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Burnet @ AIDS 2014: Engaging with the global response to HIV and AIDS

Tracy Parish

12 June, 2014

Mike Toole in an HIV education session in a refugee camp in Kinshasa.

What has characterised Burnet Institute’s response to HIV and AIDS is thinking ‘outside the box’.

In Papua New Guinea, rather than developing programs to target ‘high-risk populations’ identified in South East Asia, such as female sex workers and men who have sex with men, Burnet Institute designed the ‘high-risk settings’ approach. This recognised the indistinct nature of high-risk individuals who did not conform to those labels. Instead, community-based HIV prevention programs focused on ‘hot spots’ of high-risk sexual behaviour identified through social mapping.

Since the early 1990s, Burnet Institute has played a leading role in policy development, research, and service delivery in response to the HIV pandemic.

The first national strategic plans targeting HIV and AIDS in China, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and almost all Pacific Island countries were developed with technical support and facilitation by Burnet staff.

In Indonesia since 1998, Burnet has been an implementing partner in a succession of Australian Government-funded HIV programs. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, Burnet has led a participatory process of strategic planning that brought together such disparate stakeholders as the People’s Liberation Army and Lhasa sex workers.

Over subsequent years, the Institute has supported a broad range of sectors and initiatives. In Laos, we began by helping the Lao Youth Union to develop a national strategy to protect young people from HIV. Later, our focus on HIV prevention among the most vulnerable, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and communities along newly constructed highways. We worked closely with the military, police, and the workforce of a large mining complex. Burnet researchers conducted ground-breaking studies of young male sexual behaviour, the first HIV prevalence survey of men who have sex with men and a network mapping study of bisexual men.

We have supported some of the first harm reduction projects in Nepal and Northeast India, hosted the Asian Harm Reduction Network in its early years, and played a major role in working with the law enforcement and justice sectors to promote harm reduction in Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and Myanmar.

Most Burnet activities have involved capacity building of local partners. In Manica Province of Mozambique, we strengthened the capacity of 30 local NGOs to provide a broad range of services, including antiretroviral therapy, income generation for people living with HIV, condom distribution, and orphan care.

The Australian Government-funded Strengthening HIV Responses through Partnership Project in Myanmar helped build the capacity of a broad range of partners, including the Myanmar Red Cross, the Muslim Central Fund Trust, and the YWCA.

Another area where Burnet has often led the way has been the prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV. In a number of countries, including India, Laos, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea, we have helped to develop evidence-based policies that include the involvement of expectant fathers in antenatal and postnatal care.

Professor Toole has spent more than 40 years working in international health and is currently a Burnet Institute Deputy Director.

This article first appeared in a special HIV edition of IMPACT.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Michael Toole AM

Former Board member, Special Advisor on Nutrition

Telephone

+61392822216

Email

mike.toole@burnet.edu.au

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