Biokineticist and doctoral candidate Ms Takshita Sookan has been selected to join the prestigious Research Capacity (RCI) of the South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD).

Recently graduated with a cum laude Masters degree in Biokinetics and currently enrolled for a PhD degree, Ms Takshita Sookan is a recipient of the College of Health Sciences Scholarship for running expenses and a UKZN Doctoral Scholarship.

SANPAD is a unique collaborative research programme designed to develop the research capacity primarily of junior or inexperienced researchers to further research excellence. At the conclusion of the SANPAD RCI programme students are required to design a detailed PhD proposal demonstrating mastery of the material covered in the curriculum.


Sookan’s PhD research project is titled: “Effects of resistance training and nutritional supplementation on body composition, immunity and chronic risk factors in individuals living with HIV”. To support this research she has been awarded a UKZN doctoral scholarship on the basis of the excellent pass she attained in her Masters degree as well as running costs for her project from the College of Health Sciences.


The aim of her study is to determine whether resistance training and/or protein supplementation has an impact on muscle strength, body composition, immune status, as well as chronic disease risk factors in individuals living with HIV. The study population includes HIV-infected patients living in Durban and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).

‘Treatment with combination ART reduces both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection,’ said Sookan.

‘This infection results in profound changes in body composition of the infected individual. Noticeable changes include progressive weight and muscle loss as well as lipodystrophy. Theses alterations have been linked to the increased result of metabolic syndrome similar to that of obese individuals and to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

‘The effect of diet and exercise on the prevention and treatment of ART associated metabolic and body composition changes have not yet been established and hence my study is the first of its kind in the country.’

Professor Johan Van Heerden, Academic Leader Research in the School of Health Sciences, said the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences was showing increased post-graduate activity and research within the focus area of Exercise and Diseases of Lifestyle. ‘The funding support Ms Sookan's PhD project has received attests to the relevance of her topic and the potential of exercise as a therapeutic modality in managing disease.’

* The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes AIDS in humans is considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). From 1981 when the virus was discovered to 2006, AIDS has killed more than 25 million people. It infects about 0.6 percent of the world's population and South Africa has the highest prevalence of the disease (18.4 percent).
author email :