Botswana hosted a successful HIV and TB workshop

Author: Tulio de Oliveira, Lungani Ndwandwe - 2011-12-01

Botswana hosted a successful HIV / TB workshop, which included 219 participants from the SADC region and from across the globe. These included junior and senior clinicians, researchers (on drug resistance), government health officials and workers, and also students who are currently involved in the study of HIV and TB drug resistance.

This also included 37 invited senior presenters from the WHO, Stanford, UFS, Brazil, and the Africa Centre, to name a few. 'If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together. We need to go far, very fast' - this modified African proverb set the course for SATuRN and its partners in reaffirming the possibilities and heights that can be reached through combining individual efforts to create a solid network.

The SADC region in Africa is home to 4 % of the global population; unfortunately, it is also home to 40 % of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. One of the goals of governments in this region is to reach a sustainable, equitable and socio-economic development that will lead to the alleviation of poverty. However, the rate at which the epidemic of HIV/AIDS has spread has seen most of these objectives delayed, if not halted. Over the past two decades, most governments in the SADC region have unanimously recognised the need for and the significance of providing Anti-retro rivals (ARVs) to patients infected with HIV/AIDS. This progressive approach has led to a rising number of people initiated on Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART). Unfortunately, this achievement could soon be compromised by the lingering ghost called drug resistance. It is true that all viruses, through defaulting/failing treatment, develop resistance to particular drugs. HIV is no exception in this; a rising number of patients on ART are failing treatment. Rising concerns about the ever increasing failure rate and determination to lay this ghost to rest led the Southern African Resistance Network (SATuRN) to host its 6th Workshop on HIV/TB drug resistance in Gabarone, Botswana.

After the success of the workshops held at the University of Western Cape in 2008 and at the University of the Free State in 2009 and 2010, the Botswana workshop followed the same successful format. It covered presentations of Anti-Retroviral treatment (ART) programmes and clinical cases management. The workshop also expanded to cover TB resistance. The general consensus, as was echoed by Dr Refeletsoe Lebelonyane,* the Director of the Health Ministry of Botswana, was that HIV drug resistance and TB resistance should be talked about on the same platform. Dr. Lebelonyane also ended by saying '...how we cope with these challenges will determine our success in future' . The achievements and success of the workshop were also accompanied by the launch of an open access HIV/TB Drug Resistance and Clinical Management Case Book designed to help clinicians to better understand resistance and virus mutations. This was also coupled by a SATuRN/Life Technologies Genotype Manual for laboratory use.

The Southern African Resistance Network (SATuRN) has been a champion in the campaign for promoting collaborative efforts between virologists, researchers, clinicians, medical personnel and policy makers in the SADC region and across the globe. SATuRN currently includes 24 research partners in Southern Africa and has collected over 3,200 resistance genotypes linked to treatment and clinical information. To collect, curate, interpret, and disseminate sequence and drug resistance data, SATuRN has installed the two best HIV drug resistance databases in the world (the Stanford HIV Drug Resistance Database and RegaDB clinical Management and Drug Resistance Database) in South Africa and Botswana.

This workshop was sponsored by the Botswana Ministry of Health in collaboration with Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, The South African Medical Research Council (MRC),The Southern African Treatment and Resistance Network (SATuRN) in collaboration with Life Technologies, the European Commission (EC), the Canadian International Development Agency (IDRC), the Wellcome Trust and the US PEPFAR/CDC.

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