Dr Anna Marzec-Bogusławska: At Poland’s National AIDS Center, Our Patients Are Most Important

Krajowe Centrum ds AIDS (National AIDS Center) in Warsaw, Poland, was founded in 1993 as part of the country’s Ministry of Health. Its chief area of advocacy and outreach is access to antiretroviral treatment, in addition to new areas of focus that include prevention of sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis C virus.

Krajowe Centrum ds AIDS (National AIDS Center) in Warsaw, Poland, was founded in 1993 as part of the country’s Ministry of Health. Its chief area of advocacy and outreach is access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for both citizens and foreigners, in addition to new areas of focus that include prevention of sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis C virus. The American Journal of Managed Care® recently spoke with Anna Marzec-Bogusławska, MD, MPH, managing director.

For more from our international series this year on global HIV/AIDS organizations, please check out our main HIV page to see interviews with CeSHHARBruce House; Helen Bygrave, MD, from Médecins Sans Frontières’ (Doctors Without Borders); and ARAS (Asociaţia Română Anti-SIDA; Romanian Association Against AIDS).

Transcript

Can you introduce yourself and the National AIDS Center in Poland?

Good afternoon. I'm Anna Marzec-Bogusławska. By background, I am a medical doctor/epidemiologist, and I have the honor to serve as director of the National AIDS Center here in Poland, in Warsaw, since 2001.

The National AIDS Center was created in 1993. It is an agency of the Ministry of Health, and we are responsible—we are not a clinical center—for organization of ARV treatment, prevention, and we have also a new task: sexually transmitted infections, in the aspect of prevention. We are also responsible for elaboration and implementation of the national AIDS strategy. And there are forthcoming new tasks related to HCV [hepatitis C virus] treatment, regarding the organization of HCV treatment in penitentiary services. We have quite a broad spectrum of activity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you adjust your services?

Well, in Poland, as you probably know, the situation was quite difficult, especially during the second and third waves of COVID-19. Obviously, we had to adjust our services and to change the system of our work. The center started to work in a remote system. But what was most important were our patients.

Some of them felt lost in the in this pandemic. And despite the fact that we have a helpline provided by a nongovernmental organization, we transformed partially some of the departments of our center into a telephone helpline. The staff were explaining to patients how they should obtain ARV drugs, how they should contact doctors, because here in Poland, those doctors who were responsible for ARV treatment are more or less the same who are responsible for the treatment of COVID-19—infectious disease doctors. This caused the potential risk for ARV treatment and for patients on treatment.

However, our monitoring showed us that we were able to help patients and no one was left without treatment, without the possibility of seeing the doctor if needed. So I think this was really important, even a kind of support given to our patients and to people who, for example, had risky behavior, and they wanted to ask because it was difficult to reach dedicated services at that time. Some of them were simply closed, some of them started to videoconference with patients with video helplines. But many people really wanted to talk with us, with the center, with our stuff.

In some cases, we were able to help our patients to contact the doctor. But I think what is the most important was our support given to foreigners, to mobile populations from Ukraine, from Belarus, from other Eastern European countries, who usually come here and go back to their countries after a short time of work. Because of subsequent lockdowns, those people were left without ARV treatment. And it was our duty to help them, to provide free-of-charge treatment for them. I think that we answered all requests in this regard, and we answered positively.