As EHPSA studies are drawing to a close we are continually searching for fora to present study findings to stakeholders who may make good use of them. The SADC stock-taking meeting in Johannesburg in April, presented a unique opportunity. The meeting brought together all ministers of health and NAC Directors from the 15 SADC countries to discuss progress made towards reaching HIV prevention targets - the 100-day action plans - which are part of the Revitalise HIV Prevention drive.
The UNAIDS goal of cutting new infections by 75 per cent will require a focus on HIV prevention, combined with scaled-up HIV testing and treatment. EHPSA has a research portfolio that contributes evidence to support the “how to” questions related to this target.
There is growing recognition in international development that research is never purely an academic exercise. We often hear that research should provide evidence that can be used to strengthen policy and programming for vulnerable populations. In other words, we are aiming for policy relevant research because this will improve the lives of citizens. Policymaking is not a straightforward process and can be a messy exercise, with domestic political agendas, norms, values, regional commitments and global movements all influencing the way policy is formulated and implemented. Evidence is often regarded as a neutral player in the game and promoted for its ability to present scientific facts and logic without favouring a specific policy outcome.
There is a silent global epidemic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that is threatening to undermine health gains as well as prospects for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. It seems that insufficient attention is being paid to these diseases that undermine the health of adults and cause congenital abnormalities and death in infants.
Global data from WHO in 2016 shows that there were 357 million cases annually of four curable STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, trichomonas), and around 300,000 foetal and neonatal deaths from syphilis in pregnancy. This latter is more than double the number of AIDS-related deaths in children under the age of 14 years globally, which UNICEF estimates at 120,000 in 2017.
Those of you here at ICASA will have noticed the opening statement of many speakers starting as follows: “I stand in solidarity with African key populations, men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, trans-gender people in all their diversity, adolescents and young people and people living with HIV, in order to end AIDS. “ The growing unity and solidarity among key populations is visible and clearly linked to the difficult situation key populations find themselves in, even here at the ICASA conference in Zimbabwe, where the MSM space was broken down early into the conference.