Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is leading a project to provide technical assistance to the Libyan government to finalise the development of a national HIV strategy and programme of support. The project is supported by a €1 million grant from the Delegation of the European Commission to Libya.
Between 2009 and 2010, The International Health Group of LSTM in partnership with Libyan institutions and Harvard University's Biostatistics Department (HUBD), will produce updated and comprehensive information on the current epidemiology of HIV infection in the country in order to produce an effective national HIV strategy.
Libya is faced with the challenge of controlling HIV and the provision of appropriate treatment, care and support to children and adults with HIV and AIDS. The problem of the provision of quality care to HIV infected children is compounded by the need to control a concentrated HIV epidemic affecting mainly persons most at risk for which there is limited epidemiological data. The disease is still the object of stigma and fear and there is little known about the drivers of the epidemic among those most at risk as well as the perception of risk and knowledge of HIV among influential sectors of the community.
A skilled and diverse team will work with Libyan institutions to:
- formulate a national HIV strategy that addresses Libya's priority issues for HIV prevention and care
- obtain critical biological, social and behavioural estimates to guide and assess the strategy
- analyze the data and draw evidence-based conclusions from them
- develop policies and procedures to effectively promote best practice and evidence-based harm minimisation activities amongst key high risk groups (intravenous drug users, female sex workers, men who have sex with men), especially in prisons
- coordinate the dissemination of key HIV strategy messages and policies
LSTM's Professor Joseph Valadez will manage the project. He is one of the pioneers of methods to rapidly assess Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP), having utilised them within HIV assessment programmes throughout the world. The KAP studies will be designed to gather knowledge and misconceptions about HIV transmission and prevention, attitudes associated with stigma and discrimination and high risk behaviours. Surveys will be based on international instruments already field tested but adapted to the Libyan context and will be used to determine how to improve training and capacity building among health facility workers, religious leaders and young people.
Commenting on the programme, Professor Valadez said: "This project will establish an overall HIV strategy for Libya and provide a framework for making important decisions about how to control HIV. It will also aid Libya to join the other countries of North Africa who have HIV strategies and participate in the international UNAIDS community. We hope this project will also allow us all to better understand how HIV is progressing in North Africa and hopefully provide us with information about how to better control it."