RIC, Brown University sponsoring two-day HIV conference in Ecuador

RIC will collaborate with the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University to sponsor an international HIV prevention and treatment conference in Quito, Ecuador, on March 18 and 19.

The Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) is hosting the event, which will examine the latest treatments, strategies and research on HIV prevention and management.

The proposal for the conference resulted from an international agreement signed last year between PUCE and Ron Pitt, RIC’s vice president for academic affairs.

The conference theme of HIV prevention grew out of RIC sociology professor Jill Harrison’s research at the women’s prison in Quito in 2009. An assessment survey conducted by Harrison and Suffolk University showed the potential for HIV infection in the prison due to its use as a brothel, and that medical attention is the most sought-after need of the inmates.

Harrison, who along with nine RIC students recently returned from Ecuador where she instructed a course in Comparative Criminology, is a co-organizer of the event, along with Bradford Briggs, program manager of the Brown University AIDS Program (BRUNAP).

“This conference is a unique collaboration between Brown University and Rhode Island College that offers expertise from both institutions,” Harrison said. “Topics were carefully chosen in meetings that began in June 2009 with dean of medicine Carlos Acurio at PUCE, and a leading AIDS specialist, Dr. Nelson Cevallos, from Ecuador's National Ministry of Health.

“By bringing together world renowned experts from Brown and RIC in HIV/AIDS treatment and local experts in Quito, our hope is to increase the quality of care given to the residents of Ecuador who are living with HIV infection, protect medical workers from HIV exposure, highlight the latest treatment options not only in HIV/AIDS but TB/HIV co-infection, and ensure that the latest prevention methods are incorporated to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ecuador,” Briggs said.

Representing RIC at the conference will be Harrison, nursing students Lori-Ann Lima and Esperanza Guttierez, social work student Sonia Gomes and Joanne Costello, professor of nursing, who will present on the topic “Utilization of Nurses to Promote Positive Health Outcomes: Global Exemplars of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment.” Gomes will be an interpreter.

Brown faculty MDs Kenneth Mayer, Karen Tashima, E. Jane Carter and R. Clay Merchant will make presentations, accompanied by research assistant Naira Arrellano, who will be an interpreter.

Mayer will discuss the topics “What's new in HIV Prevention?: Vaccines, Microbicides, Circumcision, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis” and “Talking with Patients about Sex: How Providers can Facilitate Prevention.” Tashima will address “Expert Insights on assessing Best Practices in HIV/AIDS Therapy and Optimizing HIV Therapy for Patients With Co-morbidities.”

Merchant will present on “Management of Occupational and Non-Occupational Exposure and HIV and Recommendations for Post-exposure Prophylaxis.” Carter will offer a talk on “HIV/TB Co-infection: Optimization of Treatment Outcomes.”

The program will also include doctors from PUCE, Ecuador’s National Ministry of Public Health and Argentina as well as medical students, nursing, psychology and social work faculty and members of non-governmental organizations who work with at-risk populations.

The working agreement between RIC and PUCE marks “a stepping stone toward providing a broader international educational experience for the Rhode Island College community,” Pitt said. “Future collaboration with PUCE will expand the college's global reach and provide students and faculty with a rich set of international teaching, learning and research opportunities in an important part of the world.”