News Roundup

HSRC to host the secretariat of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group
A study of nine cities
Fourth national household survey on HIV/AIDS to start soon
Breaking new ground in health and nutrition
World Social Science Forum comes to South Africa
Africa renews its commitment to accelerated youth development

HSRC to host the secretariat of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group

The HSRC has won a bid to host the secretariat of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group (PWG) at its office in Cape Town. The PWG was convened by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and consists of an international panel of more than 55 leading public health experts, clinicians, biomedical and behavioural researchers, advocates and people affected by HIV/AIDS.

The activities of the PWG, which was launched in 2002 to inform global policy making, programme planning, and donor decisions on HIV prevention, consist of issuing periodic reports and fact sheets on key issues in HIV prevention science and policy; building consensus on evidence-based HIV-prevention programming; advocates for a comprehensive international response to HIV/AIDS that integrates prevention, treatment and care; and provides information and guidance to donors, media, and policy makers.

CEO of the HSRC, Dr Olive Shisana, who is a member of the PWG, said hosting the secretariat would enable the group to identify and advocate ways to optimise HIV prevention, encourage prevention programmes to have maximum impact among populations at highest risk, and to maximise the value of prevention expenditures.

The overwhelming majority of all infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and 52.8% of all people living with the disease are in Southern Africa. Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence at 25.9%, while South Africa continues to be the epicentre of the epidemic, home to 24.4% of all HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Shisana said: ‘The secretariat will support the PWG in creating some think pieces to inform global and national policy making, programme planning, and donor and country-level decisions on HIV prevention. It will arrange and host face-to-face and teleconference meetings and will oversee all logistical and administrative elements of the PWG’s work.

‘The PWG – and the broader HIV field – is at a critical juncture. A broader array of validated, well-defined prevention tools are at our disposal now more than ever before. However, declining support for HIV assistance calls into question our ability to effectively use these powerful approaches.

‘Moreover, the emergence of highly effective prevention strategies underscores the urgent need for a more strategic approach to service prioritisation, resource allocation and impact monitoring, presenting under-resourced countries with potentially difficult challenges.’

The HSRC will collaborate with the PWGs in the USA to undertake a strategic programme of action that unites multiple disciplines and the perspectives of stakeholders from all regions in an effort to encourage use of evidence-based HIV-prevention intervention programmes.

A study of nine cities

Professor Ivan Turok, the deputy executive director in Economic Performance and Development (EPD), will lead a study for the South African Cities Network on the distinct challenges and strategic responses of South  Africa’s nine largest cities. The research will assess the comparative economic, social and environmental position of each city and  explore the various strategies in place to improve local circumstances. The intention is to assist the new metro authorities and their leaders to strengthen their ability to transform socioeconomic and spatial conditions.

Fourth national household survey on HIV/AIDS to start soon

Some 66 teams consisting of 400 trained fieldworkers will take to the streets from mid-January to May 2012 to collect information on health-related data of people living in 15 000 South African households throughout the country.

The survey aims to assess access to health services; to establish the levels of HIV infection in South Africa; to learn what South Africans know, believe and feel about health-related topics; and to assess the efforts of the National HIV and AIDS and STI Strategic Plan.

All members of the randomly selected households will be invited to participate in the survey and it is expected that questionnaires will be completed by close to 40 000 individuals. Furthermore, it is projected that 27 000 household members will provide a blood sample for HIV testing.

This survey is the fourth in a series of national population-based surveys conducted for surveillance of the HIV epidemic in South Africa.

The previous three surveys were conducted in 2002, 2005 and 2008.  The data from the 2012 survey will serve as a basis for the evaluation of the current South African National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV and AIDS and STI 2007-2011. It will also provide the baseline information for tracking the progress and impact of the next NSP currently under development.

The study design and methods will be based on the methods used and validated in the previous surveys but, unlike before, all members of the household will be invited to participate, be interviewed and provide a blood specimen for HIV testing.

The ‘take all’ approach allows the study to report on the sero-discordance (a couple in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative) between sexual partners, and mother and child HIV discordance (where either the mother or child is HIV positive, but not both) living in a particular household. Participants in this survey will be able to access their HIV survey results at the nearest HIV counselling and testing (HCT) sites in the area.
Questionnaires used in the 2011 survey will be expanded compared to those used in the 2008 survey.

Additional modules will be included to address some demographic and health indicators, including child and maternal mortality and fertility.

These indicators are also crucial for international reporting such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS).

As in the previous surveys, all information collected in questionnaires and the HIV test results will be kept strictly confidential. Participants will be given a voucher with a barcode that will enable them to obtain their HIV results after undergoing counselling at their nearest clinic.

For more information call either 021 466-8000 or 012 302-2000 and speak to an HSRC team member who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Breaking new ground in health and nutrition

The HSRC is pioneering the establishment of a continuous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), such as that practised in the USA, Canada, China and Europe.

The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) will, among other actions, combine questionnaires with physical examination and disease/determinant-specific biomarkers, thus allowing health and nutrition to be explored in much greater detail in order to better inform policy on a cross-sectional and longitudinal basis.

The first in the series, the SANHANES-1 survey, is planned for 2011-2012. It aims to determine selected aspects of the health and nutritional status of South Africans of all ages, which will address and support the Department of Health’s priority health indicators. For this purpose, a random sample of 20 households will be selected from each of 500 enumerator areas. The households will be representative of the sociodemographic profile of South Africa. This cohort will be followed up regularly over the coming years. Data collection is scheduled to begin in 2011 and will be undertaken by 65 research teams based in the nine provinces.

Each team will comprise a team leader, four field staff and three mobile clinic staff, yielding a total of 546 staff members. The Department of Health will make available 65 well-equipped mobile clinics to be used to undertake the survey in the nine provinces.

The plan is to conduct this survey annually, using a modular design approach. This approach subdivides a system into smaller parts (modules) that can be independently created and then used in different systems to drive multiple functionalities.

The implementation of SANHANES will greatly facilitate both the detecting and tracking of the extent of current and emerging health priorities and the associated risk factors in the South African population of all ages.

The survey, using modern technology, will generate information on the prevalence of specific diseases, together with the social determinants/drivers associated with the disease(s), the nutritional status of South Africans, as well as health promotion and disease prevention.

SANHANES will yield information and trends for determining national standards for weight, height and blood pressure. The survey will generate data that can be used to develop health policy and health programmes and services. It will also help South Africa to determine the health literacy of the nation; information that is vital for planning disease prevention and health promotion programmes.

World Social Science Forum comes to South Africa

The HSRC will be hosting the World Social Science Forum (WSSF) conference in 2015, CEO Dr Olive Shisana announced at the launch of the HSRC’s 2010/2011 Annual Report.

Dr Shisana, who was appointed president of the International Social Science Council last year, said this event will boost the social sciences in South Africa, the African continent and the global South.

The social sciences in sub-Saharan Africa operate under conditions that are seriously under-resourced.

'Institutions working in these disciplines receive little government support and they have poor facilities,' she said, referring to information contained in the authoritative World Social Science report to which HSRC researchers also contributed.

'Hosting the WSSF conference will therefore be a big boost for social sciences in Africa.'

In 2010 the HSRC embarked on a process of making its research data available for further analyses, and at this stage some 17 data sets have been curated, further contributing to the promotion of the social sciences and humanities.

On the financial side, Dr Shisana reported that the HSRC has received an unqualified audit for the tenth consecutive year.

The HSRC receives a parliamentary grant of just over R170 million and an external income budget average of R140 million, of which R80 million was funded by the international donor community, suggesting that the HSRC works well with the funding agencies and donor organisations.

It was a difficult financial year for the HSRC as the global economic meltdown resulted in a reduction of income for the organisation in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 financial years. The economic downturn, which mainly upset western markets, impacted severely on the HSRC’s activities, with the United States providing most of the international funding recorded over the past five years.

Dr Shisana expressed her gratitude to the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which assisted the organisation in securing a number of government-commissioned research projects. The DST also supported the HSRC by making extra funding available to sustain its research work.

The organisation is implementing a strategy of ensuring that our markets are diversified, with the European markets and other areas earmarked for growth to ensure long-term sustainability from all parts of the world, Dr Shisana said.

Africa renews its commitment to accelerated youth development

The 17th African Union (AU) Summit of Heads of States and Government, held in Malabo, Guinea Bissau recently, accepted recommendations made in the HSRC's State of the African Youth report. The report, commissioned by the AU, is a follow-up of a previous report compiled in 2005 by the HSRC on the status of youth in Africa and the drafting of the African Youth Charter.

The Summit accepted among other things that:

  • All AU member states should advance the youth agenda and adopt policies and mechanisms towards the creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities by accelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action (2009-2018) and the Ouagadougou 2004 Plan of Action on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation;
  • The AU Commission, in collaboration with its partners, should elaborate a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) framework that specifically addresses the domains of agriculture and information and communication technology (ICT), while accelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action.

The 2011 report was developed by a team of researchers from the HSRC’s Public Health, Health Systems and Innovation research programme.

It painted in broad brush-strokes the main demographic and socioeconomic issues relating to population size and age-gender structure of young people in Africa, such as education and ICT access, labour market participation, hunger and poverty, youth mobility, health, substance abuse, youth crime and violence, and civic participation.