Scholarships support the uptake of HIV innovations in the region

July 28, 2022

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A scholarship program run by ASHM’s International division, with the support of Abbott and ASHM’s membership, is supporting the uptake of HIV prevention and treatment innovations in the region.

Joining the recent Joint HIV+AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences 2022 in the Sunshine Coast were a group of colleagues from across the Pacific and Timor-Leste.

Attending the Joint Conferences provides delegates from across the region a unique opportunity to learn about innovations in HIV treatment and prevention, and to consider how such innovations could be implemented in their own contexts.

“This was my first ASHM conference that I have attended. I wanted to learn and know more about how other countries tackle HIV/AIDS and STIs, and the issues they have. I also wanted to learn new things regarding sexual health” said Dr. Jackson Rakei, Director STI/HIV/HEP Unit, Ministry of Health & Medical Services, Solomon Islands

While Australia looks towards the benefits of innovations such as long-acting injectable PrEP, many of our regional counterparts are planning the initial rollout of, or are in the early stages of rolling out, daily or on-demand PrEP for the first time.

The introduction of PrEP and HIV self-testing across the Pacific and Timor-Leste is enabling country HIV programs to diversify their prevention efforts, which up until now have still relied heavily on condom promotion. In this context, Australia can play a role in enabling regional colleagues to learn from our experiences of implementation – including what is and isn’t working. Additionally, attending the Conference has contributed to the sense of support and motivation among early to mid-career colleagues from the region. 

“This Conference was a great opportunity for me to clarify and strengthen my knowledge and passion in infectious disease medicine, particularly HIV. Even though I may not have been able to learn everything at the Conference, what I could take from the event is incredibly valuable for my future career” Dr. Bonifacio Da Silva De Jesus, HIV Doctor, Maluk Timor.

“I have had my expectations met in this great event and am happy to be part of the global community working together in this health space.” Simon Pekon, ACTUP Project In-country Coordinator (an initiative to accelerate innovative HIV VL and DR, and EID testing services in PNG).

As well as supporting attendance at the Joint Conferences, AHSM’s international division has provided scholarship funding for the professional development of community health workers from Timor-Leste, to support their participation in the rollout of innovations like PrEP and HIV self-testing.

Zizi Belo, a transgender community health worker who provides peer HIV testing, received a small scholarship to support her to gain PrEP knowledge. With ASHM support, Zizi was able to visit two services involved in the rollout of PrEP in Indonesia – Kerti Praja and Bali Medika. By visiting these facilities and observing peer-led PrEP implementation, Zizi is now able to effectively contribute to the direction of the PrEP rollout in Timor-Leste for her community.

By donating to ASHM’s international projects, ASHM members can contribute to the equitable rollout of HIV innovations across Asia and the Pacific regions. ASHM also thanks Abbott for its long-standing commitment to the scholarship program.

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