Watch: Tackling the spread of HIV in South Africa
29 November 2010
To mark World AIDS Day, UCL's Marie-Louise Newell describes the work of the Africa Centre for Health & Population Studies in KwaZulu-Natal, where she is director.
There are more cases of HIV infection in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa than in Botswana and Uganda combined. Led by Professor Marie-Louise Newell (seonded from the UCL Institute of Child Health), the Africa Centre for Health & Population Studies treats those in the area with HIV, provides testing and studies the spread of the virus in order to tackle the epidemic.
The Centre has provided treatment for 15,000 people since 2004, and tests 30,000 people for HIV every year, working with local health clinics.
Professor Newell said: "HIV was introduced in the area in the early '90s and then it grew exponentially during the '90s and there are still very high levels of HIV. But what is most disconcerting is the fact that the acquisition of new infections is still incredibly high, so that out of 100 negative people at the beginning of the year, about four will become infected by the end of the year.
"The Africa Centre provides a lot of jobs; we have about 500 people we employ and the vast majority of those are local people, so we are important economically, but then we are important because we provide the healthcare service, especially with the HIV and TB focus. People are coming into the area to get their healthcare because they know they can get it here much better than elsewhere."
Professor Marie-Louise Newell is also one of the principal investigators of a joint 'treatment as prevention' trial announced on 30 November. The research will be conducted by the Africa Centre and will investigate whether widespread HIV testing with immediate antiretroviral therapy for all those identified as infected significantly reduces the spread of HIV in their community. The French AIDS research agency ANRS has provided €3 million for the first phase of the study, which is scheduled to start in 2011. The project has been developed as a partnership between a South African-based team and European stakeholders.
The Africa Centre is a research centre of the University of KwaZulu Natal and is funded largely by the Wellcome Trust.
Find out more about the Centre and its work by following the links at the top of this item.
Image: Mother and child at the Africa Centre
Professor Graham Hart, UCL Infection & Population Health, is giving the Lunch Hour Lecture 'Can HIV treatment stop the AIDS epidemic?' on 30 November.
UCL Medsin, the university's global health society, is running events 29 November - 4 December for Stop AIDS Week.