By Cameron Scott
A lot of moving pieces go into developing and maintaining high-quality medical care. In the United States, for example, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) ensures that medical schools provide rigorous training for up-and-coming doctors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) guides the medical research agenda to continue to improve outcomes. These are two of many groups that work in parallel to drive medical progress.
As Africa pushes toward self-reliance, it is developing its own institutions. In one major step, leading medical and nursing schools launched the African Forum for Research and Education in Health in 2017. AFREhealth, as it’s known, works to improve medical education and training and health outcomes across the continent.
Ambassador Eric Goosby, MD, and project director Mike Reid, MD, worked with AFREhealth to develop a teambased training program to improve HIV care. HIV/AIDS remains the leading cause of death among African adults, and quality HIV care is undermined by the lack of collaboration among providers. Interprofessional collaboration helps providers go beyond book knowledge to become effective caregivers in real-world settings.
Strengthening Inter-Professional Education to Improve HIV Care Across Africa (or STRIPE HIV) launched at the AFREhealth conference in 2018 and rolled out through the Forum’s network in 2019. AFREhealth’s infrastructure has helped the program spread like wildfire, training more than 4,400 participants from 50 institutions in 14 countries to provide high-quality HIV care as a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Participants learn to address nuances such as treating HIV/AIDS in conjunction with tuberculosis or in pregnant women. They leave confident that they will be able to work as a cohesive group with their colleagues to provide consistent cutting-edge care to their patients.
“STRIPE is an African model for how to train healthcare professionals to address Africa’s healthcare needs in the 21st century. It offers a vision for how to deliver high-quality care for people living with HIV and other illnesses,” said Reid.
As Goosby and Reid see it, STRIPE HIV has served as a kind of test-run for AFREhealth – and it couldn’t come a minute to soon, as COVID-19 cases begin to tick up in Africa. STRIPE has put its in-person HIV trainings on hold, but the team is using the same methodology to rapidly create and disseminate a COVID-19 training module. AFREhealth is also educating providers on the epidemiology of the disease, the evidence base supporting various proposed treatments and protocols to keep healthcare providers safe.