Main research overview

Research Overview

Research and diagnostic studies focus on HIV, TB and HIV-associated cancers

South Africa has the biggest and most high-profile HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 7.2 million people living with HIV in 2017. South Africa accounts for a third of all new HIV infections in southern Africa.In 2017, there were 270,000 new HIV infections and 110,000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses.South Africa also has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme in the world. The Clinical HIV Research Unit (CHRU) therefore has access to the largest population of people on HIV treatment worldwideIts activities comprise academic research and technical assistance ranging from Phase I to IV clinical trials and including implementation sciences.

CHRU participates in major global multi-centre clinical trials and is an internationally recognised multi-disciplinary research group that continues to increase its grant-funded support, publication output and postgraduate research output. It has an excellent track record of enrollment in trials, based on its coordinated and effective community engagement programmes, which ensure ongoing access to relevant trial populations.

CHRU is well known for regularly being the first to open new network studies, based on its standing with regulatory authorities, its rapid submission timeline and highly responsive team. The Unit maintains excellent data quality as well as participant recruitment and retention records.

Its success can also be attributed to the outstanding access to research populations. Development of the treatment site at Helen Joseph Hospital has included the establishment of a comprehensive database, known as the Themba Lethu Cohort.  This cohort includes a database of over 47 000 patients, leading to a number of outcome evaluations, and has been an important source of publications. The highest standards of clinical services for participants are ensured.

Over 50 antiretroviral therapy (ART) studies in Phase I-III research have been completed by CHRU.

The Unit also provides academic research and technical assistance, ranging from Phase I to IV clinical trials to implementation sciences.

Contributing to South Africa’s scientific research agenda

CHRU’s clinical trials in HIV, TB and HIV-associated cancers all contribute to South Africa’s scientific agenda and to the South African National Department of Health’s public health priorities.

It has also made significant contributions to research, with over 300 publications in the last ten years (2008-2018), and was the first international site to participate in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) in 2002.

Our research and diagnostic studies focus on:

Areas of scientific research include:

  • Toxicities of antiretroviral therapy (ART)
  • Defining the use of ART in first and second line, patterns of HIV drug resistance, cost of resistance testing, and nurse initiated and monitored ART
  • Defining the timing of HIV ART in participants presenting with TB, drug interactions between TB and HIV medicines, and overlapping toxicities
  • Defining the role of novel diagnostic tests targeting the early diagnosis of TB
  • ART adherence and improvements in loss-to-follow-up
  • Patterns of Viral Hepatitis and HIV co-infection (predominantly Hepatitis B), genotyping and drug resistance and
  • Patterns of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), cervical dysplasia and cervical cancers including early diagnosis and treatment options and outcomes.

Commercial studies include:

  • Trials on behalf of pharmaceutical companies which involve testing the efficacy of manufacturers’ new drugs
  • Strategy trials which compares different regimens of registered drugs and
  • Investigational drug studies for both new and drugs still awaiting registration.

Clinical trials are also conducted on behalf of pharmaceutical companies which involve testing the efficacy of the manufacturers’ new drugs.