GU Bolsters HIV Discrimination Awareness in Belize

Over the past two months, the Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health offered two seminars focused on discrimination awareness to 40 HIV Voluntary Counseling and Testing providers in Belize.

According to Aysa Saleh-Ramirez, IRH senior program officer, the seminars were designed to expose VCT providers to the many causes of stigma and discrimination against HIV patients as well as their effects on lifestyle and availability of services. In addition, the two seminars focused on how the providers can work to reduce discrimination in the workplace, local communities and testing facilities.

“The seminars are very interactive and have been well-received by VCT providers and health authorities because of the methodology we employ and the topics we address,” Saleh-Ramirez said.

IRH studies in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua revealed that pre- and post-counseling services were not offered to high-risk populations, including commercial sex workers. VCT providers had not received proper training in the field and stigma and discrimination were highly prevalent, making it difficult for one to obtain necessary services.

Counseling, according to international standards, should be given before and after an HIV test. “[It] is a cornerstone of prevention as it provides the opportunity to identify risky behaviors, promote behavioral change that can [keep people HIV-free] or, if he/she tests positive, how to access medical and support services, lead a healthy life and prevent infecting others,” Saleh-Ramirez said.

IRH joined forces with the Capacity Project, a global initiative funded by U.S. Agency for International Development, which works to improve the capabilities of the region’s health workforce to deliver HIV/AIDS treatment and care. Closely linked to the mission of the Capacity Project, the fundamental aim of the IRH program is to increase utilization of counseling and testing services among vulnerable populations, Saleh-Ramirez said.

The seminars were offered to those who had completed the Capacity Project’s one-week counseling education and training program in order to further explore topics in stigma and discrimination.

Follow-up visits to trained providers are slated to insure development of their newly-acquired skills.

– Dawn Hu

Groundbreaking Surgery Able to Bring Relief to Migraine Sufferers

With 28 million Americans suffering from migraines, a groundbreaking peripheral nerve surgery, performed at Georgetown University Hospital by Dr. Ivan Ducic, has provided relief to some patients.

The surgery targets patients who suffer from occipital neuralgia related or front-temporal neuralgia related chronic headaches.

Ducic is one of a few surgeons in the country able to perform the procedure. What makes the surgery so revolutionary is the fact that it does not cut the nerves involved, leaving patients free from fears of paralysis. The surgery is not recommended for everyone, but rather for those patients whose migraines have become a hindrance to daily life upon exploring all other options.

Occipital neuralgia is the compression of the nerves located in the back of the head, while fronto-temporal neuralgia is located in the front and side of the head. The pressure on the nerve by the surrounding muscle or tissues irritates the nerve, which causes migraines. The nerve is surgically decompressed by releasing surrounding muscle or tight tunnels that nerve goes through. The surgery takes about an hour and a half.

Ducic serves as chief of peripheral nerve surgery and as an associate professor of plastic surgery at the Georgetown University Medical Center. He became interested in the migraine surgery because there were not many treatment options for the condition offered in the metropolitan area. In order to specialize in the surgery and acquire patients, Ducic trained himself over the span of a year. “It was quite challenging; it took about a year to figure out the anatomy, compression points and meeting with neurologists about who should have it and why this is important.”

Ducic has been performing the microsurgery for over three years with an 80-percent success rate, based on a follow-up of 400 patients. “It is truly amazing to see patients that have had headaches for 20, 30, 40 years be cured,” he said.

For the remaining 20 percent of patients who continued to have headaches, a second surgery to remove this sensory nerve has proven to be effective.

– Ana Cenaj

Credit Union Establishes Fund for Davis Family

In celebration of the life of Terrance Davis (COL ’10), the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union will establish a memorial fund to be given directly to the Davis’ family.

The memorial fund was developed through discussions between GUAFSCU and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson in an attempt to find ways to give back to the Davis family.

In the short weeks following Davis’ tragic disappearance while studying abroad in South Africa, GUASFCU has readied the logistics for his memorial fund. According to its CEO, Dan White (MSB ’09), the establishment of the Terrance Davis Memorial Fund will be formally announced to the Georgetown community by Olson and members of Davis’ family.

The fund will then be managed by GUASFCU and will be open to donations from all members of the Georgetown community.

“Although Terrance’s death was a tragedy, it’s amazing the support and resilience that the Georgetown community has shown,” White said. “The Credit Union’s board would like to offer our full support and condolences for Terrance and his family.”

– Jessie Chiang

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