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HIV Drug Resistance Strategy and Protocol Development Consultative Meeting Held in Addis Ababa

The HIV Drug Resistance Strategy and Protocol Development Consultative meeting was jointly organized by the WHO, EPHA, EHNRI and the African Society of Laboratory Medicine from June 25 to 27; where 52 leading public health professionals from 10 countries shared their most up-to-date knowledge and experiences on HIV drug resistance, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In her keynote address to participants of the workhop, Dr Tewabech Bishaw, President of EPHA, mentioned that local professionals would use the opportunity to share and highlight Ethiopia’s valuable knowledge and experience on HIV drug resistance.

She noted that the Ethiopian Public Health Association is honored and privileged to partner with WHO, ASLM and EHNRI in organizing the consultative workshop to address the issues on HIV Drug Resistance which is Africa’s most critical public health challenge of the time.

According to the WHO report, global antiretroviral therapy (ART) scale-up has brought about impressive declines in HIV-related morbidity and mortality in resource-limited settings (RLS) over the past decade. Despite the obvious benefits of ART scale-up, the potential for widespread emergence and transmission of HIV drug resistance (HIVDR) to antiretrovirals (ARVs) has been a major ongoing concern of public health experts.

The purpose of the workshop on the implementation and sustainability of HIV Drug Resistance Surveillance in Africa at large is to support future implementation of a harmonized and quality controlled HIVDR surveillance and to provide guidance to WHO on the development of a technical agenda to support it.

In order to fulfil the goals of the 2012 HIVDR strategy, WHO and its partners have, thus, developed conceptual briefs which outline protocols for surveillance of transmitted HIVDR, HIVDR in pre-treatment populations and HIVDR in populations receiving ART. This new protocol is expected to provide nationally representative results and provide solutions for HIVDR surveillance in low-prevalence and intense epidemics. WHO organized this consultative workshop in Addis Ababa with the aim to collect feedback and technical input from countries about the usefulness of the anticipated data, feasibility of implementation, and country data analysis needs.

One or more element of the WHO global HIVDR prevention and assessment strategy has been implemented in 64 low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, North America and the Caribbean since December 2012, it was disclosed during the consultative workshop.

Dr Silvia Bertagnolio WHO HQ /Representative for her part said that So far her organization has made significant progress in the region in expanding access to HIV treatment and care. However, drug resistance can roll back years of collective effort and investments. The primary objective of the three-day workshop according to Silvia was, therefore, to review and discuss ways to improve national and regional systems to monitor the emergence and transmission of HIV drug resistance.

While discussing the feasibility of the consultative process Dr Silvia said that they have already presented the new methods at 3 other workshops, in Asia, Latin America, and one for Francohpne countries in Africa. According to her, the one they have organized in Addis Ababa is a plan to conclude these consultative process with the two coming workshops for Anglophone countries in Africa.

Taking part in the workshop were; ART program managers, regional experts in HIVDR surveillance, Ethiopian Public Health Association (EPHA), African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI), Partner organizations [PharmAccess African Studies to Evaluate Resistance (PASER), United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD), WHO/AFRO.