SINGAPORE, Aug 5 (Bernama) — Sixteen participants from seven Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies convened here to learn, discuss and share their experiences on how to tackle the challenge of HIV/AIDS as part of an immersion course hosted for the first time by the Health Promotion Board, Singapore (HPB).

The main theme of the intensive training course, held from July 11 to 15, was the promotion of community health. It also offered the participants a platform to build strategic links for HIV/AIDS prevention work across Asia and beyond.

The participating APEC countries included Indonesia, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

IMMERSION COURSE ON COMMUNITY HEALTH PROMOTION

Keeping in mind that the HIV/AIDS trends vary between regions, countries and populations, HPB shared key fundamentals with the participants such as foundations for health promotion, evidence-informed planning, social communications, and meaningful participation.

The workshop was led by Dr Koh Yang Huang, Consultant (Technical Development & Capacity Building, HPB) who has 25 years of hands-on experience in implementing, lecturing and providing consultancy for health promotion programmes.

Fellow facilitators, Mandy Govender, Deputy Director (Communicable Disease Education, HPB) has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in South Africa for 15 years, while Zarina Yusof, Deputy Director (Youth Sexuality, HPB) provided insights on how to tailor HIV/AIDS programmes for the youth, based on her past experiences as an award-winning lecturer in a local polytechnic.

The course included a practicum session involving the use of logic model and mind mapping, which the participants had to complete.

UNIQUE EXPERIENCE FOR PARTICIPANTS

Rowena Concepcion, LUNDAYAN Programme Manager (the Philippines), said, “It was an enriching experience to learn about the evidence-based strategies of Singapore. We can always modify them to suit our cultures back home, be it for HIV or other diseases.”

She noted that the relationships built from this workshop will also allow them to work more closely with each other in the future. Thanongsri Phoorisri, Public Health Technical Officer, Bureau of AIDS, TB and STIs, Ministry of Public Health (Thailand), said, “The coursework is interactive.

It helped us understand and apply a planned and structured approach towards HIV/AIDS prevention. By combining it with policies and epidemiology data that we are used to, it enables us to effectively plan ahead and successfully reach the objectives that we have set, without losing focus.”

He added that the course also transcended cultural and societal differences.

MAJOR BENEFITS

Dr Anastasia Pokrovskaya, Physician, Russian Federal Scientific -Methodological Center for Prophylaxis and Control of AIDS, Central Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology of Rospotrebnadzor, said,

“Despite the fact that we apply a different approach to HIV/AIDS management altogether, we are able to understand and see the benefits of the theoretical model towards HIV prevention. This course has provided much insight into how we can better improve our prevention efforts.”

Besides translating coursework into application, she remarked that some participants would even go a step beyond and carry the partnerships gained from the workshop into future collaborations.

Dr Monica Pun, National Coordinator of HIV/AIDS Surveillance, Ministry of Health of Peru, felt that both Peru and Singapore could learn and benefit from each others’ experiences.

She now intends to propose the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a collaboration with Singapore in the area of health promotion, specific to HIV.

Dr Zakira Taib, Senior Principal Assistant Director, HIV/STI sector, Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, found the course to be practical, easy and relevant to her work.

“I am enriched by the experience, especially with the work examples on reducing stigma and discrimination in workplaces. The model provided is an exemplary one which we would consider for plans in the future,” she said.

HIV ON THE RISE IN SOUTH AND SOUTH-EAST ASIA

The impact of AIDS on Asia is staggering. Although Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV, the virus is spreading fast in the South and South-East Asian region. According to estimates by experts, as many as six million Asians have contracted the virus, which is more than the total number of persons elsewhere in the entire industrialised world.

Most of the Asian economies suffer from low per capita income, dramatic inequities in income distribution, and poor healthcare infrastructure, making it difficult or impossible to provide high quality medical care to the needy.

GLOBAL SUMMARY OF THE AIDS EPIDEMIC, 2009

(Data from the World Health Organisation)

Number of people living with HIV

Total 33.3 million
Adults 30.8 million
Women 15.9 million
Children ( People newly infected with HIV in 2009
TOTAL 2.6 million
Adults 2.2 million
Children ( AIDS deaths in 2009
TOTAL 1.8 million
Adults 1.6 million
Children (

–Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah, BERNAMA