Sydney researchers secure funding to further HIV education

30 May 2011

The red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with people who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS.
The red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with people who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS.

The University of Sydney has been successful in attracting $790,000 from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to host 25 fellows nominated by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), and academic institutes, government and non-government organisations in Botswana, South Africa and Zambia under the auspices of the Australian Leaderships Awards (ALA) Fellowships program.

An additional $300,000 will be contributed by the University of Sydney and counterparts to the project.

The program, entitled Short Intensive Professional Program in HIV, is being led by Professor Adrian Mindel, Associate Professor Richard Hillman and Dr Shailendra Sawleshwarkar from the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre (STIRC), Sydney Medical School, in conjunction with Dr Marylouise Caldwell from the Discipline of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School; Professor Elias Mpofu, Faculty of Health Sciences; and Kabo Matlho of the Westmead Millennium Institute.

The program will commence in late August for a period of three months and includes intensive multidisciplinary training in the management and prevention of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, visits to Centres of Excellence, leadership workshops, attendance at the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference and the award of the International Professional Certificate in HIV Infection (IPC-HIV) for those who successfully fulfill all requirements of the program.

Dr Caldwell has become passionately interested in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention campaigns following her five-year-long written and video ethnographic study into how and why everyday citizens of Botswana, who are living with HIV/AIDS become celebrity endorsers of Positive Living, a government sponsored lifestyle, intended to substantively prolong the lives of people living with HIV and prevent others from becoming infected. She said: "We believe the AusAID grant represents an innovative example of collaboration between the University of Sydney Business School, Sydney Medical School and the Faculty of Health Sciences and people active in the public health sectors of India and Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. We believe that the program will lead to deeper and more co-operative relationships between all countries involved."

HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections present major public health challenges to both developing and developed countries, with millions of adults and children becoming infected and dying each year. The evolving epidemics have particularly affected resource-poor countries, leading to increased demand for both educational opportunities and research skills in these areas.

As envisaged in the Joint Statement of both Prime Ministers in 2009, India and Australia are building a broad knowledge partnership, including developing collaborative projects in education and acknowledged that higher education institutions in both nations have an important role to play in such partnership, including cooperation in science and technology.

One of the strategies of the Indian National AIDS Control Program is strengthening human resources and the PHFI is a major contributor to this.

The Australian Government's proposed strategy document titled Looking West: Australia's strategic approach to aid to Africa stresses that Australia aims to help reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development in Africa by supporting progress intended to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The document also states that the aid program will also continue to help to build African countries' and institutions' human resource capacity.

The University of Sydney regards the project as an opportunity for all participants to engage in the reciprocal exchange of skills, ideas and opinions that are likely to contribute to significant improvements to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in all five participating countries; namely Australia, Botswana, India, South Africa and Zambia.

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