The missing link in South Africa’s HIV research

AIDS campaigning in South Africa Copyright: IRD / E. Deliry Antheaume

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The hub of South Africa’s HIV research is shared by two centres — the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM) in Cape Town and the Africa Centre for Health and Population in rural Umkhanyakude in the East.

Yet these two facilities have yet to work together, writes Michael Cherry in this Nature article.

The IIDMM — with a budget four times that of the Africa Centre — aims to produce clinical applications such as vaccines. Its virologists helped identify subtype C as the dominant strain of HIV in Africa and plan to trial two vaccines against it.

The Africa Centre has collated some of the most precise HIV surveillance data in South Africa. It has also shown that exclusive breastfeeding reduces maternal transmission of HIV in rural settings where infant formula alone is not possible or safe.

The two centres focus on different areas in the development of HIV treatments. Some researchers foresee a partnership in which the IIDMM could test its candidate vaccines within the HIV-stricken population overseen by the Africa Centre.

There is great opportunity for collaboration, but this is yet to be grasped.

Link to full article in Nature