BuaNews, 21 October 2002, SA Receives Millions for HIV/Aids Research, Veronica Mohapeloa

Wits University's Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) has received a whopping R220-million five-year grant to support HIV/AIDS research in a family setting.

Called 'Safeguarding the Household: Comprehensive AIDS Research', the research grant was donated by the US government through the Comprehensive International Programme for Research on AIDS (CIPRA).

This to find ways to ease the burden the epidemic has put on adults and children.

Speaking in Johannesburg today, research co-ordinator Prof James McIntyre said low-income households in South Africa carried the greatest burden of HIV/AIDS and had the least reserves to cope.

'The CIPRA grant will therefore address HIV/AIDS as a problem not simply of individuals, but of entire families,' he explained.

Prof McIntyre added the programme would gather essential information for the government's AIDS programme in future, and covered many of the key areas raised in the recent Cabinet statement on AIDS.

Presenting the grant, the US Ambassador to South Africa Cameron Hume said it offered an investment in research to better inform TB and HIV management and treatment efforts in family and community settings in Africa.

Ambassador Hume said the lessons that would be presented through research in Gauteng and the Western Cape could help South Africa turn the tide around, by saving lives and preventing further infections.

The cutting-edge research programme is set to focus on aspects of HIV treatment in adults and children, tuberculosis and affordable laboratory tests.

The research team and collaborators from South Africa, the US and the UK will plan research at sites in Soweto near Johannesburg and Masiphumelele Township near Cape Town.

Besides finding affordable HIV/AIDS treatment for the young and the old, the programme is expected to determine the efficacy of two standard childhood vaccines in preventing AIDS-related complications in infants and develop simple, inexpensive methods of diagnosing HIV and monitoring treatment and drug resistance.

The PHRU is a research unit of Wits University, based at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

Led by the recipients of the 2002 Nelson Mandela Health and Human Rights Award winners, Prof McIntyre and Dr Glenda Gray, the unit has a wide-ranging HIV research programme, including the prevention of HIV transmission from mother-to-child.

Administered by the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the CIPRA programme helps developing countries strengthen their HIV/AIDS research infrastructure and increase their capacity for research into promising methods of HIV prevention and treatment.