The opening session of the 8th SA AIDS Conference, “The Long Walk to Prevention”, set the scene by inviting youth voices to frame the major challenges ahead for HIV in the region. The conference began in darkness with the voice of 22-year-old Saidy Brown reading a personal poem to HIV. “Because of you,” she said, “there goes all my happy days”.
In a carefully scripted drama, a group of young people took us through all the parameters of youth HIV risk: poverty, gender-based violence, stigma against young key populations, the generation divide... They made a convincing plea to be involved as active partners in big decision-making, complaining that HIV organisations are filled with old people whose top-down programmes have failed to work, “Stop starting new campaigns, “they said. “This year ‘She Conquers’, next year ‘He Conquers’, the following year ‘They Conquer!”
It has long been recognised that new models of HIV care are essential if we are to reach the 90-90-90 treatment targets. In a preconference session to the 8th SA AIDS Conference, FHI360 presented their experience of differentiated models of care in Nigeria and six countries in eastern and southern Africa. Innovations include a range of strategies across the 90-90-90 cascade, such as multi-month scripting, spaced clinic visits, decentralised care, ART clubs and ART refills in community, targeted services for adolescents and key populations, task shifting and many others.
Around 50 leading researchers, policy makers and programme implementers from eastern and southern Africa gathered in Johannesburg at the end of March to discuss strategies for strengthening HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men.
On June 8 UN member states adopted the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS:On the Fast-Track to Accelerate the fight against HIV and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The declaration called for urgent action to ensure that no one is left behind in the AIDS response.
It’s now halfway through the EHPSA programme and a good time to review progress and discuss strategies to make our work more effective. In mid-May the team met for three days to see how we could "up our game". We also discussed the recommendations of the recent Annual Review of the programme and how to operationalise our response.
On March 14-16, over 50 prisons officials, researchers and non-governmental organisations met in Lusaka, Zambia, to discuss challenges
around HIV prevention in prisons in eastern and southern Africa.
In October 2015 seventeen researchers from the nine EHPSA research portfolios met with the EHPSA team to discuss the potential influence of their research on policy making in eastern and southern Africa.
Two leading policy makers from countries in the region also attended and contributed their views and experience. The meeting was strongly participatory and covered the following topics:
Researchers undertook to develop a stakeholder engagement plan that defined policy influence objectives and activities
at key milestones of their research.
The full report. Read...
The Regional Research Fund is going from strength to strength. First quarterly reports from the nine research teams show that the majority are making steady progress. Some have already received ethical approval for their studies and have begun the implementation phase of their research.
The first EHPSA regional symposium was held in Durban on June 8-9, 2015.
Full report on the first EHPSA Regional Symposium. READ...
The symposium was attended by research institutions who have been awarded research contracts under the EHPSA RRIF and related policy making communities.
Larry Gelmon (University of Manitoba) introduced the four research projects within the adolescent portfolio, all of which are operational research that look at combination prevention among adolescents. Projects have at least one site in South Africa, with other sites in Zambia, Tanzania, and Malawi.
Lead researchers, or their representatives, made brief presentations on the four research projects. READ...
Josee Koch (Mott MacDonald technical lead on EHPSA Output 4) introduced the EHPSA Prisoners research which focusses on treatment as prevention.
Anthony Kinghorn (Mott MacDonald, EHPSA technical adviser) introduced the four projects within the EHPSA LGBTI portfolio. Projects focus on improving access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, design of HIV prevention interventions / HIV prevention needs, and the burden of sexually transmitted infections (STI) for men who have sex with men.
Lead researchers, or their representatives made brief presentations on the four research projects. READ...
Rosalia Rodriguez-Garcia (World Bank, Washington) and Nicole Fraser-Hurt (World Bank London) presented on the HIV evaluations which are currently underway and are co-financed and implemented by the World Bank. These include demand creation for VMMC in Malawi; strategies to enhance adherence in South Africa; demand-side incentives to enhance HIV prevention among girls and young women in Swaziland; and technical support to strengthen national HIV programme implementation in Swaziland.
Panel discussions followed the presentation of each portfolio. Key issues discussed included:
• The importance of collaboration between researchers and policymakers
• Ownership and sharing of data
• Policymakers’ analysis of the gap between research and practice
• Difficulty of implementing policy on sensitive issues, such as adolescent sexuality and homosexuality – legal and other obstacles
The discussion on the adolescent portfolio raised several burning issues relating to how policy makers and researchers can work together.
Participants also identified key factors that enabled or inhibited the uptake of research into policy and practice.