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  • DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Hosts Training for Global Staff

    SAN DIEGO – The DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP), which is headquartered at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC), hosted training in San Diego Jan. 18-25, for program managers and field staff from 41 different partner countries.

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    DHAPP, an implementing agency for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), assists foreign military partners develop and implement military specific HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs. The annual training provides an opportunity for DHAPP and their in-country staff to review program strategies for controlling the epidemic of HIV/AIDS within militaries around the world.

    “A majority of our program managers are an ‘army of one’ in their country,” said Dr. Richard Shaffer, director for DHAPP. “They are locally employed staff who work at the U.S. embassy in their country to provide the day-to-day operational oversight and program management of the military HIV program. They are vital members of the DHAPP team, working to ensure militaries around the world have policies for a healthy and deployable force, programs to prevent new infections, and capable health systems in place to provide care and treatment for troops and their dependents.”
    Attendees for the first session, Jan. 18-20, came from 25 countries whose HIV/AIDS programs are funded by PEPFAR and included staff from Zambia, Mozambique, Vietnam, Malawi, and Dominican Republic. Their training focused on technical and programmatic priorities for military populations and how to reach the “90-90-90” targets set by United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The targets, which aim to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, are:
    ·         90 percent of people will know their HIV status
    ·         90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART)
    ·         90 percent of all people receiving ART will have viral suppression
    “Over the past few years, we’ve seen a more targeted strategy and shift toward focusing on treatment by the global HIV/AIDS community, led by UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, and PEPFAR,” said Shaffer. “It’s important for our technical, epidemiological, programmatic, and operational staff to all collaborate as we review and align our country strategies.”
    Staff from the programs for 16 different countries funded by the Defense Health Program attended the second session, Jan. 23-25, and comprised attendees from Togo, Peru, Gabon, and Burkina Faso. In addition to technical and programmatic training, DHAPP conducted country reviews during this session to assess fiscal and programmatic indicators and evaluate plans for future operations.
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    The second session included representatives from the U.S. Africa and Southern Commands as well as Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense for health services policy and oversight, and Dr. J. Christopher Daniel, senior advisor for global health engagement to the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
    “HIV rates are on the decline in some countries but it’s still a threat to certain countries, especially on the African continent,” said Adirim. “A lot of these countries may not have the resources to maintain an HIV/AIDS prevention program. DHAPP works to ensure that we are targeting resources and interventions to the places where they will have the most impact.”
    Adirim also says that establishing and maintaining good relationships with foreign countries, like DHAPP has done through their HIV/AIDS work, can help facilitate rapid interventions for other infectious diseases when there are outbreaks.
    “I see this as great opportunity to engage foreign countries by supporting their militaries and the communities in which their militaries serve,” adds Adirim. “Having strong partnerships with foreign militaries and providing leadership in eradicating HIV and AIDS strengthens our standing in the world.”
    For Daniel, attending the annual training was a homecoming of sorts. As the commanding officer of Naval Medical Research Center from 2006 to 2009, NHRC’s parent command, he was familiar with DHAPP’s role in global HIV/AIDS prevention.
    “DHAPP hasn’t just continued their work,” said Daniel, “They’ve gotten better. As science has evolved, they’ve remained on the cutting edge. When the program started, they were predominately about prevention, which is still very important, but they’ve also become more involved with the clinical continuum. They’ve recognized that by identifying and treating people with HIV early, they prevent additional people from contracting the disease too.”
    According to Daniel, DHAPP’s efforts to maintain the relationships they’ve established with foreign militaries are consistent with the overall trend in the DoD for sustainable global health engagement.
    “We don’t just focus on doing something good today and tomorrow,” said Daniel. “More importantly, we want the countries we’re working with to be able to sustain the programs we put in place. Our ongoing commitment to the health of our partner nations lets them know we are here to stay, and that is critical to global health security.”
    DHAPP partners with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Peace Corps in providing guidance and assistance to 61 partner military HIV programs around the globe.
    As the DoD’s premier deployment health research center, NHRC’s cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation’s armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.
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