Lars Jørgen Østergaard

Challenges facing HIV treatment in Guinea-Bissau: the benefits of international research collaborations

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PROBLEM: The introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa has improved the quality of life of millions of people and reduced mortality. However, substantial problems with the infrastructure for ART delivery remain.

APPROACH: Clinicians and researchers at an HIV clinic in Guinea-Bissau identified problems with the delivery of ART by establishing a clinical database and by collaborating with international researchers.

LOCAL SETTING: The Bissau HIV cohort study group was established in 2007 as a collaboration between local HIV physicians and international HIV researchers. Patients were recruited from the HIV clinic at the country's main hospital in the capital Bissau.

RELEVANT CHANGES: Between 2005 and 2013, 5514 HIV-positive patients were treated at the clinic. Working together, local health-care workers and international researchers identified the main problems affecting ART delivery: inadequate drug supply; loss of patients to follow-up; and inadequate laboratory services. Solutions to these problems were devised. The collaborations encouraged local physicians to start their own research projects to find possible solutions to problems at the clinic.

LESSONS LEARNT: The HIV clinic in Bissau faced numerous obstacles in delivering ART at a sufficiently high quality and patients' lives were put in jeopardy. The effectiveness of ART could be enhanced by delivering it as part of an international research collaboration since such collaborations can help identify problems, find solutions and increase the capacity of the health-care system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Pages (from-to)909-14
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

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