Just who is Brendan Bain?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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PEOPLE who know Professor Brendan Bain describe him as a brilliant man who displays "exemplary graciousness" and "consistent integrity".

In fact, well-known scientist, Dr Dennis Minott, in a letter to the Jamaica Observer last Sunday, vouched for Professor Bain's "unwavering commitment to rigour and thoroughness in thought" and asked "what could motivate any intellectually honest individual to sling poisoned arrows at such a professional?" in reaction to last week's Sunday Observer report that gay advocates wanted the University of the West Indies (UWI) to sack Bain as head of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Initiative.

On Tuesday, the UWI announced that it had terminated The Trinidad & Tobago-born Bain's contract, echoing a claim by gay and human rights activists that he has lost the confidence of the community that the CHART programme was established to serve.

According to the UWI, Bain lost that trust after he gave expert testimony in a constitutional challenge brought by a gay Belizean man against that country's criminal code in September 2010.

Bain had pointed out in his testimony that the risk of contracting HIV is significantly higher among men who have sex with other men.

His sacking has triggered a firestorm of criticism of the UWI, while gay advocates and human rights groups have rushed to the university's defence, saying that it took the correct decision.

The brouhaha has also catapulted into the national spotlight a man who has, for years, worked in the trenches of the country's health care system, treating HIV and AIDS victims without discrimination.

His affidavit in the Belize case outlines his experience, starting with the fact that he is one of the pioneers in clinical infectious disease practice in the Caribbean and a leading medical authority on the HIV epidemic in the region.

"Since 1993, he has provided clinical care to men and women living with HIV and AIDS, accepting patients of all sexual persuasions, regardless of their reported sexual practices," the court document stated.

"His specialist medical practice has been at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), as well as in small private clinics in Kingston, Jamaica," it added.

Professor Bain has also been an active member of the national HIV response team and has served the Jamaica Country Co-ordinating Mechanism as educator, researcher, counsellor, policy advisor and administrator.

"Between 1989 and 1992 he led the first HIV/AIDS training workshops for health care workers at the invitation of the governments of the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Belize," the affidavit said.

Professor Bain also persuaded the UHWI to allow him to start an out-patient clinic dedicated to the care and treatment of persons living with HIV and to the training of younger doctors and nurses in HIV care -- the first in Jamaica.

"This initiative," the affidavit noted, "led to the commencement of a similar clinic at the Kingston Public Hospital in Jamaica, increasing access to HIV care for a larger number of patients."

His other achievements include:

* appointed in 2000 by the UWI vice chancellor as the focal point for HIV/AIDS in a regional project aimed at strengthening the institutional response to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases;

* invited by the US Government in 2003 to lead the CHART, which became part of the international AIDS Education and Training Centre funded by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR);

* recognised in 2006 by the Medical Association of Jamaica "for distinguished service to medicine";

* honoured by the National AIDS Committee in 2007 for "demonstrating visionary leadership in improving the quality of life for persons living with or affected by HIV and again in 2009 for outstanding leadership in response to HIV and AIDS in the academic sector.

Professor Bain obtained his undergraduate degrees and post-graduate training in internal medicine from the UWI; studied and conducted research in infectious diseases at St George's Hospital Medical School with the aid of a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship; holds a diploma in medical education from the University of Dundee, Scotland; and a Master's degree in Public Health summa cum laude from Boston University.

He is an elected fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, has published more than 30 papers in peer-reviewed medical journals, and is co-author of the book Education and HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean published by UNESCO.

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