Canada’s International Development Research Centre is deeply saddened by the loss of many of the world’s top HIV/AIDS researchers and advocates in the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17. They were on their way to Melbourne, Australia, to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference to measure the world’s progress in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. Conference organizers have confirmed that, “in recognition of our colleagues’ dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost.”
IDRC-funded researchers will be taking part in the conference, including the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The Centre is one of seven Canadian and eight African institutions participating in the Canada-Africa Prevention Trials (CAPT) network to enhance HIV/AIDS prevention research programs in Africa.
This project is one of nine funded through the HIV/AIDS Prevention Trials Capacity Building Grants, funded by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and IDRC, and managed by the Global Health Research Initiative, a partnership of Canadian government agencies. The $19.7 million grants (Phases I & II) contribute to Canada’s flagship Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, which is led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The grants address one of the biggest hurdles facing Africa’s fight against HIV/AIDS: the shortage of trained researchers and institutions to focus on HIV/AIDS prevention methods, including potential vaccines. Nine teams are building capacity to carry out randomized controlled trials of interventions in 23 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. They are training a cadre of researchers in areas such as research ethics, clinical laboratory practices, project management, and community-based research. By building sustainable African capacity and leadership to carry out HIV/AIDS prevention trials and advancing collaboration between African, Canadian, and international researchers and institutions, this program is an important contribution to Canadian and global efforts to stop the advance of HIV/AIDS.
IDRC has funded HIV/AIDS research since the mid-1980s, taking a broad approach based on the understanding that factors such as political will, the capacity of healthcare systems, and social and economic progress are crucial to winning the battle against the disease. Research has focused on sub-Saharan Africa, where 25 million people were living with HIV in 2012, nearly 70% of the global total.
IDRC currently supports more than 30 HIV/AIDS-related projects. Our focus continues to be on prevention. Building local research skills and strengthening institutions so they can become centres of excellence in the region are central to IDRC’s efforts.