January 6, 2011

Grant boosts Mozambique AIDS efforts

Carolyn Audet, Ph.D., M.A.

Grant boosts Mozambique AIDS efforts

Carolyn Audet, Ph.D., assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, has received a five-year, $850,000 federal grant to take part in a broad effort to achieve more effective AIDS treatment and prevention in Mozambique.

Carolyn Audet, Ph.D.

Carolyn Audet, Ph.D.

The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) awarded a total of $5 million to the University of California, San Francisco, (the lead organization in this research), the University of Washington and I-Tech, and Vanderbilt for the collective effort.

Audet, principal investigator for the Vanderbilt portion of the research, said the program will provide a broad examination of how medical services are used in the African nation.

“The question has been: 'why do patients come to our clinics for treatment so late, when they are so sick?' There are lots of ways to get at that question, but we are working with traditional healers to refer certain patients to our clinic more quickly and helping patients understand how to seek care,” Audet said.

Traditional healers are very popular in Mozambique, so many global outreach efforts have worked to link Western medicine clinics with them.

The success of some drugs, like anti-malarial medicines, has brought more patients into the clinics, but treatment of HIV is very complex.

“There has not been a lot of experience treating chronic illness, because there has been no infrastructure for that. It's a foreign idea to take a pill every day for the rest of your life, so many people have died.

“We have to work with local traditions but also provide people with new knowledge and opportunities. It isn't an easy task,” Audet said.

The grant will fund the testing of new methods to improve patient care, including increasing testing for sexually transmitted infections and family planning, assessing partner status and risky behavior, as well as support and community groups.

The program will include the development of a monitoring system to track referrals to other services within the health system and between health services.

It will also evaluate message delivery to patients by health providers during routine encounters and at support groups. Audet said the study is important because the funding will improve care right away.

“We will roll things out in spring and summer and within a year I think we should see improvements,” said Audet.