UNC receives $1.5 million grant to strengthen HIV/AIDS research training in South Africa

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a $1.5 million grant aimed at strengthening HIV/AIDS research training in collaboration with the Wits School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

UNC receives $1.5 million grant to strengthen HIV/AIDS research training in South Africa click to enlarge Charles van der Horst, MD
UNC receives $1.5 million grant to strengthen HIV/AIDS research training in South Africa click to enlarge Laetitia Rispel, PhD

The grant was awarded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health as part of their ongoing HIV Research Training Program. Charles van der Horst, MD, professor of infectious diseases in the UNC School of Medicine, is the project’s principal investigator.

“Despite many successes over the last decade the outcomes for patients with HIV, tuberculosis, and other diseases are not optimal," van der Horst said. "By training young African scientists in methods on how to improve clinical programs in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, we hope to build capacity and improve care.“

Funding from the grant will be used to train Wits junior faculty and advanced trainees and strengthen the Wits MSc in Epidemiology degree program by creating a new concentration of implementation science.

“I am delighted that two premier institutions, the University of North Carolina in the United States and the School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, will join forces to implement this exciting training program," said Professor Laetitia Rispel, Head of the Wits School of Public Health. "The Fogarty grant will enable the creation of a new implementation science training program at the Wits School of Public Health and will be the first of its kind in Sub- Saharan Africa. ”

Trainees from Wits Faculty of Health Sciences schools and its alumni from diverse backgrounds – including nursing, public health, medicine, pharmacy and dentistry – will participate in a 3-year, 12-course curriculum co-taught by UNC and Wits faculty leading to an MPH or MSc in Epidemiology with a concentration in implementation science. Additional students will take at least one course (medium and short-term) of the curriculum and receive a certificate. The content, identified by the Wits faculty as gaps in their curriculum, include database development and management, longitudinal analysis and causal inference, health economics, spatial analysis and GIS in public health, m-health, systems analysis, monitoring and evaluation, qualitative and formative research.

"This is a unique program in that we are bringing the UNC faculty to Africa instead of flying trainees to the U.S., thus allowing us to be more cost-effective," van der Horst said. "Since half of the content will be online, we’ll also make it easier for trainees to participate from all over Africa.”