A doctor at the Royal Free Hospital has described how collaborating with healthcare professionals from across south east Europe, North Africa and the Middle East has helped improve treatment and care for thousands of HIV patients.
Mike Youle, who works at the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC) at the Royal Free Hospital, provides education about HIV, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis (TB) to clinical staff across these regions through JUSTRI, a not-for-profit organisation he founded 10 years ago.
It all began when Mike and a visiting doctor from Belgrade, Serbia, part of a European AIDS Society training programme underway at the Royal Free at the time, provided support and advice on HIV to clinical in her home city.
“People with HIV in Serbia weren’t able to get the same sort of care as we could provide here at the Royal Free Hospital,” said Mike. “At that time it was mainly down to a lack of drugs and education. Together we developed a strategy to help change this through a long term education and resource collaboration which is still going. The doctor in question is now the assistant professor and has developed a joint research programme there”
With the help of two patients, Mike went on to develop JUSTRI to help other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, doctors and laboratory personnel) as well as patients. The organisation has grown into a network of colleagues delivering advice and education to improve care for those with HIV, hepatitis and TB, across a wide region, from the Baltic states to Morocco – a recent project involves teaching surgeons concerned about operating on patients with HIV and educating them to treat all patients the same.
“The idea is having a network of doctors, nurses, psychologists, lab staff who all work together to provide education through direct teaching and a flourishing exchange programme,” said Mike. “An important message for these regional healthcare staff is not to be frightened of HIV – the stigma of HIV remains a huge challenge across all these countries.
“The vast majority of what we have achieved, we have done so because we come from outside, which means that we can say things which other people can’t. For example, in Romania we are able to say to senior people, including politicians - you don’t have enough access to treatment. The junior doctors working in the service would find it hard to criticise like that.”
Image: Dr Mike Youle, HIV consultant.
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About the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
The Royal Free began as a pioneering organisation and continues to play a leading role in the care of patients. Our mission is to provide world class expertise and local care. In the 21st century, the Royal Free London continues to lead improvements in healthcare.
The Royal Free London attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver and kidney transplantation, haemophilia, renal care, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, Parkinson's disease, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and we are a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners.