A high-level delegation from the European Commission recently witnessed first-hand the importance of integration of research activities and partnership with the community during a site visit to the Emavulandleni Research Centre in Phillipi, Cape Town.
The centre is one of the sites for the Combined HIV Adolescent Prevention Study (CHAPS) that is funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). The CHAPS project (RIA2016MC-1616) is evaluating a range of strategies adapted to the characteristics of adolescents including a modified version of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – pre-emptive use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection.
Led by the Director General for Research and Innovation (RTD), Jean-Eric Paquet, the delegation was accompanied by representatives from the Department of Science and Technology (DST),the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and EDCTP. Amongst other things, the group was particularly interested in the interconnections between science and research and how people in communities are involved in and benefit directly from the research conducted.
During the visit, Professor Linda Gail-Bekker from CHAPS talked the delegation through the various studies that are currently underway at the Centre. The delegation also visited the adolescent clinic adjacent to Phillipi Village, from where the CHAPS study is being conducted where they interacted with members of the Adolescent Community Advisory Board (CAB) and study participants.
According to EDCTP Executive Director, Dr Michael Makanga it was very reassuring to learn of the high level of integration of the ongoing research activities and partnership with the community. He says moreover, the research environment that is tailored to the needs of adolescents at this research centre is exemplary.
“This provides confidence that the CHAPS study evaluating novel approaches for preventing HIV infection in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, will generate high quality results,” he said.
He also added that although daily PrEP has been clearly shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, it remains costly, has some side effects, and adherence is reduced in adolescents.
“The CHAPS project aims to overcome these challenges by evaluating the impact of an alternative, less toxic drug combination (tenofovir alafenamide and emtricitabine) as well as ‘on-demand’ PrEP – use of PrEP just around the time of sexual activity,” concludes Makanga.
SAMRC Vice President Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele has recently been appointed Vice-Chair of the EDCTP’s Association Board effective from May 2019 until May 2021.
*The EDCTP is an organisation that has fostered partnerships between European countries, developing countries, donors, and the pharmaceutical industry to enable clinical trials and the development of new medicines and vaccines against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.