ASHM visits Timor-Leste to renew collaboration

August 25, 2022

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A recent trip to Timor‑Leste marks ASHM’s renewed support to the Ministry of Health, to be delivered through the Triple Elimination project in collaboration with Maluk Timor. This project is supported by the Australian Government and donations from ASHM members.

ASHM has a long-term relationship with Timor-Leste, initially beginning with support to the Timor-Leste Medical Association (Assosiasaun Mediku Timor-Leste or AMTL) in 2009 and continuing over various projects since.

Now, ASHM is preparing to work with the Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with Maluk Timor, on a three-year project to strengthen efforts toward the prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis B –Supporting Triple Elimination in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste Project (STEPT).

While HIV, STI and BBV services in Timor-Leste have made significant progress, currently approximately only 41% of pregnant women are screened for HIV during pregnancy (Steen, Mathenge & Rewari, 2019) despite 84% of women aged 15-49 receive antenatal care (ANC) (GDS TL, 2018). Rates of syphilis screening are unknown and hepatitis B testing is not routinely provided due to issues with treatment access.

To improve access to universal HIV and syphilis screening for pregnant women and increase hepatitis B birth dose vaccinations, ASHM is collaborating with the Communicable Disease Control and Maternal and Child Health Departments of the MoH, as well as the National Institute of Health, to design and deliver a training and professional development program for midwives. The program will be developed following a period of joint relationship building, learning and reflection with midwives at one Community Health Centre in DIli, where the training program will then be piloted.

This work will be delivered through a formalised collaboration with Maluk Timor. The new Triple Elimination project will be in addition to Maluk Timor’s existing health systems strengthening work, including a clinic at a MoH facility where clinicians from both the Ministry of Health and Maluk Timor work side-by-side to provide anti-retroviral therapy and HIV support services to PLHIV. This work is strengthened by the technical support and mentorship from international clinical advisors, including ASHM members.

During the visit, ASHM’s Pacific and Timor-Leste Program Manager Karen Salter, ASHM consultant Dr Fairuziah (Zia) Alkatiri and project team members met with a range of project and sector stakeholders. These meetings enabled the team to share project plans, ensure the project is aligned with existing health strengthening work, and ensure the project fulfils the priorities of the Ministry of Health and community organisations.

Among those the team met with is the current General Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health and former President of AMTL, Dr Odete da Silva Viegas. On hearing of the revival of ASHM’s support in Timor-Leste, Dr Viegas said “I know ASHM well, and am a long-term supporter of their work. I’m really happy to hear about ASHM’s plans to continue supporting the Ministry of Health in Timor-Leste and look forward to supporting this project”.

The visit also enabled AHSM to participate in Timor-Leste’s World Hepatitis Day celebrations and understand the additional gaps where AHSM may be able to provide support going forward.

General Directorate of Statistics Timor-Leste (2018) Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey. Ministry of Finance, Timor-Leste and ICF. Dili, Timor-Leste and Rockville, Maryland, USA: GDS and ICF. Steen, R., Mathenge, J., Rewari, B (2019) HIV/AIDS External Mid-term Review. Timor-Leste.

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