On November 21, 2018 Special Advisor to the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Professor Michel Kazatchkine visited the Belarusian State Medical University.
Professor Kazatchkine attended medical school at Necker-Enfants-Malades in Paris, studied immunology at the Pasteur Institute and completed postdoctoral fellowships at St Mary’s Hospital in London and Harvard Medical School.
Since 1984, he has been Professor of Medicine at the Université René Descartes in Paris. From 1990 to 2005, he was Head of the Department of Clinical Immunology at the Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou and from 1995 to 2005 was a Director of Research at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM). During his academic carrier, Professor Kazatchkine has produced more than 500 research papers and has served on numerous editorial boards.
From 1998 to 2005, Professor Kazatchkine was director of the French National Research Agency (ANRS), the world’s second largest AIDS research program. From 2005 to 2007, Professor Kazatchkine was France’s global ambassador for HIV/AIDS and transmissible diseases.
In 2007, he was appointed as the Executive Director of the Global Fund, serving in this position until March 2012. Between 2012 and 2017, Professor Kazatchkine was appointed as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Since 2015, he is the Special Advisor to the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Professor Kazatchkine arrived in the Republic of Belarus within the framework of participation at Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) Second Regional Consultation on Expanding Access to Affordable and Quality Assured Medicines and Diagnostic Technologies (Minsk, November 20-22, 2018).
During his stay in Minsk, Professor Kazatchkine kindly agreed to give a lecture on the issues of ensuring and expanding access of patients to high-quality antiretroviral and anti-tuberculosis medicines and diagnostic technologies, improvement of treatment and laboratory support for the treatment of diseases.
During the meeting with the BSMU Vice-Rector for Scientific Work Vladimir Khryshchanovich Michel Kazatchkine touched upon his work as a Special Advisor to the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The meeting was also attended by the Head of the Department of International Relations Varvara Boika. Professor Kazatchkine stressed that his activities are focused on building high-level political support for national and regional responses to the HIV, TB and Hepatitis epidemics and advocates for improved access to prevention, treatment and care for the populations most in need. The global aim of UNAIDS is to coordinate the international response to AIDS as a threat to public health, with the goal of completely defeating it by 2030 in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Vice-Rector for Scientific Work Vladimir Khryshchanovich provided Professor Kazatchkine with information about the Belarusian State Medical University, noting that about 7 thousand students study at the university over two thousand of whom are students, undergraduates and clinical residents from more than 50 countries of the world.
Head of the Department of International Relations Varvara Boika spoke about the international partners of the university in the field of academic and scientific exchange and the ongoing international cooperation programs. The university develops cooperation with partners from more than 30 countries of the world, among which are Russia, Poland, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Israel and Turkmenistan.
After a brief meeting Professor Michel Kazatchkine gave a lecture on the increase of HIV-infection in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Junior physicians, clinical residents studying at therapeutic specialties in Minsk, undergraduate students of the Faculty of Preventive Medicine, postgraduate students and faculty members were invited to attend the lecture.
In his lecture Professor Kazatchkine outlined the main challenges related to the increase of HIV-infection in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It was noted that about 40 million people are HIV-infected, about half of them receive antiretroviral therapy, and about one million die from AIDS-related illnesses.
Professor Kazatchkine emphasized that since 2014 the UNAIDS has set an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic so called “Target 90–90–90”. According to the “Target 90–90–90” by 2020 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Achievement of the “Target 90–90–90” is vital for HIV-infected because it will to lead to the end of HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 63% of people living with HIV are aware of their HIV status, 45% of people with diagnosed HIV-infection receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 77% of people on treatment are virally suppressed.
Professor Kazatchkine also focused on legislative and policy barriers to the provision and uptake of HIV prevention in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including criminalization of same-sex relationship, criminalization of drug possession for personal use, restriction of entry, stay and residence of HIV-infected, etc. Michel Kazatchkine stressed that the issue of decriminalization is complex and must be considered in the context of the global fight against HIV infection, but this process must be under governmental control.
The lecturer noted that one of the main problems in the EECA region is late diagnosis of HIV infection, as well as an increase in the frequency of HIV co-infections, such as tuberculosis. Thus, 1 out of 8 patients with primary TB in the WHO European Region was HIV-positive. Therefore, it is important that the patient receives treatment in one place from both diseases TB and HIV.
A significant part of the lecture was devoted to the effectiveness of modern viral suppression. Reaching viral suppression means that the amount of HIV in the blood is very low. Keeping HIV at this low level helps HIV-infected patients to stay healthy and live longer, and greatly reduces the chances of passing HIV on to others. To achieve viral suppression, it’s important to take antiretroviral treatment (ART) exactly as prescribed. This “treatment adherence” usually involves taking three classes of anti-HIV medications each day, sometimes combined in one pill. Therefore, it is important to ensure the access of the most vulnerable groups of the population to timely treatment and, most importantly, quality treatment. Professor Kazatchkine noted that the cost of treatment of HIV-infected patient can be significantly reduced. Nowadays, more and more less expensive antiretroviral drugs, the so-called generics, appear on the pharmaceutical market. These are reproduced medicines - analogues of original medicines. The use of generics will lead to expanding treatment coverage.
In conclusion of the lecture Michel Kazatchkine emphasized that it is necessary to work together to prevent the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
After the lecture the audience had opportunity to ask questions and Professor Kazatchkine answered all of them.
Vice-Rector for Scientific Work Vladimir Khryshchanovich expressed gratitude to Michel Kazatchkine for an interesting lecture and cheerful conversation, and also invited the professor to visit the Belarusian State Medical University in the future.Author: Varvara Boika, Head of the Department of International Relations