Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

05 October 2012

The social drivers of HIV: In conversation with Charles Stephens Part 3

Original content from our Mapping Pathways blog team

"I'd like to see us...reflecting on our successes. It has been proven that testing someone for HIV and, if positive, linking them to services and care as soon as possible has very positive health outcomes."

In the final part of this three-part series, Charles Stephens of AIDS United, a Mapping Pathways partner organisation, speaks about the successes in the HIV prevention landscape and some of the challenges faced by people in rural areas. Read part one here and part two here.

MP: What are the things being done well in the HIV prevention landscape?

CS: Models like the Mapping Pathways project excite me. The process of collecting data from a variety of different experts and stakeholders on the field and using that data to make a strong case is an excellent model. Other interesting models are AVAC’s HIV prevention research advocacy working group, which I’m a part of, and the community education and research advocacy work of the Black AIDS Institute. Most importantly, stakeholders and leaders within communities are trained and supported to go back to their communities with new biomedical HIV prevention information to disseminate it within their communities.

One of the things I’d like to see more of is reflecting on our successes and planning how to build on the victories we’ve seen over the last few years. It has been proven that testing someone for HIV and, if positive, linking them to services and care as soon as possible has very positive health outcomes. Also from the community perspective we have achieved certain successes like reducing stigma, mobilising communities and providing support networks and services. I’m extremely interested in finding out how we can build on these successes.

MP: What are some of the challenges individuals and communities face in rural areas?

CS: Capacity is one of the main challenges in rural areas. I find that the doctors on the ground are often very knowledgeable, passionate and committed, but the problem that is there just aren’t enough doctors and medical resources. 

Transportation is another huge barrier in rural areas. People have a hard time getting to their doctors, as the transportation infrastructure isn’t always in place. Some people have to travel three or four hours to get to their physicians.

Addressing these barriers has been a challenge, but there have been some innovations like telemedicine, where doctors can remotely provide medical information and check in with their clients from a different location.

MP:  Are there any trial results that came out recently that you have followed closely? Are there any upcoming trials you are interested in?

CS: The HPTN 061 study, which looked at 1553 black, American MSM, shared initial results at AIDS 2012 that reinforced what a lot of us had been seeing on the field. One of the most startling projections of the study was that unless improvements are seen, more than half of all young black gay men who are gay or bisexual will be infected by HIV within the next decade.

Other upcoming trials I will be following with interest are the HPTN 073 study which looks at ways to optimise PrEP adherence in black MSM and the HPTN 069 study, also called NEXT PrEP, which seeks to assess the efficacy of four ARV drug regimens used as PrEP to prevent transmission of HIV in a population of at-risk MSM.

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