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The Alpert Medical School will co-host a conference designed to address HIV prevention and treatment at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador, on Thursday and Friday. Jointly sponsored with Rhode Island College, the conference will bring together Ecuadorian medical students, doctors, non-government organizations and members of the local community to learn about addressing the HIV crisis from local and international experts.

The conception for the conference came from the findings of a study done by RIC Assistant Professor of Sociology Jill Harrison concerning the primary problems faced by women in the El Inca prison in Ecuador.

A survey of inmates revealed that the prison was not adequately addressing medical treatment, Harrison wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. One particular health issue resulted from the prison's "use as a brothel (unofficially), where one might expect greater transmission of sexually transmitted infections and HIV," she wrote.

After documenting the prevalence of HIV transmission in prisons, Harrison brought the issue of inadequate education about HIV prevention and treatment options to Bradford Briggs, the program manager of the Brown AIDS Project. Last year, Harrison and Briggs coordinated with Ken Mayer, director of the project and professor of medicine and community health, to bring doctors to speak.

The conference addresses "the health element" of Harrison's study and working to improve treatment of HIV given the need, Briggs said.

At the conference, four Brown doctors will serve as keynote speakers covering topics ranging from prevention to new treatment options, according to Briggs. Mayer will address prevention methods and how to take a patient's sexual history, Briggs said.

E. Jane Carter, associate professor of medicine at Brown, will also give two lectures discussing virulent strains of tuberculosis and the latest treatments for patients with both HIV and tuberculosis, Briggs said. Roland Merchant, assistant professor of emergency medicine, will primarily talk about the risk associated with needle-sticks. Karen Tashima, an associate professor of medicine and the associate director of the AIDS Project, will talk about the latest treatments for HIV and issues of co-morbidity.

Briggs added that local experts will be joining in the discussion to make the effort a more collaborative event. "I think, culturally, it is kind of weird for just Americans to come and spill their knowledge," Briggs said. But the Ecuadorians "have done a good job interjecting" and providing a "great blend of experts."

Harrison wrote that the main goal of the conference is to pass on information and inform medical professionals in Ecuador about improved treatment options and prevention of HIV.

In addition to the educational goal of the conference, Briggs said he hopes the conference will help develop future relations with the medical community in Ecuador. "From an altruistic point of view," Briggs said, "if patients are able to get a better quality of life or care, that would also be the goal."



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