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MSF hosts first-ever scientific day in Harare

by Stephen Jakes
15 May 2015 at 12:49hrs | Views
For the first time-ever, Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is hosting a scientific day on African soil - here in Zimbabwe.

Researchers from different countries where MSF operates have presented their findings drawn from the field operations to up to 70 participants during the meeting on Thursday, 14 May at Cresta Lodge in Msasa, Harare.

The scientific day conference has become a common feature on MSF's calendar and it is hosted in a few selected countries every year.

This year similar events have been held in the United Kingdom and India. This event is fast becoming a major meeting place to share knowledge and critical views, whilst cementing relations between MSF and its stakeholders who include researchers, medical professionals, academics, health institutions and associations, media and its patients among others.

"It is a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of our research, technology and innovations from the field projects in different countries. It is a special time for us in MSF because it is also a time to reflect on our work with a critical view to changing, improving or replicating some of the strategies we employ in our work to ensure provision of quality healthcare, as well as increase our engagement with the medical community", Fasil Tezeera, MSF Operational Centre Belgium Head of Mission said.

During the conference, MSF presented its findings on selected topics including cervical cancer screening in Zimbabwe, Ebola in West Africa, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) experiences indifferent contexts, viral load monitoring in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Swaziland, models of care to deliver medication for chronic diseases in Kenya and the challenges of treating HIV in children and adolescents in South Africa.

Running concurrently with the scientific day conference is the "Windows in my life" painting exhibition developed by some survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) from MSF's project in Mbare. The survivors employed body mapping as a form of art to express their feelings, emotions and experiences.

"The exhibition aims to create a platform for sexual violence survivors to educate communities, raise levels of their self-esteem and help stakeholders raise awareness through representing the experiences they lived through by using Body mapping art," Ann Van Den Born, MSF's SGBV project co-ordinator said.

About 19 paintings and short stories explaining the paintings were displayed.

 The annual incidence of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe is 34.5 per 100,000 women and presumably higher among HIV-infected women. Because of the high rate, the MoHCC has started offering cervical cancer screening supported by MSF in one of its HIV/TB projects in Epworth in Harare since June 2013.

Since the project started, MSF has recorded high rates of pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions amongst women - an indication that there is a new health threat in Zimbabwe. More needs to be done to ensure treatment and resources are made available to stem the threat of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe. The statistics will be presented during the oral presentation.

The impact of viral load (VL)monitoring - successes and challenges in implementation in Zimbabwe , the views and experiences of patients regarding VL monitoring in Swaziland - As per the WHO guidelines viral load monitoring has been recommended as a gold standard for monitoring people on Antiretroviral Treatment. Viral load monitoring measures the amount of HIV in the blood and helps identify people with adherence challenges or treatment failure. MSF has adopted this method in its programming in different countries including Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The Zimbabwe presentation will show the operational challenges of implementing the viral load algorithm whilst the Swaziland study looks at patients' views on viral load. Most participants found knowing their viral load very positive and helped encourage them to continue to take their medication. However a significant number said they had limited information about viral load and felt health care workers were judgemental and negative when a high viral load was given.

A critical look at MSF and the community response to Ebola in West Africa – MSF presents a retrospective analysis of the main characteristics of patients admitted to eight of its nine Ebola Management Centres operational in January this year along with a fascinating qualitative study on the effect of the state enforced containment measures put in place in Liberia Multi Drug resistant TB is long and with many side effects. A study from Swaziland looks at the possibility of reducing the treatment from over 20 months to 9 – are outcomes good enough and are side effects less?

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is an international, independent medical humanitarian organisation working to bring emergency medical care to people caught in conflict, crises, epidemics and disasters in more than 70 countries around.

Annually, more than 6,500 MSF aid workers, nurses, logisticians, and others of may different nationalities go on MSF assignments in different countries around the world. They work together with more than 27, 600 locally hired staff, who play a pivotal role within MSF.

In Southern Africa, MSF has projects in 6 different countries including; Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and Swaziland. Some of the projects include; treatment and care of people living with HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and Drug Resistant TB (DR-TB), screening and treatment of hepatitis B and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in prisons, Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) interventions. MSF also works on emergency preparedness, monitoring of essential drug stocks under the Stop Stock Outs Project, provision of mental health services as well as maternal health care.

Source - Byo24News