A Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigator is hoping to improve access to HIV testing in South Africa, where more than 7 million people are known to have the virus, by training traditional healers to perform the tests. Carolyn Audet, PhD, assistant professor of Health Policy in the Department of Health Policy and Institute for Global Health, has partnered with Ryan Wagner, PhD, a research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, to develop a novel HIV testing strategy for individuals living in rural communities.
Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) and collaborators at the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa have received a new research development grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to compare novel implementation strategies to reduce the risk of HIV acquisition among traditional healers in South Africa.
South Africa has more HIV/AIDS patients than any other country and is home to the world’s largest antiretroviral program. According to the World Bank, as of 2018 the prevalence of HIV among South Africans ages 15 to 49 was 20.4%. Nearly one in three pregnant women attending antenatal care in South Africa is living with HIV. As South Africans with HIV move around the country, there is a risk they will disengage from the health care system or otherwise become lost to follow-up care.
Last week Vanderbilt faculty and staff welcomed Adam Habib, Ph.D., M.Phil., vice chancellor and principal of University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) from Johannesburg, South Africa, to the Vanderbilt campus for discussions on partnership opportunities to create new, innovative programs and research initiatives.
In 2017, according to UNAIDS, more than 90% of HIV-positive pregnant women accessed antiretroviral (ART) medicines to prevent mother-to child transmission of HIV in Southern Africa, and recent research suggests access and adherence to ART remains high during pregnancy due in part to the scale up of national antenatal (ANC) and ART care clinics. Engagement in HIV care after delivery, however, can be challenging.