Simon Fraser University (SFU), Canada, in partnership with SANTHE, successfully hosted it’s third consecutive intensive experiential learning field course in global health, focussing on HIV and youth, from April 30 to May 11 this year.
The course, led by Dr Malcolm Steinberg, Chair of the Masters Public Health Programme at SFU, saw 19 students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds converge in Durban, South Africa, to gain some background in HIV virology, immunology, and epidemiology, as well as, to learn more about creating community and building networks.
The students, a mixture of undergraduates, Masters and PhDs, with nationalities as diverse as Canadian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Rwandan, South African, Swedish, and Zambian, brought a wealth of different perspectives to the table while examining the global burden of HIV among youth from an inter-disciplinary perspective.
Based at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson Mandela School of Medicine Campus, the students learned from guest lecturers including leading South African HIV scientists, clinicians and advocates. They enjoyed a visit to the SA Voices HIV Museum; a panel discussion reflecting on the historical development of national HIV/AIDS planning in South Africa and opportunities to strengthen the National Strategic Plan 2017-2022 by top advisors in the field; and participated in a discussion with South African writer and scholar, Professor Jonny Steinberg, on his book, “Three Letter Plague”. They travelled to an Illovu township in Amanzimtoti to visit the South African Positive Women’s Ambassadors with HIV (SAPWA). They also learned from hands-on lab-based activities at the HIV Pathogenisis Programme (HPP) laboratories based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). They visited Edendale Public Hospital, as well as the office of Integration of TB in Education and Care for HIV/AIDS (iTEACH), and learned first-hand how iTEACH engages people living with HIV, traditional healers and community members to work as front line “warriors” to increase uptake of HIV testing and TB screening at the initial point of contact in the hospital system. They also enjoyed a visit to Skobho Ward 8 - a rural settlement - to meet with a group of traditional healers to learn about how they provide HIV counselling and adherence support to people in their communities, and enjoyed a traditional ceremony and lunch whilst there.
A post course evaluation reflected a 100% satisfaction score in terms of content, instruction and general experience from the students’ perspective.