Throughout the past five years, the CARE program has facilitated the training of healthcare professionals in the treatment and care of HIV/AIDS across Africa. To date, Roche and PharmAccess Foundation have held four CARE training and experience exchange events, which have focused specifically on the issues faced locally by African healthcare professionals.
On March 27-29, 2006, the CARE4 meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, was opened by the meeting chairs Joep Lange, Cissy Kityo, Papa Salif Sow and Elly Katabira along with Christopher Murray from Roche. The three-day meeting, which was held in English and French, was attended by over 150 physicians, pharmacists, laboratory managers, nurses and counselors from 15 African countries. The meeting focused on the current and future issues created by HIV/AIDS in Africa, and included topics such as:
‘Political and social issues in the prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Africa’
‘Prevention of mother-to-child transmission in the African setting: next steps’
‘A view on the future of HIV treatment and preventative measures in resource-limited settings’.
The CARE4 management exchange workshop focused specifically on the issues faced in Africa by African healthcare professionals. During the meeting, a novel high-tech interactive session took place, which aimed to collect and use insights from African healthcare professionals regarding the real challenges they face on the ground as well as their needs. The anonymous feedback responses were typed directly into a specialized PC system by the session attendees, in English or French; they were then captured by a server, allowing direct, instant and paperless communication.
More than 1,400 comments were received from participants, which provided an invaluable insight into the real needs of people involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. This information is thought to be the only data of its kind to reflect the perspectives of local professionals, rather than what stakeholders in high-income countries think is needed. The results from this session have been submitted for presentation in 2007.
Delegates fed back that the CARE program has been a truly pioneering initiative, which has not only helped make antiretroviral treatment available to patients who could not otherwise have afforded it, but has clearly demonstrated that antiretroviral treatment programs can be successfully implemented in Africa.
To end the meeting, participants were asked if there was anything that could have been done differently or added to the content to improve the meeting. Ninety-three percent of the delegates responded that the meeting had been excellent; one delegate even answered that “nothing could have made the meeting better!”
Professor Salif Sow, one of the key investigators from Senegal, commented: “One of the strengths of the CARE 4 meeting was that it enabled African healthcare professionals to learn about the latest developments in HIV/AIDS care, which is something that we are very much in need of, as many of us can feel isolated. It provided us with a forum in which to meet, discuss and debate current issues of how to best care for people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.”
To build on the success of previous CARE events, Roche is committed to a fifth CARE experience exchange meeting in the first half of 2008. This meeting will differ from CARE 4 as a smaller number of healthcare professionals from more sub-Saharan African countries will be involved to increase the diversity and reach of information exchange.
For more information about CARE, a new dedicated website, www.careafrica.info, has been established.
The site includes presentations and information from the CARE4 meeting and acts as an information-exchange forum.