Einstein Researchers Organize Global Conference in Rwanda to Fight HIV
Einstein’s research network in sub-Saharan Africa is growing. In November, a team of researchers from Einstein and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health organized a two-day conference in Kigali, Rwanda to bring together researchers, government officials and global health organizations from 23 African countries, the United States, Switzerland, and France to share information and look at ways that HIV treatment is being implemented in sub-Saharan Africa.
(On the left): Dr. Kathy Anastos with Rwanda’s Minister of Health Dr Agnès Binagwaho and co-principal investigator Dr. Dennis Nash, from CUNY; (on the right): A map illustrates the regions where IeDEA sites are located.
The conference was the second “All Africa” meeting of the International epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA), a global network of researchers that collect and share data to help streamline HIV/AIDS research.
“The conference gave us a chance to come together and learn from each other,” said Dr. Adebola Adedimeji, associate professor of epidemiology & population health at Einstein, who presented at the conference. “We reviewed what we’ve done over the last few years, looked at our progress and then planned for the future.”
With grant support from the National Institutes of Health, IeDEA is a worldwide collaboration of researchers who collect and share data on HIV/AIDS in seven regional centers, including from 140 clinics in four regions in Africa. Dr. Kathryn Anastos, professor of medicine, of epidemiology & population health, and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health, as well as co-director emeritus of Einstein’s Global Health Center, and an attending at Montefiore, is principal investigator for Central Africa IeDEA, which includes Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.
“The conference was a great success,” said Dr. Anastos, an architect of the conference. “There were lengthy and substantive discussions on the specific research agenda that will best guide countries and public health officials in implementing HIV treatment programs that succeed in providing treatment to all individuals living with HIV.”
Montefiore’s Lynn Murchison, who serves as administrative research manager for Central Africa IeDEA, organized the meeting’s logistics, coordinated with CUNY who lined up the event’s speakers and panelists. She also worked closely with Jill Raufman and Einstein’s Center for Global Health.
While only 150 people were expected to attend, more than 200 turned out. The end result will be a policy document that lays out IeDEA’s priorities for the next four years — and will also serve as a blueprint for research worldwide of implementation of the “treat all” approach that is now recommended policy.
Dr. Anastos, who has been researching HIV for 30 years, said there was no better place than Rwanda to host such a gathering.
“Rwanda is an inspiring country. Its government is on a mission to improve the lives of Rwandans, and that includes finding and treating everyone infected with HIV, including men who have sex with men.”
While not illegal in Rwanda, as it is in some African nations, homosexuality still carries considerable stigma. Yet, Rwanda has fully embraced the World Health Organization’s “Treat All” policy recommendation, an aggressive goal of identifying and treating anyone infected with HIV with antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible.
“Rwanda is a powerhouse,” said Dr. Adedimeji. “There’s a lot that the rest of Africa and the world can learn about how such a small country like Rwanda — who not long ago was in the middle of a Civil War — now provides care to almost everyone who is living with HIV.”
Dr. Adedimeji’s presentation was about difficulties in getting people tested because; although the stigma is not nearly as severe as it was 20 or 30 years ago, it’s still a hurdle.
“How do you get people through the door? There is still shame that people face,” he said. “I used my presentation to gather ideas on how to work past that and I’m currently working on a paper about what I learned.”
He added, “We hope that all these efforts will pay off. There are a lot of hands on deck and I think our research will make an impact.”
Posted on: Monday, June 18, 2018