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HEARD demonstrates its Capacity as Top African Research Centre

August 29, 2016

HEARD showcases its skills as a leading African Research centre.

Hailed as a Centre of Excellence since its establishment in 1998, UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) has again demonstrated its capacity as one of the most influential research centres in Africa.

Events last month secured HEARD distinction in the landscape of global health economics. With the spotlight on Durban for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016), HEARD took the opportunity to demonstrate the power of an African research centre as a global authority of academic excellence.

HEARD hosted the 9th International AIDS Economics Network (IAEN) AIDS and Economics Pre-conference which took place on 15 and 16 of July and was earmarked as a leading event in the build up to AIDS 2016. It involved organising partners HEARD, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), The World Bank, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Avenir Health, the Rush Foundation, UKZN and the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA).

Representatives of these organisations and other high level stakeholders such as African Ministers of Health and Finance, attended with guest speakers including the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Michel Sidibé, and United States Ambassador Deborah Birx, a Global AIDS Coordinator and US Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.

Active in his advocacy for health equity in Africa was HEARD’s Executive Director, Professor Nana Poku, who led the discussion at the high level panel on day two of the event.

UNAIDS ESA (Eastern and Southern Africa) together with the Young People Today initiative held high level events to expand on and address their commitment made to the youth in the ESA region of Africa. Poku represented HEARD at the events as a master of ceremony.

Delegates at the event included King Letsie III of Lesotho; Deputy President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa; UNAIDS ESA Regional Director, Professor Sheila Tlou and UNAIDS ambassador and music artist, Mr Loyiso Bala.

Other stakeholders in attendance were high level representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Ministers of Health and Education from a variety of countries.

Part of the agenda at the commitment meeting included discussions on providing youth with access to a comprehensive sexual education, a variety of sexual and reproductive health services, gender rights and addressing cultural and contextual impacts that inhibit the development of the youth.

HEARD was also actively involved in AIDS 2016, where many of its researchers participated in presenting their findings to the global HIV and AIDS research and healthcare community. Some of these presentations and exhibitions included specialised subjects such as medical male circumcision, antiretroviral therapy, disability inclusion, transactional sex and HIV/AIDS investment.

The highlight for HEARD was undoubtedly the launch of the African Journal of AIDS Research (AJAR) Special Issue which features several HEARD researchers as editors and contributing authors. AJAR is a peer-reviewed research journal which publishes papers examining HIV and AIDS in social contexts. The journal implements a multidisciplinary approach to publishing research on HIV/AIDS within our era, and is known to select the most original and innovative contributions to research theory and practice as the basis for its content.

The special issue, Volume Number 15, Issue 2, also features an editorial by Poku and Research Director at HEARD, Dr Kaymarlin Govender.

HEARD ended July off with an announcement that a pilot study conducted by its researchers on the hidden cost of disability in South Africa had been named in UNICEF’S Best Research in 2016. UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) is a United Nations programme which provides humanitarian assistance and development to mothers and children in the developing world.

Thomais Armaos

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