U.S. Supports HIV & AIDS Innovation Sharing

The fifth annual Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) symposium will be held from 14-16 July 2015 at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe. The theme of the symposium is: Sustaining MEPI Achievements:  Leadership built, lessons learnt and partnerships created towards an AIDS-free generation. The three-day conference will provide a platform for medical scholars to share insights and success stories on applied innovations to address HIV and AIDS.

Researchers and scholars representing medical schools from thirteen sub-Saharan Africa countries will attend the symposium. Experts in medical education, research, capacity strengthening, as well as health systems strengthening, will share their experiences at the symposium.  Key stakeholders, such as the African Union, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and Wellcome Trust will also attend.  MEPI findings have been published in leading journals such as the Lancet, Lancet Global Health, Academic Medicine, and African Journals Online. All publications will be represented at the symposium.

United States government through the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provided $130 million in 2010 to support activities of the MEPI program over five years.  The implementing agencies are Fogarty International, Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC)/PEPFAR and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Both institutions support the use of science and technology to support HIV and AIDS research.  MEPI annual symposia have been held in Johannesburg (2011), Addis Ababa (2012), Kampala (2013) and Maputo (2014), and these meetings have focused on increasing the capacity and quality of trained health care workers as well as retaining them where they are most needed.  They have also covered locally relevant research. Cumulatively, these initiatives contribute to the attainment of an AIDS-free generation.

Co-chairs of the Harare MEPI Symposium Professor James Hakim, (Principal Investigator of the Zimbabwe MEPI Program and Chair of the MEPI Principal Investigators Council) and Professor Francis Omaswa, (Co-principal Investigator at the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) in Uganda one of the MEPI Coordinating Centers), are optimistic that this symposium will enable MEPI schools to share their rich experiences with an exciting cross-section of stakeholders.

Professor Hakim acknowledged the partnership between the U.S. government, the MOHCC, the University of Zimbabwe leadership, the U.S. MEPI partners, and the UZ-CHS community and thanked them for being fully engaged in the MEPI platform to promote the capacity building of health workers in Zimbabwe to address the vast health needs of the country especially mobilizing resources to stop the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Shirish Balachandra, the Branch Chief for HIV Care/Treatment, for CDC-Zimbabwe, described the MEPI program as a key intervention that has strengthened the knowledge base and expertise of the healthcare workforce in Zimbabwe to move towards epidemic control of HIV and AIDS and other threats to the nation’s public health.

“Through financial assistance, didactic teaching, and mentorship, the MEPI program has supported relevant biomedical research development to strengthen Zimbabwe’s healthcare workforce since 2010.  The achievements of MEPI are complimented through other support for healthcare leadership and management training and the University of Zimbabwe’s Master of Public Health program,” he noted.

Through PEPFAR, the United States is fully committed and engaged with Zimbabwe in the national response to HIV and AIDS. Since 2012, PEPFAR has provided US$95 million each year (US$285 million total) to Zimbabwe for HIV and AIDS interventions.  The U.S. government announced a new US$95 million dollar commitment for 2015 to support the national response to HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe.