SHM ambassador: Colette Smit

Colette Smit.jpgCould you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be working on HIV?
During my degree in nutrition and health at Wageningen University, I specialised in epidemiology. After completing my degree, I carried out PhD research at the Amsterdam Public Health Services, looking at changes in mortality, trends in the occurrence of co-infections and the impact of effective HIV medication during the 25 years of HIV in Amsterdam. Since completing my PhD research 12 years ago, I have been working for Stichting HIV Monitoring (SHM) as an epidemiologist.

The NVHB, SHM and V&VN hiv consulenten are organising a Meet & Greet during the Positive Flame tour, under the slogan Working together for excellent HIV care. How important do you think this collaboration is for HIV care in the Netherlands? How visible is it in your daily work?
At SHM we are involved in research based on observational data collected from people living with HIV.  Our close connections with HIV-treating physicians and HIV nursing consultants are very important to this research, because these people know what’s going on in terms of HIV treatment and care. The collaboration between SHM and the various parties involved in HIV care is therefore extremely valuable in the interpretation of the outcomes of this research.

You are the ambassador for SHM during the Meet & Greet. What message do you hope to convey as ambassador?
If we look at the HIV cascade of care of the Netherlands, we seem to heading in the right direction. But we’re not there yet: 23% of people living with HIV in the Netherlands do not have suppressed HIV RNA. In other words, the virus is still detectable. Nor have all people living with HIV been diagnosed and linked to care. It is important that people living with HIV receive a timely diagnosis so that they can immediately be offered treatment. Timely initiation of treatment is key to ensuring an optimal outcome for someone living with HIV.

What are you most looking forward to in the week of AIDS2018? <
There is such a diverse range of presentations, but I’m particularly interested in presentations on young people, hepatitis C and the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. I am also presenting two posters: one on the cascade of HIV care in children and young adults and one on the hepatitis C cascade of care.