HSRC fo­cuses on HIV pre­ven­tion

Vuk'uzenzele - - Health - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

the hu­mAN sCI­eNCes Re­search Coun­cil has opened a satel­lite of­fice in Sweet­wa­ters, in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, to test ap­proaches to HIV pre­ven­tion.

the Hu­man Sci­ences Re­search Coun­cil (HSRC) satel­lite of­fice in the Vulin­dela District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity aims to test the com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage, in­clud­ing the cost-ef­fi­cacy, of two ap­proaches to HIV pre­ven­tion us­ing Vol­un­tary Coun­selling and Test­ing (VCT).

Site man­ager Dr Alas­tair van Heerdeen said that the re­search ad­dresses is­sues faced by the com­mu­nity, such as poverty in­equal­ity and the qual­ity of health­care.

“But our re­search is not just about a sim­ple tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion. It is about so­cial psy­cho­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal bar­ri­ers that af­fect these solutions, like gen­der and stigma or the fact that health­care ser­vices do not op­er­ate out­side of work­ing hours.”

An al­ter­na­tive model

Dr van Heerdeen said the project sug­gests an al­ter­na­tive model to the stan­dard fa­cil­ity-based VCT ser­vices in the coun­try. “For ex­am­ple, com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion for test­ing, im­me­di­ate test re­sults made avail­able by mo­bile ser­vices in com­mu­ni­ties, and link­ing test­ing to post-test sup­port ser­vices for both HIV-pos­i­tive and HIV-neg­a­tive in­di­vid­u­als and their so­cial net­works.”

Re­search tech­ni­cal man­ager Phillip Joseph said the im­por­tance of their work lies not with only re­search out­comes, but in the re­search process as well.

“Our col­lab­o­ra­tion is sig­nif­i­cant and all of our re­search progress must be gen­uine and cul­tur­ally ac­cepted,” he said, adding that the clinic worked hand in hand with the Depart­ment of Health.

He added that the mo­bile clinic pro­gramme at­tracts hardto-reach tar­get pop­u­la­tions that are not ser­viced by a heath fa­cil­ity.

Call­ing on men

“Our mo­bile clinic is tar­get­ing men who usu­ally fall by the way side. It is not that men do not want to test, but they are work­ing. On Satur­days they are busy with other things, such as funer­als. They do not get time to go to the clinic. They hate queues. We have a pro­gramme, named Zwakala Ndoda, where we call all men to come and test.

“Af­ter 25 months of in­ter­ven­tion de­liv­ery, 5 105 clients had par­tic­i­pated in our mo­bile VCT ser­vices; with a high test­ing up­take rate of 97 per cent. In ad­di­tion, we at­tract rel­a­tively equal num­bers of men (45 per cent) and women (55 per cent). With re­spect to age, more than 72 per cent of our testers fall be­tween the ages of 16 and 32, with a me­dian test­ing age of 24,” he said.

Dr van Heerdeen said all re­search pro­grammes are funded ex­ter­nally and the com­mu­nity al­ways par­tic­i­pates.

“We thank the many South Africans whose house­holds were ran­domly pre-se­lected to par­tic­i­pate, and their fam­i­lies have gladly ac­cepted to an­swer the so­cio-be­havioural sur­vey ques­tions and of­fered a few drops of blood for HIV test­ing,” he said.

Zwakala Ndoda so­cial fa­cil­i­ta­tor Thu­lani Ngubane and Sweet­wa­ters site man­ager Dr Alas­tair van Heerdeen.

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