World AIDS Day 2016

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, which is an “opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.”

Leading up to this day, on Friday November 25th, 2016 the Unit of HIV and Sexual Health had a semi-team building day when attending the Breach symposium in Charleroi. The first team activity was a search for the special metro-tram leading to the venue.

Several ITM colleagues presented their research and Marie Laga gave an overview on the PreP study. The Breach meeting was attended by over 300 Belgian HIV health professionals, researchers and advocates. The presentations will soon be available on the Breach website. (The presentation of Marie Laga and the Belgian HIV plan by Sandra Van den Eynde, Sensoa are available here.)

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ITM and the Swab2Know team also participated in the European HIV testing week and were able to collect 400 saliva samples. Furthermore, since Saturday 26 November, everyone can buy an HIV self-test with a CE label for € 29.90 in Belgian pharmacies. People who frequently change partners or have an HIV-positive partner, can get tested anonymously and free of charge and have personal follow-up and supervision by ITM experts.

As a World AIDS Day contribution, Marie Laga wrote an opinion piece for the newspaper ‘De Morgen.’ (Link to NL version.) On December 1 she has also appeared on television in the show called De Afspraak on the channel Canvas.

Best student poster award at global symposium goes to ITM PhD student

Ona Ilozumba won the “best student poster award” at the 4th Global Symposium on Health Systems Research for her poster entitled “A Mixed Methods Study: Community Health Workers Utilization of Mobile Health Technology in Improving Knowledge and Health Seeking Behavior of Pregnant Women.”

As a fellow in the Erasmus Mundus programme, Ona Ilozumba works both at the VU University Amsterdam and the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine on her doctoral project around mobile health technologies.  Ona began her PhD in September 2014, and her work focuses on using a realist inquiry lens. The project explores what worked, for whom and how to understand the effects of (mHealth) technology in improving maternal health care knowledge and behaviour.  Her empirical research and data collection is located in India and Uganda.

Ona cooperates with Jacqueline E.W. Broerse (Athena Institute, VU University Amsterdam) Marjolein Dieleman (KIT, Amsterdam) and Bruno Marchal and Sara Van Belle (ITM). She also works in collaboration with Dutch and local NGO’s in the research locations.

The Trans Global Health programme is a part of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate Programme and focuses on health threats to vulnerable populations that often face complex, interwoven problems such as poverty, inequity and co-morbidity.

You can view Ona’s poster here.

Ona Ilozumba & Christina Zarowsky (University of Montreal, member of the symposium's executive organizing committee)

Ona Ilozumba & Christina Zarowsky (University of Montreal, member of the symposium’s executive organizing committee)

Short-term Training in Tropical and Infectious Diseases in Nepal

It has been eight years since ITM entered into a close partnership with the Tropical Infectious Disease Center at B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Nepal to organise a yearly “Short-term Training in Tropical and Infectious Diseases” (STITID).

Each year about 15 medical doctors, mostly working for the Ministry of Health of Nepal in primary health care settings, are selected to participate in this five-week training  session on common tropical and infectious diseases. Assisted by an international panel of teachers – including ITM staff – the participants learn about state of the art disease control strategies in Nepal, about how to minimise errors in clinical decision making and they are trained on evidence-based practice. So far 128 medical doctors have undergone this training and have been keeping in touch since through a networking loop, which also provides a platform for small research activities. For example, there are currently two ongoing randomised control trials, one on antibiotic-based treatment of acute lower respiratory tract infections in district hospitals and another on treatment of undifferentiated fever in the mountains and hills of Nepal.

The financial and educational partnership between B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences with ITM (under the Framework Agreement with the Belgian Directorate-General for Development) has contributed greatly to this high quality training and  should translate into better primary care to patients all over Nepal. To achieve that, the course team has begun to explore further options for distance learning and telemedicine, both with the ITM team and with the University of Geneva. The ITM team (including Marleen Boelaert, Marjan Pirard, Johan Van Griensven, Jef Van den Ende, and Bart Ostyn among others) hopes to continue this fruitful educational collaboration for many years to come.


PhD defense Liselotte Hardy

News from Vicky Jespers, HIV and Sexual health Group, Department of Public Health the co-promotor Liselotte Hardy:

Congratulations to Liselotte Hardy with her proficient delivery of her doctoral thesis last Friday 14th of October 2016 at the University of Ghent. Liselotte studied the vaginal bacterial biofilm in relation to bacterial vaginosis or also called BV. BV is a highly prevalent condition in African countries and has been associated with the acquisition of HIV. Liselotte Hardy worked at the HIV/STI Sexual Health Group till 2015 and is currently co-developing a bed-site test for chlamydia.


Een dikke proficiat aan Liselotte Hardy met de mooie verdediging van haar thesis op vrijdag 14 oktober 2016 aan de U Gent. Liselotte beschreef in haar thesis het belang van vaginale bacteriële biofilm in bacteriële vaginose, ook BV genoemd in het kort. BV komt frequent voor in Afrika en zou mee een rol spelen in de acquisitie van HIV. Liselotte werkte tot 2015 in de HIV/STI Sexual health Group en momenteel werkt ze mee aan de ontwikkeling van een snel-test voor chlamydia.

Intro by Joris Delanghe

Intro by Joris Delanghe

Waiting for the jury

Waiting for the jury