To mark World Aids Day, global health researchers from St George’s are releasing training information to the wider health community about how to effectively and safely treat people suffering from one of the biggest causes of HIV-related mortality.

Meningo-encephalitis, together with tuberculosis, is one of the leading causes of HIV- related deaths. According to the most recent UNAIDS data there were close to 1 million AIDS-related deaths in 2017.

The aim is to equip healthcare workers based in resource limited settings in African countries with a comprehensive package of resources including posters, practical workshops and theoretical background knowledge, to treat people living with HIV who present with symptoms indicating a diagnosis of one of the main types of meningo-encephalitis.

The materials have come principally from the DREAMM project, a three-site project led by Dr Angela Loyse of St George’s, which has been successful in driving down HIV-related meningo-encephalitis mortality in Tanzania, Cameroon and Malawi.

The team’s educational resources have been requested by several major NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the Elisabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation. The first module, which focuses on cryptococcal meningitis, will be entirely open-access, with sections on diagnosis, management and treatment.

Cryptococcal meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and spinal column that can occur in people living with HIV. Caused by a fungal infection, it is responsible for around 136,000 deaths a year in sub-Saharan Africa. New WHO recommended treatments for cryptococcal meningitis are currently unavailable in many African countries where they are most needed.

Dr Angela Loyse, the chief investigator on the project, explained: “Our clinical trials have shown that simplified treatments for meningitis to reduce mortality do work. However implementation projects such as DREAMM are needed to ensure such interventions become embedded into routine health care services.”

In a recent workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi attended by health officials from several other countries, this need was brought to the fore by local healthcare workers. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Ministries of Health representatives from Malawi and Tanzania, Unitaid, major NGOs and community representatives.

Dr Loyse added; “People knew the ‘why’ and the ‘what’, however we are still working together on ‘how’ to best implement interventions to reduce AIDS deaths in routine hospital and clinic settings. With this information we hope to share with local hospitals, clinics and NGOs tools that can sustainably reduce AIDS deaths.”

The first DREAMM training module is now available to view and download for offline access on Figshare.

For more information please see St George’s Centre for Global Health pages.

The DREAMM project is funded by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and Agence Nationale de Recherche contre le SIDA et les Hépatites virales for the DREAMM site in Cameroon.