Johanna Theunissen, Communications Officer, Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Malawi
More than 120 people from 11 countries across three continents attended the 20th Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) network meeting from November 12-16, 2018, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The annual network meeting brings together clinicians, program managers, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) staff, and other key cadres to learn from each other and exchange experiences for improved healthcare programming and service delivery.
Erica Penfold, Senior Manager of Learning and Dissemination, Wits RHI
Presenting at the recent Southern African Communications for Change conference, the Wits RHI Key Populations project revealed some interesting findings from its study to assess whether sustained use of mobile communication can influence behaviour change in the sex worker population in Hillbrow and Tshwane in Gauteng province.
Of no surprise to those in the HIV field, the epidemic continues to be fueled by stigma, none more evident than among key and mobile populations, such as people who inject drugs and sex workers. Speakers at the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society conference shared their experiences in working with these groups and challenged participants to view them as people – and not merely a public health problem.
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programs have been incredibly successful across southern Africa. However, presentations at the second day of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society Conference highlighted important gaps in pediatric testing and treatment.
Through the many presentations, activities and events during the three days of the 2nd International Workshop on HIV Adolescence: Challenges and Solutions, the emphasis on youth involvement was highlighted consistently. It is through this lens that SHARE staff reflect on thoughts from youth participants before its closing.
Looking at where we have come from, and where we are in southern Africa’s fight against HIV, it is clear that we have had some monumental successes and some incredible failures along the way, both of which we can learn from to do better. One clear theme throughout the first day of the 2nd International Workshop on HIV Adolescence: Challenges and Solutions was that we have not consistently and adequately gained the insights of the very people who are enrolled in studies to generate evidence on how to address the needs of these populations. Further, we have not committed the resources required to conduct the research on the populations that are difficult to reach, whether due to challenging ethical enrolment or stigma and criminalization of key populations.
Despite the fact that people under the age of 18 make up about 25% of the global population, research among adolescents has been a neglected area. We know that it is important to conduct research among pediatric and adolescent populations, but to date the focus has remained on adults. Just how significant the risks are of not including adolescents in clinical trials emerged as a key theme at the 2nd International Workshop on HIV Adolescence, as well as the logistical, ethical, legal, justice, and human rights considerations that need to be taken into account when designing and implementing research involving adolescents.