Within three weeks, the country’s top HIV/AIDS scientists will present the Department of Health with a range of recommendations on how to deal with HIV/AIDS.
This follows last week’s groundbreaking HIV Summit in Vanderbijlpark, convened by the Department of Health and Health Systems Trust, which brought together 100 HIV/AIDS scientists and government officials for the first time.
Recommendations will be clustered into 16 different topics, based on themes discussed at the summit. These include anti-retroviral treatment; infant feeding methods for HIV positive mothers; HIV and child nutrition; the treatment of opportunistic infections such as TB and post-exposure prophylaxis for rape survivors.
Anti-retroviral treatment is receiving the most attention from the scientists, with six of the 16 topics focusing on different aspects of it. Focus areas include drug toxicity, the safety of long-term ARV treatment in children, how to choose patients for ARV therapy and how to ensure adherence to treatment.
Describing the meeting as “highly positive and constructive”, the scientists acknowledged in a press statement that “while some recommendations were non-contentious, others will require on-going dialogue between researchers, civil society organisations and government”.
However, they stated that they hoped the summit “represents the beginning of a constructive and more structured process for continued interaction between the scientific community and government”. They also said that the “wealth of research capacity in this country” needed to be better co-ordinated and clinical research needed to be linked to “economic, social science, health systems and policy research”.
Scientists involved in developing the policies include head of the HIV Clinicians Society Dr Des Martins, Wits University’s Prof James McIntyre, Prof Helen Rees and Dr Glenda Gray, UCT’s Prof Greg Hussey, Dr Lynne Denny and Dr Linda-Gail Bekker; the University of Natal’s Prof Slim Abdool Karim, Prof Jerry Coovadia, Dr Anna Coutsoudis and Dr Daya Moodley and UWC’s Prof Dave Saunders.