YOUNG INVESTIGATOR AWARD FOR UKZN PHD STUDENT

YOUNG INVESTIGATOR AWARD FOR UKZN PHD STUDENT

Ms Kavidha Reddy, a PhD student in the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP), has been awarded the IAS/ANRS Young Investigator Award by the International AIDS Society and the French National Agency for Research on AIDS. 

The IAS/ANRS Young Investigator Award supports researchers under the age of 35 who demonstrate innovation, originality, rationale and quality in the field of HIV work. 

Reddy, supervised by UKZN’s Victor Daitz Chair in HIV/TB Research and Head of the HPP, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, received the award at the 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she presented her study titled: “Association of APOBEC3G genetic variants with HIV-1 vif sequence variation and impact on HIV-1 pathogenesis.”  

According to Reddy, finding a safe, effective and durable HIV vaccine is still a priority in the fight against HIV; however, this remains a great challenge. Thus far, traditional vaccine approaches have focused on CTL and antibodies. 

Reddy’s study is unique in that its focus is on a new arm of the innate immune system which constitutes cellular host restriction factors (HCRF). HCRFs are proteins widely expressed in mammalian cells and inhibit stages of HIV-1 lifecycle, however; they are currently not targeted by existing AIDS therapies.  

Reddy’s study concentrated on understanding the role of the HCRF known as APOBEC3G which was shown to have antiviral activity.  Reddy’s work shows that genetic variants of this protein differ in their antiviral activity and that a viral protein (Vif) that targets APOBEC3G  may be evolving to better counteract APOBEC3G.  In particular, she found that the Vif protein from HIV-1 subtype C is evolving to better inhibit APOBEC3G, thereby inactivating host defences against the virus.  These data point to mechanisms that could be exploited to develop a new class of drugs against HIV to block virus replication and slow down disease progression. 

Reddy’s current work is a follow-up on her previous study, published in the journal AIDS in 2010, in which she identified various naturally occurring genetic variants of APOBEC3G, including some associated with rapid disease progression. The findings of this study suggest how HIV may be targeted through new immunotherapeutic ways. 

Reddy said, ‘The results of the study are exciting. It has paved the way for further research in this area which may provide a new avenue for future AIDS therapies and vaccine design shedding new hope against retroviral pathogenesis.’  Ndung’u commented, ‘We are still far away from translating this knowledge into new drugs, but by understanding the fundamental mechanisms of disease, we have made a step in the right direction.’ 

Reddy recently submitted her PhD study for examination and has already been offered a post-doctoral position in the HIV Pathogenesis Programme and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute in TB and HIV (K-RITH).  

Ndung’u’s HPP is a multidisciplinary HIV pathogenesis research programme anchored by an immunology program that seeks to rapidly provide an extensive understanding of the immune responses that are effective in the control of HIV infection. Ndung’u strongly believes that the generation of scientists most likely to find a cure for AIDS exists within the under 35-year-old group and is therefore passionate about involving young people in scientific research.

author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

SA SCIENTISTS ARE TRAILBLAZERS IN HIV/AIDS RESEARCH

SA SCIENTISTS ARE TRAILBLAZERS IN HIV/AIDS RESEARCH

South African scientists can be proud of the significant scientific breakthroughs they’ve made in contributing to the global response to HIV/AIDS, according to UKZN’s Professor Salim Abdool Karim. 

Speaking at the 6th South African AIDS Conference, the world renowned HIV/AIDS researcher mentioned six significant strides by South African scientists, the majority of whom were based at the College of Health Sciences at UKZN. 

Abdool Karim is the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the interim President of the Medical Research Council and Chair of the newly established UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel. 

His message to the delegates and guests, including the Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, was that South African scientists could hold their heads up high in the fight against AIDS. 

According to the World Health Organization, in 2011, 34.2 million people were living worldwide with HIV; and there were 2.5 million new infections and 1.7 million deaths. In South Africa, 0.7 percent of the population is infected by HIV. 

Abdool Karim said that although these statistics painted a grim picture, the tide was turning. Currently, deaths of children and adults had declined by 43 percent and 20 percent respectively and life expectancy was up by six years. 

Significant HIV prevention campaign successes were recorded in the 2010-2011 period in South Africa, he said. During these years, 13 million HIV tests were conducted and 492 male condoms distributed.  

Abdool Karim said in sub-Saharan Africa, young women between the ages of 15-24 stood an eight times greater risk of HIV infection than boys in the same age group. ‘Reducing HIV in young women is essential to reducing the HIV epidemic in South Africa,’ said Abdool Karim. 

Some of the scientific breakthroughs by South African scientists were trail-blazers and were published in the world’s top four leading medical journals. 

The first was the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Gel trial which indicated that 1 percent of the gel reduced HIV transmission by a staggering 39 percent. This was the first clinical evidence that a microbicide gel could help prevent sexual transmission of HIV.  This finding when implemented has the potential to avert 2 million new infections over a three-year period.  

The second finding was that of Prevention of Mother-to-Child (PMTC) HIV infection through exclusive breastfeeding and the use of the anti-AIDS drug, Nevirapine. Professor Hoosen Coovadia, Emeritus Victor Daitz Professor in HIV at UKZN, and his team of experts found that the anti-AIDS drug, Nevirapine, given as syrup to babies was safe and effective in preventing them from getting HIV infection from their HIV-infected mothers through breastfeeding.  

These findings have been acknowledged by the World Health Organization in its international guidelines for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The South African government is one of many throughout the world to implement Nevirapine to protect babies from HIV infection while they gain the benefits of their mother’s breastmilk. 

Coovadia said: ‘Since breastfeeding transmission of HIV accounts for more than a third of HIV infections in babies, this study contributes a key component of the global strategy to create an AIDS-free generation.’ 

The third significant study finding was that of the CHER Trial conducted by South African scientists in Soweto and Cape Town. The trial indicated that administering antiretroviral therapy (ART) to infants immediately after diagnosis, rather than waiting for their CD4 counts to drop or other symptoms to prompt treatment, reduced their chance of dying by 76 percent. It also reduced the chance of their disease progressing measurably by 75 percent. The results of the study led to changes in WHO guidelines and immediate treatment was recommended.  

The fourth groundbreaking study was from CAPRISA which demonstrated the benefits of treating patients with concomitant TB therapy and ART and also provided guidelines on the optimal timing for initiating ARV in HIV/TB co-infected patients. The recommendations were that one should initiative ART in all HIV-infected individuals with active tuberculosis (TB) irrespective of CD4 cell count.  

If the patient is already receiving TB treatment, this should be followed by ART as soon as possible after starting TB treatment. These findings were adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Department of Health and Human Services and South African Government in their treatment policies. Abdool Karim said: ‘Combining ART with TB treatment saves lives.’ 

The fifth major breakthrough came from studies led by scientists based in UKZN’s Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies. The two ground-breaking studies demonstrated that the HIV epidemic could be reversed through increasing coverage of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and that adult life expectancy had increased by more than 11 years in rural KwaZulu-Natal.  

The studies were the first conclusive evidence of the positive impact of antiretroviral therapy on the rate of new HIV infections demonstrated in a community setting. 

The last major scientific contribution to HIV prevention efforts was a key finding that the human body makes antibodies that can kill 88 percent of the viruses that cause AIDS. The research was led by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and included scientists from CAPRISA, UKZN, UCT and Wits, in conjunction with Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in the United Sates. Co-leader of the study, Dr Penny Moore, said researchers looked at the “cat-and-mouse game” being played out between the body and the virus. 

 They found that the virus developed a protective sugar coating when fighting the body’s antibodies, but a certain type of sugar, position 332, developed vulnerability in the virus that prompted the body to make the powerful antibodies. ‘An understanding of how these antibodies evolve may be the next step towards developing a vaccine,’ said Abdool Karim. 

Abdool Karim ended off his presentation with these words, ‘Now is the time to re-double our efforts to reach an AIDS-free generation of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths.’


author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

CONSUMER RIGHTS EXPERT CONTRIBUTES TO CONSUMER RIGHTS BOOK

CONSUMER RIGHTS EXPERT CONTRIBUTES TO CONSUMER RIGHTS BOOK

UKZN law academic and National Consumer Tribunal member, Professor Tanya Woker, has written two chapters in a new book on the Consumer Protection Act expected to be published by Jutas towards the end of the year.

The chapters titled: ‘Franchising and the Consumer Protection Act’; and ‘Fraudulent Investment Schemes’, focus on franchising and how the Consumer Protection Act have impacted on this area of business and on fraudulent investment ideas such as Ponzi schemes. 

Woker has recently completed an article on investments in property syndications where investors (often old age pensioners) are encouraged to invest in property schemes which later collapse and they lose all their hard earned money.               

‘This is very problematic especially when pensioners are involved because pensioners are retired and therefore have no means of recouping their losses. The Financial Services Ombud has dealt with a number of complaints recently and found that many of these schemes are just Ponzi schemes,’ said Woker. 

In the article, Woker makes suggestions regarding the way in which the law should deal with such investments in the hope that they can be stopped before they even get going because once the money is invested it will usually be lost even if the promoters of such schemes are held accountable. 

Woker is planning to focus on the processes which have been set out in the National Credit Act and the Consumer Protection Act to assist cconsumers who have suffered damages as a result of unlawful conduct on the part of suppliers.  This new legislation is intended to protect consumers with new processes being introduced for claiming damages.

‘The question which needs to be answered is whether this is in fact correct?’ concluded Woker.


author email : jumo@ukzn.ac.za

DIFF FORMS STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH DURBAN WILD TALK AFRICA & DFM

DIFF FORMS STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH DURBAN WILD TALK AFRICA & DFM

The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) Fund recently announced it had established a strategic partnership with Durban Film Mart (DFM) and Durban Wild Talk Africa, the continent’s highly respected natural history film festival and conference taking place in the city from 23 to 26 July.  

DIFF is hosted by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) with principal funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust.

A selection of natural history films has been chosen from 445 entries from across the globe to be screened during nine slots as part of the DIFF programme. These films were entered as part of Durban Wild Talk Africa’s ROSCAR Awards competition.  

Durban Wild Talk Africa has scheduled its conference in the footprint of DIFF, as part of a greater vision to build Durban’s golden mile as a hub for film market activity during July.  

Forming this strategic partnership with Durban Wild Talk Africa, adds a valuable new dimension to DIFF, says the festival’s Manager, Mr Peter Machen. ‘The Wild Talk Africa Film Festival selection complements our huge variety of more than 200 factual and fiction films screened at DIFF. This, no doubt, will add to the dynamic and vigorous discourse that usually takes place during the festival both informally and formally in seminars and workshops, as well as in the media.’ 

Mr Donfrey Meyer, Director of Wild Talk Africa, said: ‘We have chosen our dates to coincide with DIFF and the Durban Film Mart in a united effort to build the film festival and market environment for factual content and feature films in Durban. As the DWTA is an autonomous conference, running concurrently with DIFF, we believe film-makers and industry players will take advantage of the abundance of content, industry representation and opportunities to discuss, network and start conversations about content generation and distribution.’ 

For more information about the Durban International Film Festival go to www.durbanfilmfest.co.za


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN AND USA STUDENTS COLLABORATE ON BROADWAY MUSICAL

UKZN AND USA STUDENTS COLLABORATE ON BROADWAY MUSICAL

Young artists from the Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas in the United States recently worked with talented UKZN singers and dancers to present Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. 

South Pacific is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical set in the South Pacific Islands close to the end of World War II. 

Mr Lionel Mkhwanazi, a Lecturer at UKZN's Opera Studio and Choral Academy, said the show was chosen for its historical, educational, and social lessons at a time of great world stress and commitment.  

South Pacific is considered to be one of the greatest Broadway musicals. It tells the story of an American nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush, stationed at a United States naval base during World War II, who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children.  

Issues of racial prejudice and intermarriage are candidly explored throughout the musical, which was first performed in 1949. 

Producer and Musical Director from SMU, Professor Barbara Hill-Moore, said: ‘This production was a learning experience for both universities, providing social opportunities and a chance for students to grow. We are looking forward to returning again next year.’ 

With a cast of 50 singers and dancers, the show was a great audience pleaser. ‘It was a mixture of excitement and nervousness but it was so great to work with such talented incredible people,’ said one of the American students, Dallas Caulkins. 

UKZN student Mr Ndumiso Nyoka said: ‘Being in this production forces you step out of your comfort zone and you are encouraged always to go beyond your best. I have learned so much from the US students and staff. They have given me my hope and faith back. We’ve established lifelong friendships.’


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

UMKHANDO KOTHISHA BEGEOMETRY

UMKHANDO KOTHISHA BEGEOMETRY

Othisha abangayikhulu basePinetown bathole ithuba lokuba ingxeye yomkhando obuwenziwaq abafundisi beSikole seZibalo, Ukubala kwabantu nezeSayensi yamaKompuyutha base-UKZN.

Izihloko ebekukhulunywa ngazo bekubalwa kuzo i-Basic Geometry, olayini nama-engela, ama-theorems, ama-triangles kanye nama-quadrilaterals okubuye kufake ama-parallelograms, ama-circle geometry kanye nokunye. 

‘Lomkhando ubuxube ukufundisa kanye nokwenza izibalo khona kuzokwenza kubelula kothisha bezibalo ezikoleni babe nokuzethemba nolwazi uma befundisa i-geometry kumabanga kaGrade 10, 11 no12, njengoba kudingeka ku- Curriculum Assessment and Policy Statements,’ kusho uSolwazi Simon Mwembi, oyi- Academic Leader yeZibalo e-UKZN.

USolwazi Poobhalan Pillay uthe i-UKZN ibikhathazekile ngezinga lezibalo elisezinganeni eziphuma ezikoleni nokuthi othisha abaningi abafuni ukufundisa iGeometry ngoba kwabona abayiqondi kahle.

‘Senze isinqumo sokuthatha iGeometry siyiyise kothisha,’ kusho uPillay. ‘Sifuna ukuthuthukisa izinga lokufundisa iGeometry ezikoleni zamabanga aphakeme. Ngalendlela othisha bazofundisa into abayaziyo.’

Kwenye yezinhlelo, isiKole seZibalo, Ukubala kwabantu nezeSayensi yamaKompuyutha sizovula amathuba okuthi othisha bafunde iZibalo 130 ukuze bathuthukise ulwazi lwabo baqhube nezifundo zabo.

Click here for English version


author email : frosts@ukzn.ac.za

GUIDANCE FOR SUCCESS AS HEALTH SCIENTISTS

GUIDANCE FOR SUCCESS AS HEALTH SCIENTISTS

Fifteen Grade 11 girls from KwaZulu-Natal’s disadvantaged Tongaat Secondary School recently spent a day at UKZN as guests of the College of Health Sciences (CHS) where they were given guidelines for success as young, aspirant health scientists.  

The CHS Women in Leadership and Leverage (WILL) committee invited the learners onto the Medical campus for the annual: ‘It’s My Future day,’ which was again a resounding success.

Spending the entire day interacting with local and international women role models who have achieved within various healthcare professions, the learners were also privileged to engage with young and seasoned researchers during onsite visits to the Anatomy and Physiology Laboratories, CAPRISA and K-RITH.

Most importantly, the day’s comprehensive programme assured learners that exceptional academic performance would enhance their chances to secure a place to study in programmes offered by the CHS.

Professor Irene Mackraj, WILL Committee member and co-ordinator of the day’s outreach endeavour, said the event was held this year to promote the development and growth of women in future health sciences careers and to equip learners for making informed career choices. The day also acknowledged women’s contribution to the health sciences and society at large.  

Mackraj said Professor Sabiha Essack, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences, was an example of a distinguished woman in their field. ‘She is a role model and an inspiring and caring leader. These are key qualities needed within Health Sciences.’ 

The learners were impressed by Essack’s overview of the College; highlighting that the CHS was home to world-class facilities and state-of-the-art technologies which facilitated a unique teaching and learning experience for learners in both the urban and rural healthcare settings. Essack spoke about the exceedingly high employment eligibility of CHS graduates. 

An overview of Health Science professions was provided to students via an informative DVD and various leading women in the field. Professor Thiru Govender, Chair of WILL, commended Mackraj for her “passion and commitment” and all members of WILL, co-ordinators and speakers for their participation.  

An inspirational talk was delivered by guest speaker Ms Shenaaz Chenia who addressed the challenges and opportunities faced by the 21st Century Woman in breaking the intangible barrier – commonly known as “the glass ceiling” – which prevented women or minorities within society from obtaining upper-level positions. 

Chenia is currently the Founder of a non-profit, international organisation called Symphony; whose mission is to support the educational endeavours of young women and provide mentorship for their development.

The learners heard from successful and dynamic young role models: Ms Su-Jama Basson, a third-year MBChB student, and Ms Lihle Qulu, a young Academic Development Officer in the discipline of Human Physiology, who shared their strategies for overcoming obstacles in their path to success. 

Ms Kamilla Rawatlall of the CHS Student Support Services facilitated an interesting Career Profile Assessment. She also provided learners with key skills in coping with the demands of matric and how to make informed career choices leading to greater future fulfilment.


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN ACADEMIC ATTENDS JOINT CONGRESS OF IIAS-IASIA IN BAHRAIN

UKZN ACADEMIC ATTENDS JOINT CONGRESS OF IIAS-IASIA IN BAHRAIN

Local government specialist Professor Purshottama Reddy of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance recently attended the 2013 Joint Congress of International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS) and the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Public Administration (IASIA) in Manama, Bahrain. 

The Conference attracted more than 475 delegates from about 70 countries including ministers, officials, dignitaries and heads and members of Schools and Institutes of Public Administration.  The event created a platform for the sharing of ideas and knowledge on capacity building and global  development issues. 

In line with the Conference’s theme, Futures of Public Administration: Professionalism and Leadership, Reddy delivered a paper titled: “Local Government Capacity Development in the South African Development Community (SADC) Region for Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”. 

The paper was presented in the Working Group on Local Governance and Development allocated to research papers prepared for the IASIA/UNDESA Taskforce on Capacity Development for the MDGs. In his paper, Reddy said capacity development was critical to the process of attaining the MDGs.

‘Political will and monitoring of performance is a key component of the local governance process to ensure that the goals are being achieved. Strong economic growth has to translate to job creation in the broader context of poverty alleviation; infrastructure development; enhanced service delivery and social inclusiveness,’ said Reddy. 

Reddy also participated in the late O P Dwivedi Commemorative Panel and also served as the Co - chairperson and Rapporteur of the Working Group on Local Governance and Development at the Conference.  

He is currently the Project Director of the Working Group on Local Governance and Development of IASIA and was re-elected as a Board Member of IASIA representing the African Continent for the period 2013 - 2016.


author email : jumo@ukzn.c.za

RESEARCH FINDS AIDS RISK HIGH FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISEXUAL MEN

RESEARCH FINDS AIDS RISK HIGH FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISEXUAL MEN

HIV continues to spread among Black men who have sex with men (MSM) while few interventions target the high-risk population of African-American men who have sex with men and women (MSMW).  

This is according to Professor John Williams, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

The HIV interventionist, who spoke at a public lecture hosted by UKZN’s School of Nursing and Public Health, presented findings from a study and intervention in which his team used novel methods to examine stress and trauma among HIV-infected African-American men and women (MSMW).  

Men in this research identified themselves as heterosexual and had survived childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Their histories of CSA positioned them as a vulnerable population for high-risk sexual behaviours together with negative psychological pathological conditions such as depressive or posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) resulting from HIV.  

The researchers also investigated neurobiological abnormalities in their cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and/or immune systems, including cortisol and norepinephrine, and disease progression of HIV and AIDS. 

Williams said there was a need to look at this population’s biopsychosocial burden. ‘While a lot of HIV research focuses on the immune system, we may be neglecting what is going on in other parts of our body. This may help to explain why these men who look immunologically very stable become acutely sick and die.’  

In the six-week intervention participants were divided into two randomised groups – one which focused on general health promotion, and the other which was termed: the Enhanced Sexual Health Intervention for Men (ES-HIM).  

The study found that repeated exposures to stress varying from racial, socio-cultural or political inequities, contributed to negative health outcomes for the participants. Williams said trauma experiences which people underwent even years ago could still have an impact on how they currently functioned. 

Follow-ups to the interventions at three and six months found ES-HIM more successful in decreasing depression but it did not work well on decreasing PTSD symptoms. ES-HIM also reduced high-risk sexual behaviours; mainly unprotected insertive anal sex and the participants’ number of sex partners. Williams said it was disappointing that there was no decrease in unprotected vaginal sex as well because that was one of the high risk behaviours that the study really focused on.  

As the study also explored links between these outcomes and biomarkers of stress, Williams reported that consequences of HIV infection possibly altered secondary mediators, making them unreliable indicators of health risk in HIV-infected samples. 

Williams said: ‘The findings suggest the need to analyse biomarker composites differently. We know that what may be going on with primary biomarkers may be different from what is going on with secondary biomarkers and it makes sense because they are two different ends of the disease process. They represent different time points in the course of diseases.’ 

Williams highlighted that the majority of the participants were middle-aged with 61 percent having attended high school, 74 percent disabled or unemployed, 73 percent never married and 63 percent had an annual income of less than R125 000 ($12 500).  

It was alarming that regardless of their HIV status 69 percent of the participants admitted to having vaginal sex without a condom, 63 percent performed oral sex without a condom, 44 percent had receptive anal sex without a condom, 45 percent had insertive anal sex without a condom, 43 percent performed oral-anal sex and 18 percent reported to exchanging sex for money or drugs. 

Williams said African Americans represented only 14 percent of US population but accounted for 44 percent of new HIV cases. Male-to-male sex was the greatest risk category with 73 percent of new infections among Black men. He said there were more new HIV infections among young Black MSM aged between 13 to 29 than any other age or race group; recording a 48 percent increase from 2006 to 2009.  

Professor Busi Ncama, Dean and Head of the School of Nursing and Public Health, said anecdotal evidence from popular media suggested that there was a growing number of bisexual African men although the issue remained taboo.  

Therefore, interventions aimed at HIV risk reduction and mental health disparities in such populations were very important.


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

PHD COHORT SUPPORT FOR ADULT EDUCATION STUDENTS

PHD COHORT SUPPORT FOR ADULT EDUCATION STUDENTS

PhD cohort support for Adult Education students at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus is growing fast with a good turnout at a recent literature review workshop. The students have also benefited from support mechanisms put in place to assist them complete their studies.  

According to the School of Education’s Professor Julia Preece, the cohort programme is unusual in that the majority of participants are from all over South Africa and neighbouring countries including Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, providing a useful comparative dimension to the programme. 

‘They attend four, structured, long weekends and two week-long residentials each year.  The students are also encouraged to make additional, individual, visits for more personalised supervision support. The demands of long distance travel are an added motivation for students to study hard and complete as early as possible. Pietermaritzburg is an attractive location since there is relatively cheap accommodation in the area,’ said Preece. 

Although the programme follows similar targets to other cohorts  at UKZN -completion of the proposal in year one, data collection and analysis in year two, and writing up chapters in year three - it also takes into account that many students come from poorly resourced countries. 

‘In Lesotho, for instance there is no book shop and internet connectivity is very limited.  So special arrangements are made regarding library loan facilities and a highly structured programme takes students through each stage of studying and writing for a PhD thesis,’ explained Preece.  

In 2012, the first batch of six female students started.  Five completed their proposal submission within the year, and the sixth has also now completed her submission.  

In 2013 a further eight students joined with an additional five students from neighbouring disciplines joining the cohort timetable for some sessions.

More than a dozen candidates are waiting in the wings to apply for a 2014 start, many from Lesotho where Preece and Dr Peter Rule have been running introductory orientation workshops.


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

OPTIMISING FUNDING VITAL FOR HEALTHCARE IN SA

OPTIMISING FUNDING VITAL FOR HEALTHCARE IN SA

Financing Health Sciences education was the crux of robust debate at a joint conference of the South African Health Sciences, Medical and Dental Deans. 

Hosted by the Chair of the South African Committee of Health Sciences Deans, UKZN’s Professor Sabiha Essack, the Conference stimulated healthy discussion among national role players in the field. 

Essack said: ‘It is imperative to rationalise, repurpose, re-direct and optimise existing streams of funding for health sciences education and training if we are to meet the healthcare needs of the country. 

‘The World Health Organisation estimates a shortage of four million health workers globally, one million of whom are needed in Africa alone. Despite this, several health professional schools lack critical human and financial resources and hence cannot perform as efficiently as they could, negatively impacting on the quantity and quality of graduate output.’ 

Director General of the National Department of Health (DOH), Ms Precious Matsoso, who delivered the keynote address at the Conference, reminded delegates that the core business of the national Department of Health was to ensure a long and healthy life for all South Africans through the prevention of illnesses and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.  The Department also aimed to consistently improve the healthcare delivery system by focusing on access, equity, efficiency, quality and sustainability.

Matsoso commended the audience saying that despite institutions experiencing a shortage of funding in the face of an ever increasing quadruple burden of disease, four of South Africa’s institutions have featured extremely well in the World University Rankings. 

She said funding constraints should not undermine the integrity of the institutions and the question for the National DOH and the Department of Higher Education and Training as well as the Department of Science and Technology was:  ‘How do we sustain the training platforms through a more co-ordinated investment approach in order to ensure that excellence is retained and the health force increased?’ 

Matsoso also felt strongly that the current Cuban-South African programme should be reviewed. However, challenges that remained were how to integrate the Cuban programme with its emphasis on primary healthcare into South Africa and to find a solution to accommodate a substantially increased intake as well as the current Cuban intake?’ 

National Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said previously that there was a shortage of 83 043 healthcare professionals in the country. In 2011, he called on all medical schools to triple their enrolment numbers by 2014.  

However, Dr Diane Parker, Deputy Director General in the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), told the Conference the number of graduates Higher Education Institutions were producing was not anywhere near what Motsoaledi was requesting. 

Parker said to train a medical doctor, a Higher Education Institution required R200 000 for each student. Currently, the funding from DHET totalled only R50 000 a student causing institutions to rely on additional funding. Parker felt that significantly increasing student fees was not an option in South Africa. 

Professor Eric Buch of the University of Pretoria echoed these sentiments saying that in the face of a shrinking subsidy while trying to ensure fees were affordable, there was no room to grow the Health Sciences faculty - on the contrary “the pressure is to reduce it”. 

Delegates at the Conference mapped a way forward and suggested national departments work together on issues of funding. According to Essack: ‘Collaboration is the key’.


author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

THE KZN AIDS RESPONSE: WHERE ARE THE GAPS?

THE KZN AIDS RESPONSE: WHERE ARE THE GAPS?

HEARD, in conjunction with UNAIDS, hosted a high level meeting to assess KwaZulu-Natal’s response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by looking at the gaps, barriers and bottlenecks in the provincial TB and HIV response and its implications for financing.  

Themed, “Investments into Critical Enablers for the KwaZulu-Natal AIDS Response: Where are the Gaps?”, the guest speaker was MEC for Health in the province, Dr Sibongeseni Dhlomo.  

‘KwaZulu-Natal has made tremendous progress in responding to the HIV epidemic,’ said HEARD’s Executive Director, Professor Alan Whiteside, addressing academics on UKZN’s Westville campus.  

Dhlomo highlighted the HIV and TB hot spots in the province, the province’s response and explored the remaining challenges in addressing HIV and TB. 

He highlighted how truck drivers contributed to the high HIV incidence rate in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal because of their easy access to commercial sex workers on their routes. Dhlomo also stressed how intergenerational sex was another factor which contributed to the high incidence of HIV among young women aged between 15-24 years. TB was still higher in the province as compared to the WHO standards and this was a concern. 

Professor Sheila Tlou, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, presented the Investment Framework which is based on a compilation and analysis of evidence of interventions proven to reduce HIV risk, transmission, morbidity and mortality and models the investments required globally between 2011 and 2020 to reverse the HIV and TB epidemic. 

She also stressed the need for more emphasis to be placed on key population groups such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and the injecting drug user (IDU). She explained that because of stigma, MSM were more at risk of spreading HIV by living double lives – ie conforming to societal norms of getting married while still having sex with men.  

Ms Plaxcedes Chiwiri, a researcher at the Centre for Economic Governance and AIDS in Africa (CEGAA), examined the findings from the provincial national AIDS spending assessments, specifically looking at financing critical enablers.  

In 2007/08, KwaZulu-Natal spent R2.163 billion on HIV/AIDS, increasing to R3.191 billion in 2008/09 and reaching R3.534 billion in 2009/10. This constituted an increase of nearly 48 percent in 2008/09, driven largely by public sector spending on ART. Of the total R2.2 billion spent in 2007/08, R1.4 billion (or 65 percent) was for basic programme areas, R165 million (8 percent) for critical enablers, R521 million (24 percent) for synergies with development partners and 4 percent (R77 million) for all other HIV related expenditure.

The basic programme areas proportion of total expenditure increased by 3 percent in 2008/09 and by a further 6 percent in 2009/10. Critical enablers increased by 3 percent in 2008/09 and fell by 7 percent to reach 4 percent in 2009/10. The spending on other HIV-related programmes averaged 4 percent proportion of total expenditure in all three years.

The meeting highlighted the need to refocus on Most at Risk Populations (sex workers, MSM and IDUs) and concluded that further collaborations between HEARD, UNAIDS and the local Department of Health be conducted on the implications of the Investment Framework for KwaZulu-Natal.


author email : McCullough@ukzn.ac.za