Prof. Lazarus’ decade-long career as a health systems, HIV and viral hepatitis expert at WHO’s Regional Office for Europe was followed by three years at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He now serves as the Board Chair of AFEW International, a board member of the EASL International Liver Foundation, a steering committee member of the European Joint Action on HIV and Coinfections, as editor of Hepatology, Medicine and Policy and a member of the BioMed Central Editorial Advisory Group. He is the author of more than 200 publications.
Professor Lazarus is an affiliated professor at CHIP, WHO Collaborating Centre on HIV and Viral Hepatitis at Rigshospitalet, the University of Copenhagen, and an associated researcher at ISGlobal, Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona.
Q: Mr. Lazarus, can you please tell us what is your position and main occupation?
JL: I am a researcher specialized on infectious diseases, specifically in HIV and viral HEP C and health systems. I work at the university of Copenhagen but also for the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
Q: As a researcher, could you please outline which are the newer trends in addressing the healthcare of vulnerable people?
JL: One of the main challenges that we see nowadays is how to make healthcare systems responsive. In concrete terms, we need to figure out how turn the health systems from being passive recipients of the patients into active ‘finders’ of people. This means having community outreach programs of all kinds: outreach workers and drug consumption centers, vans, mobile centres, etc. There is an exciting initiative across Europe is the European Testing Week, which addresses HEP C and HIV, gathering around 500 organizations from all of the European regions, including Eastern Europe, bringing testing outside of hospitals and clinics, and straight to the people.
Q: Could you outline the most striking and relevant differences from one country to another?
JL: I think that HEP C treatment is a very telling example: for some countries, there is no treatment restrictions for this disease. This is the case in Spain and Italy, and also The Netherlands and Portugal. In other countries, there are huge restrictions, and when this is the case, people often don’t want to get tested as they as they are afraid to not get the treatment they need. So, treatment accessibility presents a big difference across Europe. It is moving in the right direction, which is good, but it is moving very slowly.
Q: What do you think should be the role of the EU – as a sovereign national entity – in this?
JL: The EU plays a huge role by providing oversight, leadership and stewardship, but also by providing action plans and strategies to address them. The same is true for the specialized agencies, such as EMCDDA in Lisbon, or the ECDC in Stockholm: both can a play a great role in terms of surveillance, and show what is happening in the EU countries, thus helping us target our interventions.
This Interview was conducted by the Young Gasteiners Francesca Cattarin and F. Saverio Bersani