As young women continue to bear the brunt of new HIV infections, it can’t be business as usual when it comes to HIV prevention. This is the thinking behind the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Africa Centre for Population Health research which is seeking to incentivise men for testing and initiation on to antiretroviral treatment (ART).

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UKZN’s College of Health Science’s Prof Frank Tanser, based in the Wellcome Trust’s Africa Centre for Population Health (Africa Centre), together with Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health’s Prof Till Bärnighausen, were recently awarded the prestigious five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 multi-million rand grant (up to R40 million), bringing their highly successful collaboration on cutting edge HIV intervention research into the second decade.

The expected outcome of this work is a developed and evaluated targeted intervention to drive back the HIV epidemic in HIV hyper endemic communities in Southern Africa. In many communities, large fractions of men needing antiretroviral treatment (ART) are not receiving HIV treatment, despite an overall rapid ART scale-up. HIV-related mortality continues to be the most common cause of death and HIV incidence in many communities remains high, in particular among young women.

"The solution to both of these seemingly intractable problems is to encourage more men into HIV care and onto anti-retroviral therapy. To this end we felt that it was vital that we take a multi-disciplinary approach to finding a solution to these twin problems and so have enlisted the help of a team of scientists from diverse backgrounds to design and test a cutting-edge intervention to bring men into HIV programmes," said Bärnighausen.

 "We believe that this grant will enable us to take our research to the next level and it gives us a real opportunity to intervene in the most vulnerable groups," said Tanser.

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AHRI secures DST funding

Yesterday the South African Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, launched the country’s new research infrastructure roadmap. AHRI is partnering with Wits and the University of Limpopo on one of these 13 DST-funded projects - a national network of health and demographic surveillance sites.

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About the Africa Health Research Institute

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB-HIV and Africa Centre for Population Health have joined to form an exciting new interdisciplinary research institute, the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI). We do cutting-edge research that ranges from lab bench to population, applying the latest scientific innovations in the heart of the HIV and tuberculosis co-epidemic. Our aim is to become a source of fundamental discoveries into the susceptibility, transmission and cure of HIV and TB and related diseases, seeking always to improve diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Another of the major missions of the Africa Health Research Institute is training the next generation of outstanding African scientists. The new venture is made possible through grants from Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), with UCL (University College London) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) as significant academic partners. www.ahri.org

Africa Centre for Population Health recently hosted mathematics students from the University Of Zululand.   “Africa Centre believes that there is no better way to generate science interest in young people than opening doors to local young students and educating them about the importance of population health research and interest in science,”  said  Deenan Pillay, Director of the Africa Centre when addressing the third-year and honours-year students.

The presentations, discussions and the tour around the research centre very much fascinated students as they were afforded an opportunity to learn and see real science in action at the Centre.

 “We appreciate everything Africa Centre has done, our students are so happy,” Bongumusa Chonco, one of the members of the Maths and Science Society who organised the visit. He added, “We hope do this to other students in future.”

 

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By Tom Yates

TB is a huge problem in our community. Most people know friends or family who have suffered from the disease. Many people die from TB, often at a young age, and that is why Africa Centre for Population Health is doing research to help with the TB problem. Click here to learn more about TB and how to beat it.

 

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