WHO posting for Dr. Iyanthimala Abeyewickreme
Dr. Iyanthimala Abeyewickreme , Senior Consultant Venereologist and
former Director, National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP), Ministry
of Healthcare and Nutrition will be assuming duties as the Regional
Advisor STD/HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization South East Asian
Regional Office (SEARO) in New Delhi later this month.
After training at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield UK from
1982-85 under the guidance of Dr. George Kinghorn, an internationally
acclaimed genito-urinary physician. She joined the National STD
Programme (as it was then known) in 1985 as a medical officer,
proceeding to become a Consultant Venereologist in 1992.
In 1997 she assumed duties as the Director, of the National STD/AIDS
Control Program (NSACP). Her tenure as Director, saw the NSACP reach its
heights as a premier public health programme in the country.
As Director she has worked closely with other national programmes in
the health sector dealing with blood transfusion, health of the mother
and child, media and communication, tuberculosis and medical research,
and partnered with the corporate sector as the Founder/ convener of the
Herpes Study group in association with Glaxo Smithkline of Sri Lanka.
She has served on many Committees and Boards related to the sphere of
Venereology including the Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS, Law and Ethics
of the Centre for Policy Research and Analysis, University of Colombo,
the Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases and the Medical Devices
Subcommittee of the Ministry of Health.
She has been the Secretary to the National AIDS Committee (NAC) of
Sir Lanka (1998 to 2004), Secretary and member of the Legal and Ethical
Issues Subcommittee on HIV /AIDS and a member of the subcommittees on
Laboratory and Surveillance, Clinical Care and Counselling of the NAC.
She has further served the Ministry of Health as a member of the
Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases and the Medical Devices
Subcommittee and provided technical assistance in the area of STI/HIV/AIDS
to other national level public health programmes including that for the
Control of TB and Chest Diseases. She has served as the Honorary
Consultant Venereologist to the Military Hospital of the Sri Lanka Armed
Forces from 1994 to 1997.
She has represented the country at many regional consultative
meetings related to the control and prevention of STI/HIV/AIDS including
the SAARC regional consultation on HIV AIDS Trafficking and drugs and
UNAIDS regional meetings. She has been a Visiting WHO Scholar to the STD
Control Branch, South Australian Commission and Royal Adelaide Hospital,
and the Siriraj Hospital and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok,
Undoubtedly her most outstanding contribution is the pivotal and lead
role she played in the establishment of the College of Venereologists in
1998 to advance the speciality, which led to the establishment of the
Board of Study in Venereology at the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine
(PGIM), University of Colombo.
This not only ensured that the Ministry of Health would have adequate
numbers of specialists to deal with the emerging HIV /AIDS epidemic but
further opened up a new path for professional advancement of young
Today, the Board of Study in Venereology conducts courses conferring
a Diploma and the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD) in the specialty.
She has served as the Chairperson of, the Board of Study in Venereology
and has served as the Chief Examiner for the Diploma and MD
examinations. In 2004, Dr. Abeyewickreme was elected a Fellow of the Sri
Lanka College of Venereologists in recognition of her outstanding
contribution to the speciality.
Her expertise in the sphere of STI/HIV/AIDS has been recognized both
regionally and internationally. She has been a member of the
International Scientific Committees for the XI and XII AIDS Conferences
held in 1996 and 1998 and a referee for scientific papers on the
Epidemiology and Public Health Aspects of HIV/AIDS. She has served as a
WHO Temporary Advisor for Expert Consultations on Improving the
management of STI, Geneva (2001), and a WHO short term technical advisor
on STI/HIV/AIDS to the Government of Bangladesh (2004).
She has been a Temporary Advisor for workshops on developing HIV
estimates and projections, and teaching on TB and HIV/AIDS in Thailand
and in STI management in Myanmar. In 2005/2006 she was a WHO short term
professional in STI/HIV Prevention, at the South East Asian Regional
Office (SEARO) assisting in the strengthening of skills of general
practitioners in the region in the management of STI/HIV/AIDS. Most
recently, she was a temporary advisor, WHO Geneva on the revision and
updating of STI surveillance and management guidelines. She has authored
and co-authored many publication in the area of STI/HIV /AIDS.
She has contributed to the body of scientific knowledge by making
oral and poster presentations at local and international conferences and
publishing in peer reviewed journals both locally and internationally on
diverse topics including aspects of HIV/AIDS, therapy for Herpes
genitalis and congenital syphilis, a topic of personal interest. In
2003, she contributed a chapter titled ‘Emergence and impact of HIV
/AIDS in Sri Lanka’ at the invitation of the Harvard AIDS Institute to
the book AIDS in Asia that was published to coincide with the 2004
International AIDS Conference in Bangkok.
She is a life member of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) the
oldest medical professional body in South East Asia and has served as a
Council member (1996), Assistant treasurer (1997), Assistant Secretary
(1998) and Vice President (2004). Since 1992, she is a member of the
International Union Against Venereal Diseases and Treponematoses and was
a Co-chair Track B at the 8th International Conference on AIDS in the
Asia Pacific (ICAAP) held in Colombo in 2007.
She is also a life member of the Sri Lanka College of Community
Physicians and the Sri Lanka Women’s Public Health Network. She was
chairperson of the SLMA Expert Committee on Communicable Diseases and
HIV for many years.