Regional HIV/AIDS group hosts successful meet in SurinameSunday, September 7, 2008 – 12:23 pm
Source: Guyana Chronicle
THE 5th Annual Caribbean Cytometry and Analytical Society (CCAS) workshop held in the Surinamese capital, Paramaribo, last week ended on a high note, with delegates and trainers expressing satisfaction that the forum had recorded an incredible measure of success.
The purpose of the six-day caucus, held at the Torarica Hotel in down-town Paramaribo under the theme, ‘Diagnosis and Clinical Management of HIV and Co-Infections in the Caribbean’, was to deliver in a single week “the whole team approach required for optimal HIV/AIDS diagnosis and Clinical Management,” said CCAS President, Dr Clive Landis, who expressed satisfaction that the workshop had met its objective. It was the first time the workshop was being convened outside of the CCAS host country, Barbados.
In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, Dr Landis said: “This year we achieved our first major milestone, which was to make this [the CCAS] a regional organisation by projecting the workshop in Suriname.” He said that in spite of the logistical difficulties of getting in to Suriname, it was actually their biggest meeting ever.
Noting that the Regional Council has some 21 countries and territories, and that about 20 of those were represented at the Suriname meet, Dr Landis said: “I feel extremely happy that we’ve achieved our goals of being able to train specialist HIV/AIDS caregivers in the whole team approach we believe is necessary to bring custom care to HIV/AIDS patients.”
Crediting the composition of the workshop as being “fairly all-encompassing” Dr Landis said the caucus was designed so that each member of the team having a part to play in the treatment and monitoring of HIV would be recognised. This includes the counselors and nurses who are absolutely vital in ensuring that the adherence of patients to these complicated drug regimes is followed through, he said, adding: “That’s what we tried to achieve as a learning and training exercise, and we feel extremely happy that it has worked.”
Commenting on content of the programme used in the workshop, Dr Landis outlined that the Society tried to bring together all the aspects involved in the treatment and monitoring of HIV — from the basic principles of the disease; to how the immune system breaks down and the reason for that; and the monitoring of the breakdown of the immune system with laboratory tests. He said the Society is particularly concerned about increasing the infrastructure to support such work and is currently in the process of addressing this need.
It is for this reason that leading diagnostic vendors (meaning entities with diagnostic capability) are brought to the workshop each year so they could exhibit their equipment and software and hold demonstrations in their use, thereby exposing delegates to more innovative and affordable methods of diagnosing and monitoring HIV.
Through this means, the people of the region are given the opportunity to choose equipment that best suit their respective environment, considering that every country has different needs, Dr. Landis said.
Diagnostic vendors at this year’s workshop were: Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD); PARTEC; Roche; Point Care; Beckman Coulter; and Lab Now. The main sponsors of the event were: The Governments of Barbados and Suriname; the University of the West Indies (UWI); Destiny Group of Companies (Canada); and the Clinical Cytometry Foundation (CCF).
In addition to the focus on cutting-edge technology, which exposed delegates to accurate, affordable, and portable diagnostic solutions that make the difference in monitoring HIV, CCAS also looked at the clinical side of things in terms of the most up-to-date principles of antiretroviral therapies which, agreeably, are changing very rapidly, Dr Landis said.
During the intense six-day study, lectures were conducted by a core group of international experts on HIV, along with other Caribbean scientists and clinicians, and delegates were coached on a wide range of topics including Immunology; Virology; Pathogenesis of HIV; HIV Viral DNA Testing; the Principles of Flow Cytometry; Affordable Technologies for CD4 Enumeration; Sustainability of CD4 Testing in Developing Countries; Current Principles of HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy); Accreditation of Laboratories in the Caribbean; along with the presentation of country reports.
The objectives of the Caribbean country reports, which were critically analysed, were to:
* celebrate progress made
* identify gaps and barriers
* define needs and agree on recommendations for moving forward
* agree on targets for 2009 and beyond, and
* collect, collate and utilise data to advocate for resources and continued support for meeting the needs of national HIV Lab Programmes and achieving targets set.
The forum, which annually brings together a large gathering of internationally renowned scientists with HIV/AIDS health care professionals from the Caribbean, provides a unique event in information exchange and sharing experiences among the stakeholders.
Apart from offering a unique opportunity where delegates can learn from each other’s response to the epidemic, the forum places a high premium on timing, testing, training, science, technology and statistics, seeing these as crucial to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
A colourful opening ceremony at the Torarica Hotel two Sundays ago, at which there were addresses by President of the Clinical Cytometry Foundation, Dr. Philip Mc Coy; CCAS President, Dr. Clive Landis; Host Country Coordinator, Dr. John Codrington; Suriname’s Minister of Health, Dr Celsius Waterburg; and UNAIDS’ Dr Reuben Del Prado, paved the way for a packed week of activities.
Another interesting feature of the evening’s opening ceremony was the unveiling of a bust by Surinamese sculptor George Barron, titled: lebration: The World After Conquering AIDS’.
Adding further flavour to the event were religious songs by a male Christian quartet, and pulsating and energetic gyrations by costumed members of the Surinamese Indigenous and Maroon dance troupes.