The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, housed within the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre (DTHC) at the University of Cape Town, is committed to the pursuit of excellence in research, treatment, training and prevention of HIV and related infections in Southern Africa.
The Foundation, supported by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah has been in existence as a “not for profit” organization since 2004. The DTHC was previously called the HIV Research Unit based at New Somerset Hospital (1995- 2004). When the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) was commissioned in 2004, Profs Wood and Bekker were invited to move across to the IDM.
The DTHC is an accredited research grouping within the University of Cape Town and is supported in its work by the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. The research, clinical and community outreach staff of the Foundation share a common agreed purpose to lessen the impact of the HIV epidemic on individuals, families and communities, through innovation and their passion for humanity.
Fully self- funded by grants and other investigator raised funds, our shared vision for the future includes the continuation of current TB/HIV related work of treatment, care, prevention and education particularly in the most vulnerable populations, whilst staying abreast of new developments and continuing to contribute to cutting edge information in HIV and TB public health, social and clinical research.
Professor Robin Wood (BSc, MBBCh, FCP (SA), DSc.) is the Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, CEO of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Cape Town.
Professor Linda-Gail Bekker (MBChB, DTMH, DCH, FCP (SA), PhD.) is the Deputy Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Chief Operating Officer at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and Professor of Medicine at UCT.
Jill Thorne (B.Sc Hons EMBA) is the General Manager of the DTHF and manages the Support Services Division in the DTHF and DTHC.
Ganief Abrahams (Diploma Cost Management and Accounting) is the Chief Financial Officer of the DTHF.
The DTHC conducts Epidemiologic and Basic Research, Clinical Trials and Health Service Research with the aim of impacting on health policy through the dissemination of new knowledge, accredited peer reviewed publication and guidance to local and national government.
The DTHC has a broad research mandate that spans across a number of disciplines. Its main activities are divided into the following key areas:
- Treatment of HIV
- Prevention of HIV
- Adolescent Health and Prevention
- Behavioural Science
- Maternal and Child Health
- Men’s Health
- Mobile Services
- Health promotion and health rights for Key Populations
- Primary Health care screening
- HIV related opportunistic infections
Over the last 8 years the DTHF has published over 400 peer reviewed publications and numerous book chapters, policy documents, training manuals and other publications.
The Centre works predominantly in the Western Cape Province, and maintains a commitment to strong community involvement with 5 well established and well organized community research sites as well as mobile and facility based projects.
Community-based sites are active areas for operational and epidemiological research as well as community mobilization and HIV prevention activities conducted in close collaboration with other non-governmental organizations, the private and primary care health sector and community leaders and members.
This DTHC aims to promote innovation and improve competitiveness in health and health related service delivery. A few illustrative examples that the DTHC has successfully completed include:
- Rapid initiation of antiretrovirals in HIV-infected pregnant women to reduce vertical HIV transmission
- Utilization of lay workers to enhance adherence to HIV and TB treatment
- Use of community based ART distribution to facilitate scale up of treatment
- Implementation of mobile community based HIV testing with screening for other chronic diseases thereby reducing stigma and increasing community acceptability of preventive health
- Investigating what the potential barriers and facilitators are and thus the messaging and social marketing that will be required for adolescent uptake of a new vaccine such as the HPV vaccine
By combining community-driven development with internationally acclaimed research, the DTHC envisions a brighter future where HIV is manageable and its presence diminished in South Africa’s communities.