SUPPORT project launches to equip the next generation of African experts to fight childhood HIV 

05 Jul, 2024

A new collaborative initiative, SUPPORTSupporting the next generation of African experts on preventing mortality among children living with HIV through translational training, has officially launched. The project funded by EDCTP3 will last 54 months. Through SUPPORT, eight early and five mid-career research fellows from Sub-Saharan African will be recruited to do a 36-month PhD for the early researchers, and a 24-month post-doctoral stay for the mid-career researchers in Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Senegal. They will be trained and equipped with expertise in clinical care, laboratory science, social science and data analysis, skills that are critical for holistic research efforts to address the high burden of HIV in children in these regions. Coordinated by Universidad Complutense De Madrid (UCM), the project brings together an experienced consortium of clinical research institutions, academic leaders, and various stakeholders from both Africa and Europe.  

In Africa, children living with HIV face a heightened risk of illness and death from infections, due to their weakened immune systems. This highlights a critical need for more effective and efficient treatment options and more local, skilled researchers who specialise in infectious diseases. Dr Pablo Rojo, from UCM and SUPPORT’s project coordinator, added that “We are convinced that strengthening the research capacities of young African investigators will benefit the health and well-being of children living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.”  

The selected researchers will participate in a rigorous training programme that blends online and in-person learning to develop essential research skills, with short-term secondment at European institutions for further knowledge exchange and expertise sharing. They will all benefit from an individualised training path and network-wide training based on specifically established multidisciplinary topics and hands-on training as well as participate in exchange programs with partner organisations in Europe. With 20 years of experience in delivering specialised training on paediatric infectious diseases worldwide, Penta will play a key role in shaping SUPPORT’s training programme.   

SUPPORT’s focus on early and mid-career researchers is a strategic investment to combat brain drain, establish a sustainable research workforce in Africa focusing on neglected diseases in vulnerable populations and foster collaboration for sustainable health solutions, contributing to long-term research sustainability, healthcare advancements and long-term improvements in paediatric healthcare in Africa. 

Dr Victor Musiime, from Makerere University and SUPPORT’s scientific coordinator emphasizes the project’s potential impact, “With eight PhD holders and five post-doctoral fellows, SUPPORT will produce a group of researchers that will be able to design and conduct research within Africa. They will build on an existing network that will apply for and conduct future research projects on the continent.” 

The selected fellows will all lead an individual research project deriving from ongoing EDCTP projects, EMPIRICAL and UNIVERSAL. Through SUPPORT, the fellows will further investigate the mortality rates in children living with HIV, identified by EMPIRICAL, and explore new management strategies within the UNIVERSAL project. Their active involvement will significantly enhance collaborative clinical studies on paediatric infectious diseases, fostering innovative approaches and advancing knowledge in this crucial area. 

The SUPPORT project is funded by EDCTP3 under Grant Agreement 101145811.