April 7, 2005

Dr A D Mbewu, Executive Director for Research, MRC


The HIV and AIDS epidemic represents one the greatest challenges South Africa has ever faced not just in the health sector, but also in society as a whole. Because the disease is incurable, prevention remains the key intervention to halt the spread of this disease.

The MRC has recently established an HIV and AIDS Research Lead Programme in order to provide a comprehensive, coordinated programme for HIV and AIDS research in South Africa. The programme of research is designed to provide answers to the questions surrounding the pathophysiology, the prevention and the control of HIV and AIDS infection in Southern Africa. These answers should in turn provide a basis for an intersectoral to tackle the problem of the HIV/AIDS/STD epidemic in Southern Africa.

The programme will bind together a multidisciplinary, interinstitutional group of South African health researchers, service providers, NGOs, information technology and educational media companies.

The programme will cover all aspects of public health and biomedical research; with strong links to expert collaborators in overseas institutions such as CDC, NIH and Wellcome Trust.

The project leaders will mentor young, mainly black scientists in the course of these studies thus ensuring capacity development and sustainability of the interventions developed.

The projects have been carefully selected in light of careful review of work done in South Africa to date; and target gaps in available knowledge and methodology.

Steering Committee

The lead programme will comprise of several subprogrammes, each headed by a

Principal investigator (PIs). These PIs will make up, together with a business manager, a steering committee that will meet regularly in teleconference, and in person every quarter to coordinate the running of the lead programme.

They will coordinate the MRC presence at the biennial South African AIDS

Conference to which stakeholders in HIV/AIDS in South Africa are invited

including scientists, activists, policy makers and representatives of the


The subprogrammes include :

1. Biomedical and clinical

2. Vaccine development : SAAVI

3. Behavioural change research

4. AIDS care and counselling

5. Nutrition and traditional medicine

6. Information and communication

7. Consulting and Advocacy

Biomedical and Clinical

This subprogramme will undertake research in the following fields :

Diagnostics and Reference Laboratory

Epidemiology - both biomedical and social epidemiology as well as gaining a clear understanding of the determinants of risk factors, cofactors that place people at risk.

Aetiology and natural history

HIV transmission


Vertical Transmission

Information and Communication

This subprogramme will use ICT technology and bioinformatics to facilitate research and communication of research results.

Already established is the AfroAidsinfo internet portal.

Behavioural Science and Prevention

Sexually transmitted disease

Special settings

AIDS Treatment and Counselling

Management of Opportunistic Infection

Antiretroviral and immunemodulatory therapy

Voluntary counselling and testing

Vaccine Development

The South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI)


Consultancy services to industry, parastatals and government in connection with HIV among the workforce etc

Economic impact studies

Human Rights and Advocacy

Masikhulisane HIV vaccine community preparedness

Human Rights and Ethics research

Public Health Law