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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, Thailand.

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 doctors.

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.

 

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