The post ICASA review meeting convened by NERCHA on Tuesday is calling for a strengthening of the national research agenda in the response to HIV and AIDS. The objective of the post-ICASA meeting, held at Mountain Inn, was to share experiences and also come up with a plan to operationalize some of the lessons learnt from the ICASA conference. ICASA stands for International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa. It is the major international AIDS conference taking place in Africa.
The post-ICASA meeting featured presentations of recent Swazi focused research presented in Cape Town last year. Most importantly, it also provided a forum to assess the status of HIV and AIDS research in and about Swaziland.
Topics covered included the significant decline of AIDS-related opportunistic infections and diseases over ten years, human rights training for PLHIV relative to access to testing and care.
Among key observations from the panel members as well as other engaged participants were:
- It is vital to develop and strengthen coordination of the national research agenda so that it reflects Swaziland's knowledge and action needs
- External funding must be better guided to best address Swaziland's country determined research questions and direction.
- Data and research results from Swazi-based studies must be made more readily and completely available to local researchers to exploit.
- Research in the country, regardless of funding source, should be directed to consciously recruit and promote local researchers
- Coordination and facilitation of applied research across all sectors, with focus on multisectoral collaboration as well, must be encouraged and promoted to best and most effectively support the response
Participants concluded that as next steps, it is important to bring key actors and interests together to shape and drive a local-based HIV and AIDS research program and structure. Participants noted that a research coordinating structure that promotes and vets applications for research on merits and appropriateness to the Swazi agenda for the country can significantly enhance the HIV and AIDS response. These steps are in line with the ICASA objectives one of which was to mobilize support to scale up evidence-based responses to HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and Malaria in order to achieve the millennium development goals.
Some of the participants in the post-ICASA included NERCHA Director Khanya Mabuza, Senior officials from the Ministry of Health, Population Services International (PSI) and ICAP, to mention a few.