Botswana wins prestigious international award for HIV research
by Edgar Tsimane
Botswana is among seven countries worldwide that have won four prestigious scientific awards given by the International AIDS Society (IAS).
Other countries that have won are Austria, Belgium, Canada, India, Uganda and the United States.
Professor of Paediatrics, Gabriel Anabwani, who is the Executive Director of the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence is the recipient after his research - ‘The Psychosocial Impact of HIV on the siblings of infected Children’.
The awards are to be presented during the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in Washington, D.C. next week.
“The award is a great honour for the research team I led here at the Centre and to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development as a sponsor. It is also further recognition of Botswana’s leadership role in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Professor Anabwani told the Sunday Standard ahead of the AIDS 2012 conference in Washington next week where he will receive it.
The research was conducted after it became evident that little or no knowledge existed regarding the ways in which a stigmatized and chronic disease such as HIV affects other well children within a household.
It was against this background that an assessment of the psychosocial impact of HIV on siblings of infected children in Botswana was carried out in the context of the “Voice of the Child” survey, which, according to Professor Anabwani, aimed in part to close the knowledge gap by obtaining information directly from HIV infected and affected children of school going age.
The Voice of the Child Survey was sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
Anabwani said that while HIV affected children are not the prime targets of national paediatric HIV interventions, they face many psychosocial challenges. He said programs and policies aimed at ameliorating the impact of HIV should take the research findings of his team into account.
“In the short term, this information will inform the ongoing teacher training pilot project before nationwide rollout. In the longer term, the information should also inform educational and health policy. Not least, it was also expected that the survey would unearth otherwise unknown information and insights that are of value in addressing the needs of children and informing future research,” said Anabwani.
Presented by the IAS and its partners, the awards recognize scientists conducting high quality HIV research around the world. Three of the awards seek to recognize and encourage research related to children affected by HIV, TB/HIV–co-infections and collaborative services, and the needs of women and girls affected by HIV. The fourth recognizes young researchers across all disciplines of HIV-related research.
“The IAS is committed to mentoring and supporting the next generation of HIV researchers and to encouraging research in critical areas that have historically not received enough attention,” said IAS President, Dr. Elly Katabira, in a statement.
Katabira said through the awards, the IAS and its partners seek to draw the world’s attention to the winning individuals and to their significant scientific accomplishments and to encourage high quality research in the HIV field.
Anabwani's research found out that majority of the HIV infected children, 97.3 percent, were attending school with79.8 percent and 20.2 percent having been fully or partially disclosed to respectively. It further found out that 59.3 percent were siblings of the HIV-infected children while 30.6 percent were cousins and 10 percent were related in other ways.
The research has observed that 86.4 percent had lived together with the HIV-infected children for longer than 5 years and 4.3 percent said that living with an HIV-infected child made them feel different because of stigma, having to play caregiver roles, fear of contracting HIV, and feeling sad.
Further, it observed that 25.4 percent faced various problems, including worrying about the HIV infected child; receiving less attention from caregivers; and experiencing stress due to adherence-related issues, stigma, and family disharmony. The children coped by crying, talking to an adult relative, talking to the HIV-infected child or isolating themselves from others. Most (89 percent) felt sad or scared whenever the HIV-infected child was sick. 254 (98.4 percent) reported playing caregiver roles, such as reminding or giving medications to the infected children.
The IAS is the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals, with over 16,000 members from more than 196 countries working at all levels of the global response to AIDS. The IAS membership includes researchers from all disciplines, clinicians, public health and community practitioners on the frontlines of the epidemic, as well as policy and programme planners.