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HIV Positive Teens in Namibia Gather for Weekend of Fun and Support

HIV-positive teens gathered at B2Gold’s Otijikoto Mine Nature Reserve for a weekend of team-building exercises, support, and discussions about the importance of adherence to treatment.

All teens need consistent opportunities to build self-worth, explore their gifts, and feel the support of peers and adults. For teens who are HIV positive, the everyday pressures and fears of adolescence (rejection, bullying, gossip) can be amplified, making these opportunities especially important. In Namibia, adolescents and young people, especially girls and young women, continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV.

In response to these realities, in late August, a three-day Teen Club Retreat was organized by the Katutura Hospital Paediatrics Communicable Disease Clinic (PCDC) team, in collaboration with B2Gold, Champions for Life, and the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH).

Fully funded by B2Gold and hosted at its Otjikoto Mine Nature Reserve, the retreat included 49 teens from the clinic (31 girls and 18 boys), who were joined by clinic doctors, nurses, and counselors as well as facilitators from Champions for Life, a psychosocial-spiritual program for children, adolescents, and young adults with the challenges of being infected or affected by HIV.

Through team exercises, game drives, inspiring films such as “Hacksaw Ridge” and “The Soul Surfer,” lectures, and small group sessions, the retreat aimed to:

  • strengthen bonds and networks;
  • create enthusiasm about the future;
  • develop self-respect;
  • instill the values of a healthy environment, teamwork, and responsibility; and
  • keep teens engaged in care.

“I enjoyed the movies, as they motivated me. I realized that I am not the only one facing challenges. When I courageously tackle my challenges, I remain strong even if I may not win them all.” – Teen Club member

I-TECH Namibia’s Sharon Mambo, an HIV Pediatric Expert Nurse, served as a chaperone and as one of the key organizers of the retreat. Mambo led a discussion on the importance of treatment adherence and viral load suppression. In addition, she tasked one of the teens with facilitating a discussion on “transitioning,” the process during which adolescents move from paediatric HIV care to more independent adult care. At Katutura hospital, this means accessing health services at an adult ART clinic.

Addressing the teens’ fears of waiting too long for services and meeting unfamiliar faces, Mambo assured the group that a specific health worker has been assigned to work with them and they would be “fast tracked.”

“It’s a matter of changing consultation rooms when you transition to the adult clinic,” said Mambo. “You will still meet the happy, friendly staff on the other side, so lay your worries aside.”

Teen Club members enjoyed a tour of the B2Gold facility, as well as nature and wildlife walks.

Highlights of the retreat also included a tour of the B2Gold mine and a game drive, where the kids were thrilled to see reserve animals including giraffes, springboks, wildebeests, and zebras at close range. “I got to see some of these animals for the first time,” said one teen. “I never knew that some animals could be as clever as human beings.”

The team from Champions for Life also held a full-day seminar titled “NICHE,” focused on self-image, identifying gifts and abilities, and creating one’s vision for the future. This was done through music, dance drama, group presentations, and poetry.

 “I enjoyed the team-building activities because we got to work as a group and had the opportunity to come up with ideas together as a team.” – Teen Club member

“A major success of this trip was the close bond, mutual respect, and trust that developed between the staff and adolescents during the three days,” says Mambo. “The shared experience and willingness of the staff to participate fully in all sessions of the program really lowered some of the barriers and discomfort that normally exist between teens and adults.”

Mambo has also been working with teen leaders from the group to support other facilities in Windhoek to establish their own Teen Clubs.

New Course Highlights Core I-TECH Principles

ethics_screenshotI-TECH is proud to announce the launch of a new online course, Ethical Conduct & Academic Integrity: Protecting Human Subjects in the Global Health Setting. The course will be required for all I-TECH staff involved in research, program management, monitoring and evaluation, data collection or analysis, or publication activities.

The goal of this course is to instruct members of the I-TECH team on the organization’s expectations of ethical conduct in research and evaluation activities. These expectations include conducting ethical and responsible research and programmatic work; protecting participants in studies, evaluations, and data collection activities; appropriately publishing original work; and avoiding academic misconduct.

“The principles of integrity and quality work form the foundation of everything we do,” said Ann Downer, I-TECH Executive Director. “The Ethical Conduct & Academic Integrity course will not only instruct us on the practical application of these principles, but also help us keep these values at the forefront of our thinking. It is essential to effectively — and ethically — implement our health systems strengthening projects that are affecting the lives of so many around the world.”

Created by a team led by Research and Publications Manager Ellen Wilcox and E-Learning Specialist Leslie Wall, the course is divided into four half-hour “modules,” or lessons:

  • Module 1: Overview
  • Module 2: IRB and Ethics Committees
  • Module 3: Human Subjects and Informed Consent
  • Module 4: Academic Integrity

The modules present the learner with scenarios that describe potential misconduct, definitions, historical background, helpful tips and reminders, and, finally a quiz captured by Canvas, the University of Washington’s learning management system (LMS).

The course in its entirety is publicly available in the Canvas LMS at The modules are also published on the University of Washington Department of Global Health E-learning portal at

Moving forward, I-TECH will also require staff to take a yearly training on ethics and academic integrity. To this end, starting in 2015, I-TECH will offer an annual webinar to give staff the opportunity to discuss ethical issues and to ask questions about the UW Internal Review Board and ethics oversight process.

I-TECH’s Holmes Receives Gairdner Foundation’s 2013 Global Health Award

holmesI-TECH’s founding principal investigator Dr. King Holmes received the Gairdner Foundation’s 2013 Global Health Award last week for his scientific contributions to the field of sexually transmitted diseases.

Holmes received the award in Toronto in front of an audience of fellow scientists and researchers. The Gairdner Awards are Canada’s foremost science honor.

According to an article about the event in the Globe and Mail, Holmes cautioned that although strides are being made in under resourced countries to prevent the spread of HIV, residents of other nations may becoming complacent against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Holmes said rates of HIV remain high in developed countries despite new treatments, a sign that not enough prevention is done.

“Expert diagnosis and treatment for those who show up at your clinics is essential, but this alone is a drop in the bucket,” he said, alluding to the need to fight “condom fatigue” in high-risk groups.

These setbacks are occurring as infection rates are decreasing in lower-income countries, he noted.

Read the entire article on the Globe and Mail‘s website.

TrainSMART Now Available in Seven Languages

The Training System Monitoring and Reporting Tool (TrainSMART) is now translated into Spanish and Portuguese, along with French, Dutch, Ukrainian, Russian, and English.

TrainSMART is an open-source, web-based training data collection system. It allows users to accurately track data about training programs, trainers, and trainees, to better evaluate programs and report activities to stakeholders. In addition to capturing training and participant data, TrainSMART has a robust reporting module that allows users to run various automatic reports, as well as create and save customized reports that can be run at any interval.

The new languages are already available for use on all websites.  TrainSMART administrators may activate them in the Administrative section under “Country Setup.”

TrainSMART has been deployed in more than 25 countries and scales effectively from small, institution-level deployments to national implementation.

Dr King Holmes Wins Gairdner Foundation’s 2013 Global Health Award

King HolmesI-TECH’s founding principal investigator Dr King Holmes has been awarded the Gairdner Foundation’s 2013 Global Health Award for his scientific contributions to the field of sexually transmitted diseases. Holmes holds the William H. Foege Endowed Chair in Global Health at the UW Department of Global Health, where I-TECH is based, and has led I-TECH since its inception.

The award  recognizes “a scientist whose research has made, or has the potential to make, a significant impact on health in the developing world.”  The Foundation notes that “King has spent 45 years researching sexually transmitted diseases. His work has led to many diagnostic tests and therapies for treating and preventing numerous infections, including human papilloma virus, gonorrhea, chlamydia and genital herpes.”

Announcing the award in an e-mail to the UW School of Public Health, Dean Howard Frumkin wrote, “King has been a force of nature here at UW, as a longtime leader in the School of Medicine, and more recently as Chair of Global Health—a leader in education, in research, and in program-building, a mentor and role model to many, a true gentleman,  and a friend.   Please join me in congratulating him on this signal, and richly deserved, honor.”

Read more in The Lancet’s coverage of the announcement, and the Gairdner Foundation’s announcement.