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National Research Foundation Thuthuka Programme: Developing & Advancing Excellence in Researchers

Project Focus
HIV/AIDS; HIV Prevention, HSV2, capacity building

Project Location
Hillbrow, Johannesburg

Duration of Project
12 months, extendable annually

Project Partners

Project Donors
South African National Research Foundation (NRF)

Dr Sinead Delany-Moretlwe

Project Aims /Objectives
The Thuthuka Programme provides support for women, black and young researchers, within the research, innovation and knowledge generation arena in the country, as part of research capacity development. The core objectives are:
  • Improvement of the qualifications of the designated research group to doctoral and postdoctoral levels;
  • Accelerate the progression of the designated research group into the mainstream of competitive national and other research support opportunities;
  • Contribute to the sustainable research capacity development of the designated research group and;
  • Increase the number of NRF rated researchers from the designated research group in research nationally and internationally;
This Thuthuka grant, awarded to Dr Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, supports the implementation of PhD clinical research with the following objectives:
  • To measure the effect of twice-daily acyclovir suppressive therapy on the frequency and quantity of HIV viral shedding in HSV-2 seropositive women who are co-infected with HIV with CD4 cell count > 250.
  • To determine adherence to twice daily anti-herpetic suppressive therapy.
In addition the project has the following capacity development objectives:
  • 20 Study staff trained in protocol,
  • 20 Study staff trined in good research/laboratory/clinical practice
  • 1 local conference presentation on pilot results of laboratory techniques
  • 1 international conference presentation on laboratory techniques pilot results
  • 3 Masters level students complete degrees
  • 1 Research-based technical report published/presented
  • 1 international conference presentation at international conference
  • At least one peer-reviewed article in international journal
  • 1 Doctoral level student completes degree
  • At least one dissemination workshop/seminar with health officials, and relevant stakeholders etc
Project Activities
The capacity of clinical research staff will be significantly enhanced. Clinical staff (1 doctor, 4 nurses, 2 counselors, 3 community health workers and 1 pharmacy assistant) will receive training in the protocol, interview techniques, specimen collection techniques, good clinical/research practice including ICH principles, basic computer skills training, counseling training, values clarification and sensitivity training, and media communication skills. This training will be provided both internally and by agencies external to the RHRU. This training has been shown to enhance the performance of clinical research teams and will increase the capacity of staff to provide high level clinical research services.

This study will increase the capacity of the higher education sector to conduct relevant and appropriate clinical epidemiological research using well-trained and experienced staff.

The capacity of laboratory staff and the laboratory itself will be significantly enhanced. Laboratory staff will be trained in the protocol and good laboratory practice. Selected laboratory staff will receive training in France at INSERM U430 with Prof Belec in new techniques used to quantify the amount of HIV and HSV-2 in genital secretions using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. The person trained in France will be required to train other staff in the laboratory in these techniques, as well as develop the standard operating procedures for conducting these investigations in the local laboratory.

The capacity of research staff will be significantly enhanced by this project in the area of data management and analysis. Dr Delany-Moretlwe will receive support and supervision from Dr Mayaud at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the design, implementation and analysis of this study. This study will provide the basis for a doctoral thesis in clinical epidemiology. Dr Delany-Moretlwe will in turn provide support to two Masters students in the design, implementation and analysis of their research which will be associated with this study. Both are registered students within the Faculty of Health Sciences at University of the Witwatersrand already. All students will be encouraged to attend relevant coursework/training to develop their capacity in the area of statistical methods and analysis. Support for the training of Masters and Doctoral level students will enhance the capacity of the RHRU and University to identify, develop, and conduct locally relevant and appropriate research in the field of clinical epidemiology. These skills are scare skills, not readily found inside the country.

Anticipated/Actual Results
  • Increase the number of the RHRU staff with a post-doctoral qualification;
  • Increase the number of RHRU staff becoming NRF rated researchers;
  • Increase the number of RHRU staff with access to grants from other sources;
  • Further develop research capacity of RHRU staff in research;
  • Further raise the profile of RHRU staff in the research arena.
Additional Outputs

Future Plans
  • Research HIV-1 Concordance and Discordance Among Sexual Partners
  • Receiving Voluntary Counseling and Testing in South Africa

Projects in the STI's & HIV Research Cluster:

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