The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), in collaboration with the International AIDS Society (IAS), organized the first MENA regional IAS Educational Fund meeting on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) between June 28 and 30, 2019 at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). The symposium aimed at achieving consensus to translate the latest science on HIV into concrete actions.
Attendees included experts, providers, activists, international organizations (WHO, UNAIDS, IOM, and GF), and people living with HIV from all parts of the MENA region. HIV professionals and local partners had the opportunity to collaborate, set recommendations, and come to a consensus on recommendations that would lead to translating HIV science into practice.
“This regional symposium contributes to the establishment of a comprehensive model for HIV care, focusing on quality clinical care, education, and awareness for prevention and research,” said Dr. Nesrine Rizk, Infectious Diseases Specialist at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC).
Dr. Mohamed H. Sayegh, Executive Vice President for Medicine and Global Strategy and Raja N. Khuri Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, AUB, said, “AUB, its medical school, and medical center have for long been uniquely positioned to foster academic excellence and promote the best for the public and the community. Our conference today aligns with that vision; it is just a first step, and there is far more to be done and far more for us to strive for especially in our part of the world”.
In 2016, the International AIDS Society (IAS) launched the IAS Educational Fund to provide educational and training opportunities to frontline HIV professionals as the rapid pace of scientific discovery in care for people living with HIV and AIDS requires clinicians and HIV service providers to remain continually up to date on research developments and best practices.
As part of its mission, the IAS organizes IAS Educational Fund meetings around the world allowing access to the latest science and offering scholarships to clinicians and HIV service providers to attend IAS conferences (International AIDS Conferences and IAS Conferences on HIV Science). It also contributes with fellowships to support the training of experts in HIV service delivery making the content of IAS conferences accessible to a wide audience.
The three days symposium that took place at Daniel ACC, AUBMC was an opportunity to discuss initiatives across the MENA aiming at healthcare policy changes in a range of areas including HIV treatment, new HIV prevention technologies, HIV co-infections and HIV cure. Attendees explored new initiatives and propositions to improve healthcare services and delivery for the community especially key populations who are marginalized and affected by stigma.
Dr. Rizk explained that HIV was discovered in 1984, and it is the causative agent for AIDS. However, today and due to potent antiretroviral therapy ART an individual living with HIV will not suffer the deleterious effects of immune deficiency and is expected to have a normal life expectancy. Furthermore, treatment will guarantee undetectable viral levels in the blood. A person living with HIV with undetectable HIV levels will not transmit HIV to her/his partners. as such, treatment is prevention”.
Attendees agreed on the importance of providing every patient living with HIV with the best medical care and support. The meeting was an opportunity for researchers across the MENA region and beyond to connect and start collaborations in the field of HIV science and treatment and prevention.
It is important to note that the conference aligns with AUB and AUBMC’s vision and presents the appropriate platform to develop new approaches towards raising awareness and reaching out to the community to help guide the delivery of the needed services for people with HIV.
For long, AUBMC has been a leader in the MENA for delivering excellent patient care, encouraging discovery and research, and providing insightful medical training for professionals. Through holding similar symposiums, AUBMC will continue to thrive to improve healthcare services and delivery for the community with respect and dignity to all.