Back to Top Skip to main content

DoD's international HIV/AIDS prevention program saves lives, builds lasting relationships

Air Force Capt. Crystal Karahan, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa international health specialist, talks to Cameroonian nursing students during a clean site delivery workshop in Douala, Cameroon. (Courtesy photo) Air Force Capt. Crystal Karahan, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa international health specialist, talks to Cameroonian nursing students during a clean site delivery workshop in Douala, Cameroon. (Courtesy photo)

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment

Navy Capt. Gregg Montalto remembers the first time he met the young Ugandan teenager a couple of years ago sitting across the table. The boy was HIV positive with AIDS.

“He’s a pretty shy kid,” said Montalto, a pediatrician now stationed at Naval Medical Center San Diego. He met the boy through DHAPP, the Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program. DHAPP is the DoD’s implementing arm of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR, which is the largest commitment by any nation in history to combat a single disease.

“We talked a little bit, and I learned he was severely underweight at just 38 kilograms [about 83 pounds] and orphaned,” said Montalto. He recalled that the boy’s CD4 count, the amount of HIV virus-killing cells in the body, read just four. Anything below 200 means the AIDS virus is allowing other infections to attack the body.

The Department of Defense recognizes World AIDS Day Dec. 1 as a time to commemorate not just this Ugandan teenager but the millions of lives that have been impacted by HIV/AIDS in the last 35 years. It is an epidemic that continues to infect more than 37,000 people globally every week, and threatens the health and prosperity of families and communities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 35 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS; more than two-thirds are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 75 percent of the 2.1 million new HIV infections in 2013 occurred in this area. The Navy was previously the Department of Defense executive agent for DHAPP, which includes Army, Navy, and Air Force medical assets. Recently, DHAPP transitioned to the Defense Health Agency for oversight.

“We identify partner militaries and approach their medical folks,” said Richard Shaffer, DHAPP’s division chief and an epidemiologist. “We ask if there’s anything the U.S. military can help with when it comes to their medical programs that support their military members and family members with HIV.”

DHAPP collaborates with partner militaries to plan activities and implement programs to combat HIV/AIDS in their military services. Through direct military-to-military cooperation, its goal is to maximize program impact by focusing on the HIV epidemic specific to the partner military. DHAPP’s support includes training health care workers to provide HIV clinical services and implementing testing strategies, such as the use of mobile testing units, to reach individuals most at-risk. It also helps equip laboratories and clinics for testing and diagnostics, links HIV-positive individuals into treatment, promotes health education, and provides training against stigma and discrimination.

Fifteen years after its inception, DHAPP’s partnership with 57 other countries’ militaries, mostly in Africa, works to help lower the incidence of HIV and AIDS in those countries. Shaffer said not only does the program make a difference for the people living in those countries; it benefits American troops who may one day operate in those areas.

“Any time we can develop capable partners, it takes a health care burden off our U.S. military,” he said, adding that medical aid is a great foot in the door to help develop deeper relationships with other militaries and the larger civilian population.

In addition, American military doctors get to see other diseases firsthand they might have only read about. “We’ve got people who have learned about yellow fever in the United States through medical school, but never saw a case until they went with us to southern Africa to work on an HIV program,” said Shaffer. “Our medical departments are getting more experience than what they did before DHAPP.”

Moving responsibility of DHAPP to the Defense Health Agency gives the program a more defined DoD-wide role, said Shaffer. “There are so many organizational benefits I see coming out of this. We already had a good relationship with the combatant commands, and being part of the Defense Health Agency will help to improve that relationship. This transition gives us the ability to engage more at the military Joint Staff and interagency levels.”

Montalto recently saw the Ugandan boy again. He had gained about 45 pounds in two years, and his CD4 count was at about 300-400, meaning his immune system was far better equipped to keep him healthy. The captain said the youth had improved in part because he was taking better care of himself, when many in that condition might have just given up.

“I asked him what motivated him to take care of himself,” said Montalto. “He said, ‘I looked around and saw a lot of other kids who were having problems, and I wanted to help other people. The only way to do that is by helping myself.’”

Helping people who help themselves and improving HIV outcomes is what DHAPP is all about. Montalto waved off any credit he may have had in the process, crediting the local doctors for making DHAPP a success, especially in parts of Africa where it’s still a big issue despite gains made since HIV/AIDS was at extreme epidemic levels in the 1990s.

“The members of the team in the HIV treatment clinic in Uganda are the ones doing the heavy lifting,” said Montalto. “They sit down with these kids and talk. The team we send from San Diego brings a concept of adolescent health to the clinicians already on the ground there.”

Montalto encouraged other military doctors and other health care providers to get involved in DHAPP by contacting the program. Then DHAPP can assess skills and match the provider to a program area or country where the skill set can be best utilized.

“You never want to go somewhere, take a few pictures, feel good about yourself, and never show up again,” said Montalto, who wants the program to continue until AIDS is eradicated.

“The reason programs such as DHAPP work is not because the people in it come and go,” he said. “They bring hope and stay.”

You also may be interested in...

DHA IPM 18-020: Guidance for the Provision of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for Persons at High Risk of Acquiring HIV Infection

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Interim Procedures Memorandum (DHA-IPM), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) through (f): • Establishes the Military Health System’s (MHS) guidance for the provision of HIV PrEP for persons at high risk of HIV acquisition (ACQ). • Describes the elements and resources required to implement an HIV PrEP program. • Establishes the indications for HIV PrEP, laboratory (lab) testing and monitoring, and prescribing of HIV PrEP. • Provides a link to an HIV PrEP toolkit for providers. • This DHA-IPM is effective immediately; it will be converted to a DHA-Procedural Instruction. This DHA-IPM will expire effective 12 months from the date of issue.

Navy entomologists team up to build disease detection capacity in Honduras

Article
10/18/2018
Navy LCDR Kimberly Edgel (right) and Carmen Lucas examine a positive malaria blood smear at U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit, or NAMRU, 6 in Callao, Peru. (U.S. Navy photo)

Leishmaniasis, malaria, dengue and Chagas disease are known to be present in Honduras

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Bringing Comfort 2018

Video
10/17/2018
The USNS Comfort is a state-of-the-art hospital ship, and it’s scheduled to deploy to Central and South America for Continuing Promise 2018.

The USNS Comfort is a state-of-the-art hospital ship, and it’s scheduled to deploy to Central and South America for Continuing Promise 2018.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Sailors, Afghan medical professionals team up to improve medical care

Article
10/10/2018
Navy Lt. Cdr. Travis J. Fitzpatrick, senior nurse for Kandahar Airfield NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit, demonstrates a technique on how to clear the airway of a patient to Afghan medical staff members during a medical advisory visit at Kandahar Regional Military Hospital, Camp Hero in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Staff members from the Role III conduct routine visits to KRMH to train and advise Afghan medical staff. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

The Kandahar Regional Military Hospital is run by Afghan military and civilian medical professionals

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability | Partners | Global Health Security Agenda

USNS Comfort to deploy to Central and South America

Article
10/9/2018
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is scheduled to depart Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, en route to South America and Central America where it will conduct an 11-week medical assistance mission working closely with host-nation health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras. This mission marks the sixth time the hospital ship will provide medical assistance in the region and reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas. (U.S. Navy file photo)

The ship’s crew will include more than 200 U.S. and partner nation military doctors, nurses and technicians

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Partners | Global Health Security Agenda

Navy Medicine global health team conducts trauma exchange in Vietnam

Article
8/28/2018
The 13 Navy Medicine members stand together on the first day of the Integrated Trauma and Medical Readiness Exchange engagement in Vietnam. (U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Joel Roos)

Sharing trauma management skills was the focus of this exchange

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

U.S. doctors save Italian patient hours from death

Article
8/8/2018
U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, left, Capt. Nick McKenzie, and Capt. Richard Thorsted, all who are Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team members, gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey. The three doctors recently finished medical school and are serving their first deployment. They are deployed from Travis Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

The patient had a fever, a very high heart rate and low oxygen levels

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement | Partners

USNS Mercy returns home following Pacific Partnership 2018

Article
7/24/2018
Navy Hospital Corpsman Tianna Garcia, assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, is greeted by her husband Aaron Garcia during the homecoming ceremony for the hospital ship USNS Mercy. The ship and her crew completed a five-month humanitarian relief mission to Southeast Asia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Indra Beaufort)

Pacific Partnership 2018 included more than 800 military and civilian personnel from the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom

Recommended Content:

Civil Military Medicine | Civil Support | Global Health Engagement | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

U.S. Navy, JMSDF participate in bilateral training exercise

Article
6/21/2018
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Sailors and U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Yokosuka personnel transport a simulated patient during a mass casualty drill in conjunction with hospital ship USNS Mercy and JMSDF personnel. The drill was conducted in order to prepare medical staff for a mass casualty scenario involving a maritime incident at sea. USNH Yokosuka is the largest U.S. military treatment facility on mainland Japan caring for approximately 43,000 eligible beneficiaries. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim Jensen)

The simulated disaster for the training exercise included a Japanese vessel colliding with a U.S. vessel

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

Military doctors conduct infectious diseases training in Panama

Article
6/13/2018
Publio Gonzalez, a biologist with the Gorgas Institute, holds a bat in Meteti, Panama. Gonzalez and U.S. military doctors were participating in infectious diseases training, in which they received informational lectures from Panamanian infectious disease experts and field studies of possible virus-carrying wildlife and insects. The event took place during Exercise New Horizons 2018, which is a joint training exercise where U.S. military members conduct training in civil engineer, medical and support services while benefiting the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

Due to the geographic location of Panama, the importance the country places on controlling diseases greatly benefits the Unites States

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Project Sea Raven delivers cutting-edge pathogen detection technology

Article
5/31/2018
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Bowes, senior preventive-medicine technician, places mosquitoes on a dish to view under a microscope. Project Sea Raven’s capabilities are not limited to just insects – it can test anything from blood to soil and water. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tom Ouellette)

Project Sea Raven is now an integral part of USNS Mercy’s microbiology capacity

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Technology | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Air Force medical team supports exercise in Panama

Article
5/29/2018
Air Force Master Sgt. Emeriles Curry, 346th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron dental hygienist, provides dental care to a local man in the Coclé Province of Panama. To date, in 2-weeks’ worth of Medical Readiness Training Exercises, the teams working in conjunction with the Panamanian Ministry of Health, have seen nearly 4,700 patients. The medical team is participating in Exercise New Horizons 2018, which is a joint training exercise focused on medical, civil engineer and support service personnel’s ability to prepare, deploy, operate, and redeploy outside the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

The medical team has been working closely with Panamanian dentists

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability

USNS Mercy arrives in Vietnam for Pacific Partnership

Article
5/23/2018
The hospital ship USNS Mercy anchors in shallow water during a Pacific Partnership stop. (PP18). PP18’s mission is to work collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific Region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cameron Pinske)

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral HA/DR preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

Airmen contribute to saving a life during New Horizons 2018

Article
5/17/2018
From left to right: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ariel Thomas, 346th Air Expeditionary Group medical technician, Master Sgt. Reina Blake, 346 AEG Office of the Legal Advisor superintendent, and Special Agent Alexandra Garced, Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent, stand for a group photo in Meteti, Panama. Blake, Thomas and Garced are credited with saving the life of a local Panamanian woman after she jumped from a bridge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

Airmen go above and beyond to save a local woman

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement

New Horizons embedded health engagement provides unparalleled training

Article
5/15/2018
Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Charles Hutchings, 346th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron pediatrician, explains information to a local woman near Meteti, Panama, April 17, 2018. Hutchings was part of an embedded health engagement team participating in Exercise New Horizons 2018, which will assist communities throughout Panama by providing medical assistance and building facilities such as schools, a youth community center and a women’s health ward. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

For medical professionals participating in Exercise New Horizons 2018, hands-on training comes in the form of fully submerging into local clinics

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing.. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.