The PANCAP South-South Learning Exchange promised to be an interesting event, and I cannot say that I was disappointed. HIV education and programming has been part of my work at GrenCHAP since 2018 and I have been especially interested in this and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for quite some time.
Though HIV is a big part of the work that I do the other STIs have always been of great interest to me. It is notable that because of increased HIV awareness the transmission of the virus has decreased across the globe. However, this focus has made education for other STIs less available and has resulted in an increase in the rates of these STIs.
Our trip to the Dominican Institute for Virological Studies (IDEV) was a fascinating experience, particularly regarding the information we received on Human Papillomavirus contraction in the anal cavity that can lead to cancers in that part of the body. HPV, though very common, is a less talked about infection but has that detrimental effect of causing cancer. Witnessing how it is treated within the facility and how these services have been made available for individuals who experience these issues was one of the best things I have seen on this learning journey. The priority placed on other STIs allows for a better understanding of the risks associated with them and helps individuals be more proactive with protecting themselves.
Overall the experience was an enlightening one. Though I am not a clinician, I am excited to see what can be done in terms of anal health services within the OECS as we try to make other STIs a priority.