The aim is to create an understanding of the social and biological contexts and determinants of risk for sexual and reproductive health, HIV and related conditions in order to identify interventions to prevent and ameliorate morbidity in a range of populations, with the ultimate aim of positively influencing health policy and practice. Wits RHI’s research agenda includes biomedical,basic science/clinical interface, epidemiological, social science, and operations/health systems research agendas.
National Sex Worker and Male Client Programme
The aim is to assist in the development of a national sex worker plan by contributing to the development and implementation of surveillance tools,guidelines and curricula for sex worker and male client service delivery, and to implement and evaluate comprehensive services in selected truck stops and other identified sex worker ‘hotspots’ across South Africa.
The aim is to develop and implement a replicable model of linked interventions
across the three streams of the PHC re-engineering programme to improve
the screening,diagnosis, quality of care and adherence to treatment of
all HIV-infected adolescents.
The Research Teaching Programmes have been developed within the University of the Witwatersrand in support of
Masters and PhD students,and in partnership with numerous international
academic institutions from Africa and the developed world.
This programme supports the Department of Health and other key partners through innovative skills-building programmes with mentoring as a key component. The Training and
Teaching Department also supports internal capacitybuilding in technical,
behavioural and supportive skills.
Clinical research on
new diagnostics, vaccines and microbicides in adults
Community Engagement Research
Wits RHI is
committed to engaging with local communities and populations around the
development and implementation of biomedical prevention research. Most notably,
WRHI utilises a range of community and stakeholder advisory mechanisms,
including participatory research (e.g. community mapping), community radio,
community events, mobile phone technology and Community Advisory Boards
(CAB).The 2011 UNAIDS/ AVAC Good
Participatory Practice Guidelines for Biomedical HIV Prevention Trials
(GPP) guide the WRHI’s work with these mechanisms which are described below.
Through a partnership with AVAC, a U.S. based advocacy organisation, Wits RHI
aims to ensure that all research projects are GPP compliant.
Community Radio: Tshireletso Health Talk
Tshireletso Health Talk is a weekly radio show broadcast on community
radio. It uses a talk show format to raise important reproductive and sexual
health issues and generate awareness of clinical trials. The broad aims are to
engage the community with Wits RHI through the promotion of scientific
literacy. It is anticipated that local community members become knowledgeable
health consumers and informed participants on clinical trials. The radio show
benefits communities within the footprint of the radio station (Alex FM). Key
collaborators are Alex FM and ABC Ulwazi. In 2011, a paper was presented to the
South African AIDS Conference, entitled ‘I heard about the study on the radio’:
using community radio as a mechanism for improved good participatory practice
in clinical trials’. This study is funded by the Welcome Trust as part of its
programmes of funding on public engagement in science.
Community Advisory Boards (CAB)
Wits RHI has worked with Community Advisory Boards (CAB) for clinical
trial research since 2002. A CAB is a representative group of stakeholders that
meet to discuss issues of common concern or interest around a research agenda.
The establishment of CAB serves to enhance transparency and communication to
bridge the gap between the researchers and the community where research is
being conducted. Currently, the Institute has three CAB that serve Hillbrow
based, adult research studies, Hillbrow based, youth research studies and
Soweto based (Harriet Shezi), paediatric research studies. The CAB role is to provide
feedback on certain aspects of project development and community issues. It is
advisory in nature and advises on language and readability of study materials,
management of community hearsay and rumours, recruitment and retention
strategies and challenges and trial results dissemination.
The CAB composition is different for each CAB and typically includes
12-15 members. The Hillbrow adult CAB includes men and women of different ages
that represent all of the areas served by Wits RHI services. The Hillbrow youth CAB
includes youth aged 15-21 that also represent areas served by Wits RHI. The
Soweto-based CAB includes parents of the paediatric patients that receive care
at the Harriet Shezi clinic.
Over the last year, a comprehensive review and
evaluation of CAB activities was completed and each CAB has been reinvigorated
with a new Terms of Reference, new membership and a new research literacy
training curriculum. A manuscript on the CAB activities since 2002 is in draft
form and an abstract on the role of GPP in one microbicide study (FACTS) has
been submitted for the Microbicides 2012 Conference.