Previous Students

Dr Ferra Mawu
Dr Mirvat Said
Dr Sukarma Tanwar
Mohammad Bellal Hossain
Dr Sheena Kakar
Dr Maria Arriaga
Mr Tebuka Toatu - Medical Laboratory Scientist
Dr Vijay Ramanathan

Dr Ferra Mawu

Dr Ferra Mawu

Ferra's experience of the STD/HIV Degree:
The Master of Medicine STD/HIV Degree I undertook was a very interesting course. The subjects that were taught, materials provided, and clinical attachment experience, provided me with a thorough understanding of STIs and HIV. It was a precious experience for me to meet and be taught by all the lecturers who are experts in their fields.

Why Ferra chose to enrol into the University of Sydney’s MMed (STD/HIV) course:
I work at the government hospital in Manado, Indonesia, in the department of Dermatology and Venereology, and am a lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the Sam Ratulangi University. I have been a doctor treating dermatovenereology patients since 2004. I have also been a lecturer for the Medical Faculty teaching the STI program since 2004. I understand that the faculty still needs to improve in having more lecturers, and I myself want to be able to provide high quality lectures to our students in the future. Therefore, I decided to enrol into Sydney University’s STD/HIV Masters Degree.

What Ferra enjoyed most about the STD/HIV program:
I greatly enjoyed the lectures that were given as part of the STD/HIV program. Personally, I learnt not to be prejudice and discriminate against people of different sexual orientations. I also learnt how important it is to separate STI (venerology) from dermatology, so as to gain more effective treatment and prevention for the patients and the community.

How the STD/HIV Degree has benefited Ferra:
The STI/HIV Masters Degree provided me with a very enriching experience. I was able to expand upon my STI knowledge and have now been able to share this knowledge with the medical students in Manado, as well as apply it to my STI patients.

What Ferra was doing before she undertook the STD/HIV Degree:
I was, and continue to be, a doctor employed by the government hospital in Manado, Indonesia. I am also a lecturer in the Medical Faculty at the Sam Ratulangi University, within the department of Dermatology and Venereology. The Master of Medicine STD/HIV Degree played a big part in me being able to expand further upon the professional work I do in Indonesia.

Ferra's future plans:
I would like to make a sexual health/or STI clinic available in every province of my country. I would also like to be able to work with other international STI centres and improve STI studies and research, especially in my field of medicine.

Ferra can be contacted via email at:

Dr Mirvat Said

Dr Mirvat Said

Why Mirvat chose the University of Sydney’s MMed (STD/HIV) course:
Kenya, an East African country within sub-Saharan Africa has been hard hit by the HIV pandemic. Having worked as a Medical Officer at the largest government funded hospital in Mombasa- Kenya, I was exposed to the alarming magnitude of STD/HIV associated morbidity and mortality. It was everywhere! - pediatrics, obstetrics, medical and surgical wards/clinics. Without a doubt, I saw the need of furthering my knowledge and clinical skills in the field of STD/HIV medicine.

The Internationally recognised University of Sydney is among the very few universities that offer such a course as this. I chose this course because it offered the perfect package!

What Mirvat liked about the course MMed (STD/HIV) course:
The course is comprehensive and well structured. I particularly liked the fact that the course entailed a combination of a series of lectures and practical work including laboratory diagnostics, as well as clinical attachments to various sexual health clinics in Sydney.

HIV being a rapidly evolving field, the research (treatise) component of the course makes it stand out as unique! I had no research skills, but now I can confidently work in research. I have come to appreciate research work and acknowledge its importance.

The class was made up of a range of professionals - doctors, nurses, laboratory technologists etc from different parts of the world. This, along with the interactive nature of the classes, made learning interesting and enjoyable! The lectures were given by highly experienced staff in their respective fields who delivered quality material. The individual class presentations and journal club sessions polished off my presentation skills.

I remain very grateful to the staff members at STIRC who are receptive and have been very supportive. The course has molded me into a better clinician/researcher/public health practitioner!

Why Mirvat was interested in researching the topic she did:
Tuberculosis (TB) is the most common Opportunistic Infection among HIV patients in Kenya. I therefore chose to do clinical research on HIV/TB co-infected patients in my home country. The research aims to evaluate the changes in CD4 counts during intensive phase of treatment of TB in HIV Antiretroviral naïve patients. I am currently still working on it. So far it has been a worthwhile experience!!

mirvat

Mirvat's research study was accepted for poster presentation at the XVIII International AIDS conference held in Vienna between 18th-23rd July 2010.

This gave her an opportunity to share her study findings at an international level and network with experts in the field from across the globe.

Mirvat can be contacted via email at:

Dr Sukarma Tanwar

Dr Sukarma Tanwar

Why Sukarma chose Sydney University's Masters of Medicine (STD/HIV) Degree:
My decision to join the Masters in Medicine (STI/HIV) course at the University of Sydney grew from the experience that I had gathered as part of my post MBBS internship in a busy hospital in New Delhi. Among the many things that I came to understand was that patients infected with HIV not only had to routinely confront the medical problems that came with this disease, but also the social stigma that appeared often to be a bigger problem. Having grown up with parents both who are university professors, I also came to be remarkably sensitive to such issues.

What Sukarma liked about the course:
The Masters course at STIRC, taught by extraordinary teachers, developed a sound understanding of epidemiology, biostatistics as well as the clinical aspects of HIV/AIDS and STIs.

In summary, what I have learnt at STIRC has given me a commanding view as well as a sound theoretical knowledge coupled with good field exposure.

Having worked in a hospital in New Delhi, I was keen to come back to complete my treatise and the topic of my research was ‘Predictors of adherence to ART in HIV infected adults in India’, which relates to the one of the major problems confronting the management of HIV/AIDS in India. Essentially I was keen to know why people were failing to adhere to ARV medicines even when they are provided free of charge by the Government. I was fortunate in having been permitted to work under Dr BB Rewari, National Program Officer (ART), Department of AIDS Control, India.

I am extremely grateful to all the staff members of STIRC, especially to Associate Professor Richard Hillman and Dr Shailendra Sawleshwarkar. They are wonderful teachers and I have greatly benefited from their guidance.

Sukarma's Current work:
Soon after returning from Sydney I became a technical Officer (ART) at the National AIDS Control Organisation, which is the apex organisation involved in the prevention and treatment of HIV, perhaps the largest of its kind in the world. I have been involved in the establishment and monitoring of ART centre across the country, taking care of the technical issues relating to ARV drugs and patient forecasting.

I am very happy to note that my training at STIRC is now standing me in very good stead. The training at STIRC has helped me to ably meet my various responsibilities and interact with various forms of organisations at the National level/ NGO and medical practioners.

Sukarma's Publications:

  • Published a paper in Journal of Indian Medical Association (JIMA) ‘Emergencies in HIV Medicine’ Vol. 107: N0. 05; May 2009.
  • Presented treatise as poster in ASNM Conference, Perth in 2008.

Sukarma can be contacted via email at:

Mohammad Bellal Hossain

Mohammad Bellal Hossain

Mohammad Bellal Hossain is in a teaching profession. He is working as an Assistant Professor (currently on study leave), at the Department of Population Sciences, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh. As an academic he is involved in post-graduate teaching and research in the broad areas of reproductive and sexual health, and public health aspects of STIs and HIV. He conducted his treatise on 'Stigma and Discrimination towards People Living with HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh', while he was an M Sc student at STIRC. At present, Mohammad is doing his PhD at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, which is funded by the British Government. Mohammad's current research focus is on the Community Development for HIV Prevention among Males who have Sex with Males (MSM) in Bangladesh.

The University's 'Spotlight' on Mohammed can be viewed via: http://www.usyd.edu.au/internationaloffice/publications/pg/USyd_PG_Med.pdf

Why Mohammad chose the University of Sydney's M Sc Med (STD/HIV) course:
I was working in the reproductive and sexual health area before joining the University of Sydney. At that time there was a growing demand in my country for trained manpower in the HIV field, as it was an emerging disease burden. So, I did not hesitate to join Sydney University’s MSc in Medicine (STD/HIV) program when AusAID awarded me a scholarship for doing a Masters degree in the HIV/AIDs field.

I found the University of Sydney to be one of the very few universities worldwide that specialises in a Masters Degree is the area of HIV/AIDS. I chose this program because of its international reputation.

What Mohammed liked about the MScMed (STI/HIV) course:
I liked the combined structure of this course. The course was full of both clinical and social aspects of STDs and HIV-related units. A pool of internationally reputed resource specialists were assigned for lecturing. Apart from that, the academic and administrative staff were very friendly. For me it was not possible to cross the hurdle of clinical issues without the extra effort of Dr Richard Hillman, as I didn’t have any clinical knowledge before joining this program.

Why was Mohammed interested in researching the topic he did:
Stigma and discrimination is considered to be the biggest challenge for preventing HIV transmission worldwide. However, in Bangladesh, no such systematic study was available on this issue before doing my study. The only available information was from the sporadic and sensational newspaper reports. I felt obliged to conduct a study on such a topic so as to shed light on this important, but neglected area.

For further information, Bellal can be reached via: or

Mohammed's Publications:

  • Hossain, M.B. & Bonell, C. (2008). ‘Blaming’ attitude towards HIV-positive people: survey of health-care workers in Bangladesh. XVII International AIDS Conference. 3-8 August 2008. Mexico City, Mexico.
  • Hossain, M.B., Haque, M.A., Sharmin, S., & Saleh, A. (2008). Sexual behavior as risk factor for HIV infection among youths in Bangladesh. XVII International AIDS Conference. 3-8 August 2008. Mexico City, Mexico.
  • Hossain, M.B., Ferdous, H. & Kabir, A. (2008). Knowledge on HIV and AIDS among the Tertiary Students in Bangladesh. International Quarterly on Community Health education. Vol 26, No 3.
  • Hossain, M.B. & Islam, M.S. (2007). Sharing Responsibility for Making Motherhood Safer: A Study on Male Involvement in Seeking Emergency Obstetric Care in Bangladesh. Abstract Presented in the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive & Sexual Health and Rights, 29-31 October 2007, Hydrabad, India.
  • Hossain, M.B. & Kippax, S. (2006). Health Care Workers Stigma & Discriminatory Attitudes towards the People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) in Bangladesh. XVI International AIDS Conference. 13-18 August 2006. Toronto, Canada.
  • Hossain, M.B. & Kippax, S. (2006). Perceived Stigma and Experience of Discrimination among the People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) in Bangladesh. XVI International AIDS Conference. 13-18 August 2006. Toronto, Canada.
  • Haque, R. & Hossain, M.B. (2006). Social Pension Programmes for a Just Society: The Bangladesh Perspective. Social Science Review. Vol. 23, No 2.
  • Hossain, M.B. & Ferdous, H. (2006). Sex Workers in Asia: Implications for the Sexual Health of the General Population. Social Science Review. Vol 23, No 1.

Dr Sheena Kakar

Dr Sheena Kakar

Why Sheena chose Sydney University's Masters of Medicine (STD/HIV) Degree:
By way of introduction, I am a doctor (MBBS), trained in India. Coming from Mumbai, where I interned in one of the largest municipal hospitals. I have had a very varied clinical experience, power-packed in 12 months.

Needless to say, STDs and HIV are rampant in India, but unfortunately we lack a dedicated course that covers all the aspects of STDs/HIV.

At the end of the internship, it was clear to me that I wanted a clinical research-based career in Sexually Transmissible Infections and HIV. I was looking for such a course, and when I found Sydney University's M Med (STD/HIV) Degree, it seemed tailor-made! One of the most attractive features of the course is the strong research component, interwoven with a sound clinical and public health basis.

What Sheena liked about the course:
When I came to Sydney I left my family in Mumbai, only to find another here at STIRC amongst class mates and the staff members.

A truly global experience, I have learnt so much more than I expected and so much 'beyond the book' too!

The teaching staff and lecturers are experts in their field, and we trained under the very best. Our class has doctors and health professionals from all over the world, who bring with them, varied clinical experience.

I finish the coursework semesters with my mind tuned towards scientific research, sensitised to aspects of sexuality, to which I was hitherto blind, and an updated knowledge of state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment modalities. My heart, in turn, is grateful to all who have helped me at STIRC and made this year one I shall cherish . . . always.

I shall be happy to answer any queries about the MMed Program. Please do not hesitate to contact me by email at:

Dr Maria Arriaga

Dr Maria Arriaga

Why Maria chose Sydney University's Masters of Science in Medicine (STD/HIV) Degree:
I’ve been interested in virology since I was in undergraduate school, where I specialised in Microbiology. My professional experience was mainly in clinical virology, but after a few years I decided that I wanted to explore other areas of HIV.

I was searching for a Masters program that could give an insight into other areas within the HIV field. The MMed Sci (STI/HIV) program was perfect because it was very comprehensive. It had a coursework component were I learnt about drugs and clinical management, while I was also able to deepen my knowledge of the laboratory/diagnosis of HIV. At the same time it gave me the opportunity to further explore the research area by undertaking my own research project. I just knew that I couldn’t lose with a program like that!

What Maria liked about the course:
What I liked the most about the program is that, in addition to learning the core knowledge of HIV, it also provided me with the opportunity to develop other skills such as team-work, presentation skills, and overall management of a research project. I also found the professors were readily available and helpful whenever I had questions or needed guidance.

Maria's Publications:
Interaction between HIV-1 & APOBEC3 Sub-Family of Proteins

Mr Tebuka Toatu - Medical Laboratory Scientist

Mr Tebuka Toatu

Why Tebuka chose Sydney University's Masters of Science in Medicine (STD/HIV) Degree:
The reason why I chose the University of Sydney to undertake my Masters of Science in Medicine (STD/HIV) at the Faculty of Medicine, is due to its outstanding international reputation both academically and in the field of research work.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Laboratory Science) from RMIT University in Melbourne. I have been working as the Director of Laboratory Services within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Kiribati for the past 10 years.

STIs and HIV have always been of great interest to me, especially as I feel there is much to be improved upon in Kiribati in regards to our STIs surveillance system. During the commencement of Semester 1 in 2006, I was totally overwhelmed by the vast amount of information regarding STIs and HIV. I used to think that STIs were ‘simple’, but as the course progressed, I realised that I was wrong and that there was so much to learn. Not only did we acquire new and useful knowledge about STIs and HIV, but the diagnostic methods taught and the hands-on practical sessions were well organised and were delivered by expert laboratory scientists!

Another important component of the course, which I felt was really rewarding for me, is the Journal Club Presentations. Not only has it given me the ability to present scientific papers, but it certainly has given me a broader understanding of how to critically evaluate scientific and medical journals.

The research component of the course has really well equipped me with the essential knowledge and skills in how to conduct future research work within my own workplace. I must say, that even though the course was challenging, in the end it is rewarding and worthwhile. I certainly have learnt a lot that I have been able to put into practice back in my home country.

The design and the way the Masters program was run was really tailored to my needs. The lectures that were delivered by staff of STIRC and outside professionals were certainly of a high calibre! My big thanks to the course co-ordinator – Dr. Richard Hillman and the staff of STIRC!

For those of you wanting to take up this course, I have no hesitation in recommending the University of Sydney!

Tebuka Toatu- Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Kiribati
For further information Teb can be contacted via:

Dr Vijay Ramanathan

Dr Vijay Ramanathan

I am 28 years old, a medical doctor from Chennai (India). I came to Sydney in 2005 to start my Graduate Diploma in STI/HIV and then got converted to a Masters student and successfully completed it in 2006. This opened my path to do further studies in Sexual Health which eventually led me to start my PhD in 2007 with the Faculty of Health Science looking at ‘Sexual Health of South Asian Men Living in Australia’.

I currently work as a Project Officer in one of the largest Divisions of General Practice in Australia in a Federal program called Medication Management Review. I am a representative from my Division for the Sexual Health Advisory Committee of one of the Area Health Services in NSW.

My treatise entitled, Accessibility and Acceptability of Public Sexual Health Clinics in NSW was presented at the 2006 Australasian Sexual Health Conference and the same is about to be submitted for publication in the Journal of Sexual Health. I have blended, clinical and non-clinical areas of interest for research within sexual health.


Why Vijay chose Sydney University’s Masters of Medicine (STI/HIV) degree:
I have answered this question in three sections: why I chose this degree, Australia and the Sydney University.

Until recent years, sexual health has been perceived as an unimportant area within the medicine curriculum in India. The rising numbers of HIV/AIDS opened a new field of interest for doctors to do postgraduate study in STI/HIV. In India, although postgraduate courses are available for STI, there exists nothing for HIV/AIDS.

I came to know through my brother, who worked in the Sexual Health promotion unit in Sydney, that Australia is the world leader in the harm minimisation program for HIV.

In my search for an ‘ideal’ coursework program that offered balanced clinical and research knowledge in STIs and HIV, I only found Sydney University’s course. I soon realised that this degree has international recognition, even to the extent that it is mentioned in the introduction page of Holmes’ Textbook of STD, 3rd edition.

What Vijay liked about the course:

  • The delivery of content of this course by experts is a key feature that I liked the most. Of special note are Professor Adrian Mindel, Associate Professor Richard Hillman and many others.
  • Student-friendly environment, highly approachable teaching and administration staff members and the international mix of students made my study comfortable and knowledgeable.
  • Adequate individual and group attention to students by the course coordinator was one feature that helped me to finish the course on-time.
  • Web-based assessments and on-line group discussions were very new to me, but quite interesting to do.
  • Above all, it was the research component of this course that always made me think critically. Right from developing a treatise proposal to submitting the report which was a hard task but equally rewarding. My MMed treatise sparked the idea of becoming a research/academic person within me and that is why I am a PhD candidate today.
  • Clinical attachments were highly useful because they provided me with more than clinical knowledge. Although, it did not provide much hands-on experience, it definitely resulted in a significant shift in the way I would handle and communicate to clients with sexual health concerns.

Vijay's Publications:
V. Ramanathan, M. Kang, S. Jeganathan, E. Jackson, K. Lagios & V Furner Accessibility and acceptability of public sexual health clinics for adult clients in New South Wales, Australia. Sexual Health, 5(3), 305-306

For further information or mentoring, Vijay can be contacted via email at: or via mobile on +61 416 634 647.

Vijay's recent work can be viewed via: http://www.usyd.edu.au/sexualhealth/vijayr