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28 April 2017
Research uptake: Can Africa get it right? Print
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 16:04

More than 70% of the world's HIV-positive population live in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the end of 2010, the number stood at 22.9 million. That's the grim and sobering reality and the African AIDS community has every reason to view the situation with great pessimism. But the news isn't always bad.

 

In certain pockets of the continent great strides have been made in reducing infection rates and improving and prolonging lives as a result of solid science having found its way into policy.

 

A good example of effective research uptake is the mother-to-child-transmission study carried out at the Africa Centre in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province some six years ago. Research seldom finds its way into policy quickly and this study was no different. The study took place between 1999 and 2006 and the findings were adopted into government policy in 2010. They have also been adopted as policy by the World Health Organization.

 

A team from the University of KZN carried out this highly regarded Mamanengane (meaning “mother and child” in Zulu) research project.
 

 

The study found that exclusive breastfeeding up to the age of six months (as opposed to adding other fluids and solids) significantly reduced the transmission of HIV from HIV+ mothers to their infants. This resulted in the issuing of new breastfeeding advice guidelines, which had previously advised bottle feeding for HIV+ mothers.

 


To get back to the titular question of whether Africa can get research into policy, the answer is a resounding yes. Can it have an impact on the community? Once again, the answer is yes, it can be done. The Mamanengane work illustrates the point. Not only has there been uptake of the research at national policy level, the policy is having impact in practice at community level. It has been rolled out in state hospitals, where bottle-feeding is no longer allowed until the infant reaches six months, unless predicated by a medical condition and recommended by a health worker.

 

Linda Cilliers is the Online Media Specialist at DRUSSA.

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