS progression.
According to statistics from Avert.org, an advocacy agency, about 240,000 people were living with HIV in the Caribbean in 2009 and 12,000 people died from AIDS.
Nassiri, an expert in HIV, said there are many components involved in his team’s HIV prevention project, including tools to communicate across cultures.
“We are introducing a cultural competency program in HIV care,” Nassiri said. “Cultural competency … are behaviors and attitudes toward certain cultures that you develop to understand them better in order to deliver better medical care.”
The plan introduces telemedicine as a communication tool, which Nassiri said would allow MSU to sustain communication with clinical partners in other countries.
Nassiri believes the HIV prevention model will be successful because it entails the cultural competency and telemedicine components, but most importantly, the model is applicable because it integrates many disciplines into the approach, including the fields of medicine, nursing, basic sciences, social sciences and communication.
“We work with many colleges across campus to answer some of the hard, core questions of HIV prevention programs,” Nassiri said. “Our model is that it simply must be a (multidisciplinary), team approach.”
Terry Pharaon, electrical engineering senior and president of the Caribbean Student Association, is a native to Haiti and he believes the lack of resources and information is the reason for the spread of HIV.
“It would be really good to have this international health plan to prevent HIV from spreading,” Pharaon said. “People are really not informed about how HIV can be spread or if they are a carrier.”
Chemical engineering freshman Juan Mena, a native of the Dominican Republic, also said he has seen a higher rate of diseases and viruses that affect people because of a lack of sanitary resources in his home country.
“I appreciate that people are working on that without having to just because they are eager to help,” he said. “Every long journey starts with one step.”