Jan. 19, 2012 - EAST LANSING, Mich. - While global
attention to HIV/AIDS remains strong, a lack of focus on prevention strategies is stonewalling health experts in many developing nations,
specifically in the Caribbean.
By adopting a new approach to HIV prevention, Michigan State University's Institute of International Health is hoping to turn
the tide on new infections on the island of Hispaniola, which accounts for nearly 75 percent of the Caribbean's AIDS cases.
"Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic have struggled to respond to the epidemic of HIV/AIDS based upon the resources
available to them," said Reza Nassiri, director of MSU's Institute of International Health and an associate dean in the College of
Osteopathic Medicine. "We have developed an academic approach to address the critical role of HIV prevention with a primary
focus on cultural competency."
That approach involves training and mentoring opportunities for local health care professionals, including nurses and social
workers, said Nassiri, who will present the plan at the upcoming Global Risk Forum's One Health Summit 2012 in Davos, Switzerland, on
Feb. 19-22. The summit provides a forum for cross-disciplinary approaches to human health, highlighting the interconnectedness of
human, animal and environmental health with food safety and security.
"Our need assessment survey indicates screening for sexually transmitted diseases is a vital HIV prevention tool in at-risk
communities, especially among the youth," said Nassiri, noting the primary route of HIV transmission is sexual encounters. "Our approach
also will develop a telemedicine connection with selected partners to strengthen HIV prevention."
The barriers to sustainable HIV programs are numerous, including lack of resources and trained personnel, cultural hurdles,
the absence of a sustainable HIV prevention policy and inadequate funding. But the need is too great to not act, he said: "Treatment
alone will not reverse the epidemics of HIV in the endemic regions of the world."
Nassiri worked on the presentation with colleagues from MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctors United for Haiti
in both American and Haiti, and the Boca Chica HIV Clinic and the Guanine Center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The One Health Summit brings together heads of states, health ministers, medical and health experts and leaders from non-governmental
organizations to share knowledge, exchange information and discuss best practices. For more information, go
to http://www.grforum.org/pages_new.php/One-Health/1013/1/938/ .
Also at the summit, Nassiri and colleagues will discuss a model for Haiti to combat the cholera epidemic which has infected
more than 300,000 people and killed more than 5,000 since October 2010. It involves working with community workers, volunteers, Haitian
health care providers, public health officials, traditional healers and physician/nurse partners abroad.
"The success of such comprehensive intervention relies on the methodological means for implementation and the key players
involved," Nassiri said.
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in
uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating
solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive
academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.
Contact: Jason Cody
Michigan State University
SOURCE: Michigan State University