Global Research in South Africa

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South Africa, located on the southern tip of the mainland, borders both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Its climate varies from arid in the northwest to tropical in the east along its border with Mozambique.

Despite being one of the most economically advanced African nations, South Africa faces many major health challenges. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the country has the worst prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in the world. In addition, UNAIDS estimates that approximately 5.4 million South Africans are HIV-positive and recent reports have suggested that the prevalence is climbing.

Drug-resistant malaria is also a growing health concern in the country, while schistosomiasis, endemic in rivers in the eastern part of the country, continues to have a debilitating impact on rural South African populations.

NIAID-Funded Activities

NIAID funds many projects in South Africa, most of which involve HIV/AIDS. The Institute also supports prevention, treatment, and epidemiologic studies on TB and malaria.

In 2012, NIAID-funded HIV/AIDS clinical research sites in South Africa joined other collaborators in an ongoing clinical trial testing an investigational TB vaccine in infants at risk for TB infection. 

In 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established a new U.S.-South Africa Program for Collaborative Biomedical Research program. Research areas supported under this program include HIV/AIDS biomedical and behavioral science, TB, and HIV-related cancers. NIH issued two funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) for this program to seek applications from U.S. and South African researchers who will work collaboratively. For more information about these opportunities, read the FOAs in the NIH Guide:

Scientific Advances

Topical Gel Protects Women Against HIV Infection

In 2010, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the people of South Africa announced positive findings from the CAPRISA 004 microbicide study, marking a significant milestone both for the microbicide research field and HIV prevention as a whole.

South African Study Shows That Treating HIV-Infected Infants Early Helps Them Live Longer

Hundreds of thousands of babies around the world are born each year with HIV—more than half a million in 2006 alone. Caring for these children is complicated by the fact that their immune systems are not fully developed in the first year of life, which makes them especially susceptible to rapid HIV disease progression and death. The standard of HIV care in many parts of the world is to treat infants with antiretroviral therapy—but only after they show signs of illness or a weakened immune system.

In 2007, results from an NIAID-supported trial in South Africa suggested that more HIV-infected infants survive if they are given therapy early on, regardless of their apparent state of health. The trial, called the Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy (CHER) study, helped form the basis for new WHO guidelines, which recommend that all HIV-infected infants under the age of 12 months be treated with antiretroviral therapy.

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