As you may have read this week we farewelled the wonderful Dr Eleanor MacMorran – all though there were plenty of tears, we know she’ll be back again early next year.
Eleanor, an Infectious Diseases specialist from Tasmania, joined us two years ago when our HIV program was little more than a dream. From August 2018 she built a team, directed the refurbishment of a derelict UN library building and set up an HIV Care Centre at one of the government health centres in Dili (Vera Cruz).
The model was designed to share operations with the Ministry of Health and to use the Centre as a training site for Timorese clinical staff in HIV care. Patients were quickly drawn to the new service which offered a high standard of clinical care and an unwavering commitment to respect, confidentiality and human dignity.
Since that time our HIV team have battled against stock-outs and severe resource limitations, against stigma and discrimination, and even against the floodwaters pouring into Dili from the mountainside (their building was inundated twice).
Then COVID-19 arrived: remarkably Eleanor was supported by the Australian Volunteers Program to remain in Dili when most others were recalled. But the HIV Centre had to be unexpectedly relocated when Vera Cruz became the designated COVID-19 Isolation Centre! With support from the Australian Government another derelict building was refurbished, this time at Maloa Health Post. The team carried on operations alongside their Ministry of Health colleagues without losing a single patient to follow up during the disruption of lockdown and the relocation of their service, ensuring safety for more than 150 people living with HIV.
In July the team was invited to coordinate and lead a national HIV ‘Training-of-Trainers’ workshop, completed last week. The leading HIV clinicians in the country came together for an eight-day intensive course covering all aspects of quality HIV care.
This training, run in conjunction with the National AIDS Program and the National Health Institute (INS), equipped more than a dozen clinical trainers to begin delivering HIV training to their peers across the country. We’re so proud of our team – particularly Dr Eleanor, Madalena (our Team Leader) and Dr Bonifacio – who have become leaders in the compassionate provision of HIV care in Timor-Leste.