With IAS just days away, the question is how will you as public health professional help eradicate HIV/AIDS?
“That is our goal – zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths,” Ki-Moon said.
This strong statement challenged all of us in the global health community to reflect on current knowledge and to go forward seeking rapid response solutions. Once considered a death sentence, now prevention efforts include all levels of public health interventions: primary, secondary and tertiary. The efforts of public health professionals in the field of HIV/AIDS are complex and include ideas of drug adherence, primary HIV transmission prevention, MTCT and new innovations such as microbicide gel and the female condom.
However, the United Nations’ recent call for HIV eradication in the next 9 years positions eliminating HIV/AIDS as a monumental step toward a healthier future. From July 17-20, more than 5,000 delegates from scientist to clinician to advocate will converge in Rome, Italy for the 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention. According to the conference web site, focuses will range from biomedical prevention interventions to scaling up treatment in settings where resources remain limited. The prominent idea cutting across many paradigms of public health is a larger picture strategy. At the recent Global Health Council 2011 Conference (GHC), sessions highlighted the need for new and improved strategies for HIV education, prevention and treatment – all of which encourage new innovations in the area of HIV/AIDS. In the emergency response field, many experts are now required to look at larger systems to improve public health challenges. During the Global Health Council conference session New Investigators in Global Health Examine HIV/AIDS Issues, University of Connecticut’s Chinekwu Obidoa revealed her study, “Impact of Social Change on Adolescent Sexual Behaviors in Nigeria.” The study looked at broader ideas of globalization and popular culture’s affect on adolescent sexual behaviors.
Broader globalization brings both positive and negative. Obidoa spoke of the positives of empowering youth in Nigeria to have access to any information they want, but the struggle to control the flow of information or explain the complexities of behaviors and outcomes Nigerian youth are seeing related to sexual behavior. They are inundated with images of wealth and sexuality that they have very little means to afford, with even less understanding of how to protect themselves from peer pressure or sexually transmitted disease.
This reveals a few key interventions; the great need for mHealth interventions due to the incredible number of cell phones in the developing world, increases in educational mass media to counter the images in popular culture, and ground level family interventions to increase parental and family knowledge of the ever changing globalized world. With contributions from the World Bank and Aids.gov and featuring publications from the American Journal of Public Health and Journal of Health Communication, Knowledge for Health’s mHealth eToolkit provides knowledge management to clarify the opportunities and uncertainties of this rapidly evolving field so they can be applied to public health programs, including those focusing on HIV/AIDS.
One of the main objectives of this year’s IAS conference is to “review implementation science research that addresses the challenges of scaling up treatment and prevention, especially in resource-limited settings, including those in Europe.” When creating sustainable and scalable HIV prevention programs it is important to come up with interventions that encompass not one of the above mentioned interventions, but all of them. One solution over one channel is not enough to make a large impact; because every person is different a public health intervention must be multifaceted and include multiple mediums to affect the most change.
In the next 9 years, public health professionals have a challenge to increase HIV prevention, improve medication adherence, and reduce opportunistic infections. With IAS just days away, the question is how will you as public health professional help eradicate HIV/AIDS?
Rebecca Shore is a communications specialist for Knowledge for Health.