The Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) in collaboration with CAPRISA, Africa Centre and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press hosted Getting to Zero: Showcasing KZN Research on HIV and AIDS on 14 November at the KZNSA Gallery.

The event brought together over 150 people from research, education and government institutions working in the field of HIV and AIDS to discuss the latest research developments and scientific trends in prevention and treatment ahead of World AIDS Day.

The event was spearheaded by HEARD which invited partners in the field, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South African (CAPRISA), the Africa Centre and UKZN Press to participate in showcasing the latest HIV-related research and material.

One of the highlights was the screening of HEARD’s documentary titled: Manguzi: Raising Children in Rural South Africa, which premiered recently at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

The documentary provided the audience with a personal account of the challenges faced by caregivers of children in HIV- endemic communities in South Africa. The documentary follows the world’s first large-scale quantitative study of the impacts of familial HIV and AIDS on children. Life expectancy for the Manguzi area is 43 years.

According to the documentary, 5.6 million people in South Africa live with HIV which is the largest number in the world; 1.9 million South African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and 74 percent of households care for orphaned children.

The documentary also showcased the challenges infected people face being accepted in the community.

Representatives from CAPRISA, HEARD and the Africa Centre presented work of the organisations and their current research findings.

CAPRISA’s Head of Community Programme, Ms Janet Frohlich, told the audience about their microbicide research, including the vaginal microbicide study undertaken in 2010 - the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Gel Trial.

The study showed that microbicides could provide women with some protection from HIV infection. CAPRISA continues to undertake research for a safe and effective microbicide that could have a profound impact on the dynamics of HIV transmission.

Dr Katharine Stott, HIV Programme Physician at the Africa Centre, said there was a provable reduction in infections but there was still a problem with HIV and TB drug resistance.

UKZN Press’s Ms Debra Prim spoke about the publisher’s range of books on HIV/AIDS. The books were showcased and on sale at the event.

HEARD’s Research Director, Dr Kay Govender, highlighted HEARD’s core research areas. He told the audience about the Young Carers Project - a multi-agency collaboration between HEARD, the Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand, the University of Oxford and the South African government. The project aims to inform policy and programming in order to improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families in South Africa.

Executive Director of HEARD, Professor Alan Whiteside, thanked the audience, the HEARD team and the participating organisations for making the project happen and for its success.

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