A delegation of leading HIV/AIDS doctors from Botswana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya arrived in Israel this for a unique seminar co-sponsored by Project Interchange (an institute of AJC) and the Israel Consortium on AIDS Medicine in Africa (ICAMiA), and in cooperation with MASHAV, Israel's National Agency for International Development Cooperation and Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Africa Division. Accompanying the African doctors is Dr. Mark Wainberg, former President of the International AIDS Society and currently Director of McGill University AIDS Centre in Montreal, Canada.

While in Israel, the doctors are exploring opportunities to expand medical partnerships and the exchange of ideas, personnel and best practices between Israel and Africa. They will learn of Israeli medical advances and consider Israel’s capacity to serve as a regional medical hub for medical facilities, hospitals, and personnel from East Africa.

Among the topics being discussed are public health concerns such as HIV/AIDS, pediatrics, water and food security, Israeli public health policy and NGO activity. The medical portions include sessions on global epidemiology, antiretroviral therapy, methods for training medical staff, and wide-scale preventive strategies. The visiting doctors will meet and be taught by by physicians associated with Israel’s top hospitals, including Hadassah University Hospital (Ein Karem) in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel Hashomer hospitals and MSR, the Israel Center for Medical Simulation at Tel Hashomer.

The visit is not only meant to enrich the visitors’ knowledge about medical issues, but also to broaden their understanding of Israel. For this purpose the group will participate in briefings by experts on political, societal, and strategic issues facing Israel. These include the peace process, PA politics and society, Israel's global and regional relationships, and human rights.

This is not the first time that African doctors visit Israel to gain knowledge and experience. Last year, a group of Senegalese doctors spent a week learning with Israeli physicians the intricacies of performing circumcision on adult males. This is due to numerous studies which have shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, foremost among them AIDS. Several studies done in Africa over the past decade have shown that circumcision results in a 50-60 percent reduction of HIV infection.

Israel first sent doctors to Swaziland, South Africa in 2007 in a highly successful program to teach local doctors to perform circumcisions to combat AIDS. It was estimated that in 2007, more than 88 per cent of Africa’s population was living with HIV and 92 per cent of deaths from AIDS in that year were in Africa.

The current visit by African doctors to Israel was sponsored by Ambassador Richard Schifter, who formerly represented the United States in various senior foreign policy positions.

“This Project Interchange seminar will bring East African leaders in the field of medicine together with their Israeli counterparts,” said Schifter. “They will discuss the possibility of close collaboration in developing programs designed to strengthen the capability of East African institutions in improving health conditions in their respective countries, particularly in dealing with the extraordinarily serious HIV/AIDS pandemic.”