Senegal – Goodbye Dakar, hello Ziguinchor!

For the first time since 2009, we returned to Senegal in April this year! With financial support from Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, and in collaboration with the University of Dakar, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the Division against AIDS, we trained 97 healthcare workers with the HIV Treat’n Care[e]Education course.

In April two kick-off workshops were organized in Dakar by our local heroes Professor Cheikh Ndour, Dr. Karim Diop and Mrs. Mbaye Bineta Thiam. In August we returned to Dakar for the follow-up workshop. In total 78 of the 97 participants that started were able to successfully complete the course before the workshop.

The follow-up workshops were officially opened by Professor Ndour and Dr. Diop and continued with many inspiring, interesting presentations and activities. A person living with HIV was invited to join the workshop to discuss the HIV stigma and discrimination in Senegal and share her experience with care and support from health workers , as well as support from her family. All participants were very active and outspoken during several discussions and exercises. Dr. Aminata Thiam discussed antiretroviral treatment, continuum of care in general and differentiated care delivery in particular. Especially the latter is an emerging subject in HIV care at the moment. When asked what the most important new information was that she will use in her daily practice, one of the participants said: “The differentiated care approach to care delivery to patients: patient management is not systematic but adapted to each specific patient and his reality.”

The adherence exercise, in which the doctors (us, the trainers) prescribe placebo medication (candy) to the patients (the participants) for two days, made the participants more aware of the difficulties PLWHA encounter to be adherent to medication – only 50% took their “medication” as prescribed. The workshops ended with a cheerful ceremony in which the certificates were awarded to the participants by Professor Ndour.

In all presentations from epidemiology to resistance it was clear that the Dakar region is privileged: they test many and encounter less HIV cases, less resistance and better PMTCT. All participants and our partners expressed the need to train more healthcare workers in Senegal, especially in South Senegal where healthcare workers struggle with a higher HIV prevalence rate with less (trained) healthcare workers and resources to deliver proper care. Everyone involved is highly motivated to turn this successful training into a sustainable collaboration. We are currently organizing the kick-off workshops for the next group, this time in Cap Skirring in the Ziguinchor region (South Senegal).

We are looking forward to our return!