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Future Doctors won’t learn about HIV from textbooks

At the start of April, workers from E.V.A and Teenergizer carried out lectures about the HIV infection to students studying at the Medical College at Bekhterov Scientific Institute.

What questions regarding HIV are concerning future doctors? How have they reacted to information from those living with HIV or those counselling people with HIV? Why are workers from NGOs reaching out to students of medical schools? Natalia Sukhova, project co-ordinator for E.V.A association, tells us about this.

Teacher Irina V. Rabinovich invited us to give a lecture on HIV for second year students, who have just passed on to the infectious diseases module. Myself, Zlata and Pavel from the Teenergizer project decided to speak about the infection through real life human stories and to give important and relevant practical knowledge, not just to recite paragraphs from a textbook. Around 30-40 students gathered in the lecture hall. When we asked, “What groups do you think are at risk of contracting HIV?,” they replied “medical workers.” It was meant as a joke, but in further discussions, it became apparent that this particular fear did in fact exist. As a result, we took a closer look at several situations and discussed the risk of infection in each of these. We also spoke about what protocol to follow if these risks were actually present: the students didn’t know that they have a 72 hour window to receive PEP (Post exposure prophylaxis). I also highlighted that they as doctors were obliged to contact an AIDs centre in risky situations and asked them to write down the hotline for the AIDs centre in St. Petersburg. We also went into details about all of the procedures they will need to put in place in the event of this risk.
At the minute, the college students are just getting a general medical education (with a specialisation in nursing); and we don’t yet know who is sat before us; they could be a future surgeon, gynaecologist, paediatrician or a nursery nurse. We tried to explain to the students that its impossible to tell if someone is HIV positive just from looking at them and that a HIV child receiving treatment for intellectual and physical development is no different from a child without the infection.
It was news to many of the students that 99.9% of the time, HIV positive women give birth to babies without the infection (if they follow the doctor’s recommendations).

As well as this, we discussed questions about HIV which worry students not in their professional lives, but in their personal ones. The students didn’t know that they couldn’t get the HIV infection from someone regularly taking treatment (unless, of course, we are talking about blood transfusions).
Thanks to young specialists Zlata and Pavel, the conversation was informal and the students felt comfortable to ask interesting questions. Zlata told these young people her status and her story made a strong impression on them. We of course told them about E.V.A, in order to maintain this beneficial relationship.
The lecture lasted an hour and a half, we were asked plenty of questions and the students even didn’t want us to leave. We have already planned a meeting with other students at this college. To me, it seems that it is a really useful scheme and meetings like this can become one of the new, important propositions for E.V.A.

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