SVYM offers a unique course in the area of HIV care and treatment which is in dire need of experts.

There is an acute shortage of qualified and trained human resources in HIV care, treatment and support services in the State. The anti-retroviral treatment (ART) centres and community care centres for HIV patients are facing severe scarcity of doctors trained in HIV medicine.

With the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) increasing the number of community care centres and ART centres to meet the growing demand, the demand for qualified physicians has also gone up. And thanks to the rise in the number of HIV care and treatment centres in Karnataka, there is an urgent need for committed and competent physicians to manage them and ensure proper care of patients.

Importantly, Karnataka is likely to have nearly 35 community care centres and 40 ART centres and the State plans to extend ART services to the level of primary health centres in a phased manner.

“HIV medicine was not a part of the curriculum at the time of training of most practising doctors. Moreover, there has been a steady progress in knowledge and practice in HIV care and treatment which required constant updating by the doctors. The opportunities for physicians to hone their knowledge and skills were limited in the absence of a detailed course in HIV medicine,” explains Dr. S. Rajendra Prasad, a senior physician trained in HIV medicine at the University of South Florida, U.S. and Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.

Dr. Prasad says the shortage of doctors in HIV care is very high in the State and doctors are not familiar with the treatment procedures.

Taking all these factors into consideration and to address the challenges in HIV care, Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), a voluntary social service organisation started by a group of medicos of Mysore Medical College in 1984, conceptualised the HIV fellowship course.

Residential course

Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) has recognised the course and has introduced a 12-month residential course in HIV fellowship. The course, which has six-month compulsory internship, began in two institutions in the State with a maximum intake of 10 participants (for each institute) from July 1, 2009 onwards. Vivekananda Memorial Hospital, Saragur, a unit of SVYM, and Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), Bangalore, are the affiliated institutions for the fellowship.

“The course is said to be the country's first university-recognised fellowship in HIV medicine,” said Dr. Prasad, who works at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital at Saragur in H.D. Kote taluk of Mysore district. Dr. Prasad and Dr. Sudhir, who is trained at CMC, Vellore, of the hospital are the resource persons for the course at Saragur. The fellowship aims to provide opportunity for hands-on training for acquiring proficiency in HIV management.

Inclusive model

The full-time course equips medical professionals to adopt and practice ‘inclusive and integrated' model of HIV care services and understanding the concepts and practices of palliative care in management of chronic illnesses, according to SVYM.

Inclusive and integrated model, according to a note issued by SVYM, means bringing people infected and affected by HIV within the ambit of care without stigma and discrimination and integrating HIV care and treatment programme within the regular/general public and private health system.

The candidates will also learn research and managerial skills and the course provides opportunity for hands-on clinical and public health experience. Candidates with MBBS or BDS degree or its equivalent recognised by the Medical Council of India and the Dental Council of India respectively and who have completed one-year compulsory rotating internship in a teaching institution or other institution recognised by the MCI/DCI, and have obtained permanent registration of any State Medical/Dental Council are eligible for admission.

A certificate of Fellow in HIV medicine will be awarded to the candidates who successfully complete the course. “The last date for admission to the course for this year at the Saragur hospital is November 10,” Dr. Prasad said. The course participants will be managing outpatients and inpatients in a HIV care facility having an integrated and inclusive model of care.

The fellowship course focuses on building knowledge, clinical skills, research and communication techniques and right attitude. The training prepares the physician to be a leader in HIV care, support, training and management programme, according to SVYM.

The candidates shall undergo training in ART/ICTC/PPTCT/RNTCP/STI centres and learn the management of HIV patients in institutional settings and HIV issues in the community.

Dr. Prasad said jobs for qualified candidates will be available in HIV projects. “Support from KSAPS (Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society) and Government of Karnataka has been enlisted in assuring employment of the qualified candidates as medical officers in ART centres and as managers in HIV programmes,” according to Dr. Prasad.

For further details on the fellowship, call Ms. Nandini, training coordinator, SVYM on 95914 07955.