‘Research efforts should bear fruit’
Lusaka ‑ African governments need to contribute and support clinical programmes developed to eradicate HIV/AIDS and other diseases taking their toll on the continent.
Zambia’s Professor Nkandu Luo has noted that the application of improved clinically known programmes would also help in the fight against various diseases, among them tuberculosis and malaria through the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
In her paper at a high-level conference on the second EDCTP programme hosted by the South African Department of Science and Technology in Cape Town recently, Prof Luo regretted little visibility of the works being done in several countries despite the injection of huge amounts of money into research works through the EDCTP programme.
EDCTP is a partnership of 14 EU countries, Switzerland and Norway, and 47 Sub-Saharan African countries. It aims to establish a research and development programme for the development of new or improved clinical interventions to combat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria through a long-term partnership between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Prof Luo noted the need to strengthen existing partnerships and build more partnerships among the recipient countries, governments and researchers in the second EDCTP programme coming up in 2014.
She also encouraged African governments to contribute to EDCPT and urged experts to remain dedicated to the programme.
“We need to redesign budgets and show our commitment.”
She said African countries could contribute towards EDCTP by encouraging big companies like mines to contribute towards the undertaking.
“How much can mines contribute to government and EDCTP as some people [are] suffering from TB because of working on those mines? We also need to invest in infrastructure and human capital,” Prof Luo noted.
She asked for participation by all stakeholders, including sociologists and the media, for the programmes to be a success. In the past, according to Prof Luo, microbicide trials in Zambia had to be abandoned because of uninformed media reports.
Research should not be thrown in the backyard especially in Africa because it could be made an integral part in health care provision, Prof Luo said, noting that the money being pumped into research works in several African countries, including Zambia, should be seen to bear fruit.
An estimated 34 million people are infected with the virus that causes HIV globally, according to a recent report by UNAIDS.
The report also shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic.
New HIV infections have reduced by 21 percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.
According to the report, at the end of 2010 of an estimated 34 million [31.6 million – 35.2 million] people living with HIV globally, 2.7 million [2.4 million – 2.9 million] were new HIV infections recorded in 2010, while 1.8 million [1.6 million – 1.9 million] people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2010.
This situation has raised eyebrows among various stakeholders who are now calling for a remedy and prevention of new infections to save the world.
“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
However, some countries in Africa, Botswana included, are making headway in fighting the spread of the scourge, according to the report for 2012.
It stated that in Botswana, patterns in sexual behaviour have remained relatively stable since 2000.
The country scaled up access to treatment from less than 5 percent in 2000 to over 80 percent, which it has maintained since 2009.
The annual number of new HIV infections has declined by over two thirds since the late nineties and data suggests that the number of new HIV infections in Botswana is 30 percent to 50 percent lower today than it would have been in the absence of antiretroviral therapy.
As treatment reduces the viral load of a person living with HIV to virtually undetectable levels, it also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to an uninfected partner. Recent studies show that treatment can be up to 96 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission among couples, the report added.