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Wednesday, 01 February 2017 17:39

Kenyan researchers meet

by Louis du Plooy

In January I had the pleasure of attending the first two days of the annual meeting of the STD/AIDS Collaborative Research Group, Nairobi, Kenya on behalf of EHPSA.
The first thing that struck me was the rich legacy that this collaboration has left - both in terms of the sheer number of Kenyan researchers, and the local ownership of research. The Kenyan National AIDS Council (NACC) participated actively in the meeting and invited researchers to continue to work with the NACC and align their work with the needs identified in national plans.

The STD/AIDS Collaborative Research Group is the product of the three-and-half decades of collaboration between the University of Nairobi, Kenya and the University of Manitoba, Canada, during which it has focused on a broad range of HIV research topics - from prevention to treatment and care, to capacity building.
The meeting demonstrated a renewed focus on implementation science in recent years. Alongside pure scientific research there has also been a greater focus on HIV transmission patterns among men who have sex with men (MSM) and a broader attempt through phylogenetics and mathematical modelling to trace HIV-1 transmission in Kenya. MSM implementation research includes strategies to increase testing and linkage to care, and acceptability and uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Other important research includes HIV risk among young female sex workers and young women engaging in high-risk casual and transactional sex.
A striking characteristic of all the implementation research presented during the first two days was the specific and determined efforts to work with and through peers and peer organisations. Whether it is peer-led introduction of oral self-testing to find undiagnosed HIV, or the art and drama interventions in the Sex Worker Outreach Programme, it is clear that the Kenyan research landscape is being formed and directed increasingly by key populations (KPs) and their organisations.

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