UKZN Hosts a senior delegation from the United States
2011/03/10 12:07:32 PM
Viewing the architect's impressions of the new K-RITH building at the CAPRISA Offices is from left; Dr Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty International Centre and Associate Director for International Research; Dr Francis Collins, Director of the NIH; Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, Vice-Chancellor (UKZN); Professor Salim Karim, Director of CAPRISA, Dr Stacey Wallick, Public Health Analyst (NIH); Professor Nelson Ijumba, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research (UKZN) and Dr Samuel Adeniyi-Jones, Director of the African Region-US Department of Health and Human Services.
Seen at Vulindlela, the research site of the groundbreaking Microbicide Gel Trial are seated from left; Dr Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty International Centre and Associate Director for International Research; Professor Quarraisha Abdool-Karim, Associate Director of CAPRISA; Dr Francis Collins, Director of the NIH; Ambassador Eric Goosby, United States Global Aids Coordinator; Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, Director of CAPRISA and standing, leadership of the Vulindlela community; CAPRISA and PEPFAR staff and participants of the study.
Professor Nceba Gqaleni in the centre with Ambassador Goosby to his right and guests from NIH and PEPFAR
On March 9, the Director of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Head of the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) led a US delegation on a visit of HIV/AIDS research project sites of UKZN.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), guided the delegation on a detailed tour of CAPRISA sites. The group included Dr Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director who previously led the Human Genome Project, Ambassador Eric Goosby, the United States Global AIDS Co-ordinator in charge of PEPFAR, Ms Deborah van Zinkernagel, Deputy Global AIDS Coordinator, Dr Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty International Centre and Dr Samuel Adeniyi-Jones, Director of the African Region-US Department of Health and Human Services and Ms Stacy Wallick, Public Health Analyst (NIH).
The NIH delegates started their visit with a tour of the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, a visit to CAPRISA and an opportunity to see the building site and the plans for the new K-RITH building, currently under construction at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. Guided by Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim and Dr Kogie Naidoo, the PEPFAR delegates made an early start with a tour of the CAPRISA eThekwini clinic and the adjoining Prince Cyril Zulu Communicable Diseases Centre (PCZCDC), which is Durban’s busiest Tuberculosis (TB) clinic where approximately 5 000 TB patients are treated each month.
Visiting the groundbreaking Microbicide Gel Trial research site in rural Vulindlela (near Howick), delegates were impressed with the warm welcome received by the community. Dr Collins said, ‘There has been very exciting work done on the microbicide gel here. However, one should never forget that the work was possible only through the vision and leadership of a Chief that saw the benefit in partnering with CAPRISA for his community. The eyes of the world are upon you and you’re a beacon of hope to the world. Not only are you doing God’s work for your community but also for the world at large’.
Inkosi Zondi, traditional leader of the Vulindlela District gave an emotional account of how CAPRISA has benefited the community by reducing the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS. He said that all lives belong to God and as the leader of the community, he thanked PEPFAR and the US government for providing the funding for research of this kind to take place and pledged the ongoing support of the Vulindlela community to the project.
Baba Sithole, the local pastor who is Chair of the Community Support Research Group in the district described how the project has impacted on the community by not only reducing the number of deaths but by educating the youngest members on HIV/AIDS. He said, ‘A seven-year old at home knows how to take her AIDS medication and at her age, she knows that she needs to take the medication for life’.
Ambassador Goosby thanked the community for their willingness to engage and respond to the growing needs of the community. He said, ‘your ownership and investment in the project is gratifying’.
Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim recounted the initial imbizo with the community where two traditional healers already on antiretroviral drugs disclosed their status and encouraged the community to be tested for HIV and to attend the CAPRISA clinic for AIDS treatment. She went on to say that in those years, members of the community would never share utensils or even a toilet used by an HIV/AIDS infected individual. This has turned around significantly through awareness and interaction with the PEPFAR provided AIDS education and treatment at the CAPRISA Vulindlela clinic.
Ms Gethwana Mahlase, who assists the researchers as the community liaison officer in the district mentioned that the current challenge facing the community is the growing number of orphaned children. The community has taken the initiative with the support of the traditional leaders to provide a feeding scheme, home support and school uniforms and fees for 150 orphaned children in Vulindlela.
Ambassador Goosby and the PEPFAR representatives then went on to visit Professor Nceba Gqaleni’s traditional medicine laboratories and were met by senior leadership of the Traditional Healers Association in the Province. Professor Gqaleni informed the delegates of the patient referral system where patients of the healers are requested to complete a consent form to allow the traditional healer to maintain a patient record. After the consultation, the healer will refer the patient to a nearby public health clinic for HIV counselling and testing. Aftercare, including treatment support, behavioral change counselling, and palliative care are among the services provided by the traditional healer.
The PEPFAR guests learned that, through the PEPFAR-funded Traditional Healers Project, 1200 traditional healers in three districts reported working with 85 000 patients who had seen them for the first time. Many of these patients would visit the traditional healer another four to five times for follow up. Virtually all of these patients were referred for HIV counselling and testing, and approximately 10 percent were offered palliative care. A study conducted in Hlabisa found that 84% percent of the population would choose a traditional healer as a TB treatment advisor.
Ambassador Goosby said, ‘The power of the natural healer in the culture and the wide acceptance of their role in the population should not be underestimated in delivering the HIV/AIDS message effectively’. He encouraged the healers to use their gift and the trust the community has in them to educate mothers in the community on the role they need to play in preventing mother to child infections. ‘I’m very impressed with the work you’ve accomplished and encourage you to continue to bring primary health care to the village level,’ said Ambassador Goosby.
The Provincial AIDS Council, chaired by Premier Zweli Mkhize, is facilitating the expansion of the Traditional Healers Project to reach all 25 000 traditional health practitioners in the province.