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St. Maarten/St. Martin, nearby islands cooperate in HIV fight

TUESDAY, 23 JULY 2013 2

PHILIPSBURG–The “Development of an inter-Caribbean HIV observatory” project was evaluated and ideas for new projects were proposed during a meeting of representatives of St. Maarten, St. Martin, Anguilla and Guadeloupe last week Monday.

The new projects will be based on the needs of the various Caribbean islands, to strengthen the collaborated response to the HIV epidemic in the Caribbean region.

Attending the meeting were St. Maarten’s HIV and AIDS Project Officer Margje Troost, lead physician on HIV and AIDS/St. Maarten AIDS Foundation President Dr. Gerard van Osch, and delegations from French St. Martin, Guadeloupe and Anguilla. Representatives included doctors, healthcare specialists, civil servants and Interreg representatives. The meeting was held at Louis Constant Fleming hospital in French St. Martin.

The “Development of an inter-Caribbean HIV observatory” project is an initiative extended by the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg IV Programme with the overall objective to enhance cooperation and build regional evidence on the viriological strains of HIV, to equip and prepare countries with the knowledge, skills and systems to respond to patients’ needs.

Discussion on future cooperation was “very fruitful” and a proposal is being developed, it was stated in a press release from the Ministry of Health HIV Programme Management Team (PMT).

“It is important to recognise the collaboration with the French Government, our French colleagues and physicians such as Dr. Clavel and Dr. Stegmann, as well as Lepers Laboratory in the Interreg programme. Through this programme Dutch St. Maarten has been able to do free genotyping tests as well as CD4 and Viral load tests for both the insured and uninsured persons,” the PMT stated.

The project also gives valuable anonymous information about resistance to certain medications which is beginning to circulate on the island.

As St. Maarten and St. Martin continue to strengthen ties with each other and neighbouring islands, the work that has been achieved thus far should be acknowledged, it was stated in the release.

“Currently, St. Maarten and St. Martin are able to accommodate and provide treatment for HIV patients, have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of people getting tested, have teamed up with AIDES to do joint testing days, we have managed to increase the number of patients that are receiving state-of-the-art information on their virological strains in order to tailor treatment, and we are working with NADIS, which is a highly protected, confidential, joint surveillance system used to monitor the HIV epidemic on both sides of the island,” it was stated in the release.

NADIS has allowed St. Maarten and St. Martin to produce more accurate HIV data which is extracted anonymously without the names of the patients and then used for surveillance and planning purposes. Storing information on one unique database has allowed closer relations to form by sharing HIV data that can be accessed only by very few physicians. This allows doctors on both sides to provide an excellent continuum of care, as patients often seek healthcare on both sides.

The recent visit by PAHO expert on ICT and surveillance systems Dr. Ward Schrooten helped strengthen the collaborative efforts between St. Maarten and St. Martin by aiding Dr. van Osch with the extraction of data from the extensive anonymous HIV database Van Osch has compiled over the years. This extracted data will be used by the Dutch and French side to develop collaborative reports that will highlight the HIV epidemic in St. Maarten and St. Martin as a whole rather than in two separate countries.

Bron: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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