Hawassa University won a huge research grant, for reduction of mother to- Child HIV/AIDS transmission, with partners.

HIV infection in women is of special interest as it is also associated with occurrence of HIV infection in the children born to these women. Therefore, it appears that preventing HIV infection in women and if they are infected treating HIV infection effectively are critical to decrease the risk of HIV infection in the children. Currently, there are about 65,000 HIV infected children in Ethiopia. Most of these children have acquired HIV from their parents during pregnancy, delivery or breast feeding. The most effective way of ending the HIV/AIDS tragedy in children is by eliminating the transmission of the virus from the mother to the children.

To decrease or, if possible, eliminate HIV infection from children, making sure that there is no HIV virus circulating in the mothers is critical. For this purpose, safe and effective HIV medicines are very critical. To address this issue, researchers from Hawassa University, led by Dr. Birkneh Tilahun Tadesse (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.researchgate.net/profile/Birkneh_Tadesse/amp) and in collaboration with researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Makerere University, Kampala; and Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), Italy were looking for treatment options which prove to be safe and effective for pregnant HIV infected women. To this end, the team has been successful to win a large research grant of around 4 million Euros from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) to implement a collaborative project called PREGART.

Dr Birkneh mentions that PREGART is a very important project in that it will identify safe and effective HIV medicines for both the pregnant women and the babies born to them while still ensuring no HIV transmission from the mother to the babies. He said it will specifically study two HIV medicines namely low dose Efavirenz and dolutegravir. He added that these drugs were studied to be effective and safe for non-pregnant adults; and, hence both drugs are not new to HIV patients. However, currently we don’t completely know if they are safe and effective for HIV infected pregnant women. In PREGART, the research team, as Dr Birkneh said, will observe and carefully assess the HIV infected women taking these medications to see if they can control the HIV infection in the women, prevent mother to child transmission of HIV and that the drugs are safe for the mothers and the babies.

Dr Birkneh also mentioned that PREGART will be implemented in two countries – Ethiopia and Uganda. It will be implemented in hospitals where HIV infected pregnant women attend follow up visits for both the pregnancy and HIV. Dr Birkneh added, in addition to the Universities, the national research and ethics review committee, the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority (EFDA) and Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Ethiopia and the National Drug Authority (NDA) in Uganda will also collaborate and/or monitor the implementation of the project in one or another way.