On 8 July 2019, the European Commission Director-General for Research and Innovation, Jean-Eric Paquet, visited the Emavulandleni Research Centre in Cape Town, South Africa together with colleagues from the European Commission and representatives of the Department of Science and Technology of South Africa, the South African Medical Research Council and EDCTP. This research centre is one of the sites for the EDCTP-funded ‘Combined HIV Adolescent Prevention Study’ (CHAPS), which is led by Professor Linda Gail-Bekker and conducted in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The delegation heard from members of the project team about the studies at the Emavulandleni Research Centre. It also visited the adolescent clinic adjacent to Phillipi village, from which the CHAPS study is conducted. Members of the Adolescent Community Advisory Board and participants in the adolescent study shared their experiences and voiced challenges facing the adolescents in their community.
The CHAPS project evaluates a range of prevention strategies adapted to adolescents including a version of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection. Daily PrEP clearly reduces the risk of HIV infection, but it remains costly and has some side effects, while adherence among adolescents is reduced. The CHAPS project aims to overcome these challenges by evaluating the impact of a less toxic drug combination (tenofovir alafenamide and emtricitabine), and ‘on-demand’ PrEP, the use of PrEP just around the time of sexual activity.
The CHAPS project site is situated in a township (informal settlement) called Phillipi, with a population of about 500,000, which is near the Gugulethu township and the Cape Town International Airport. Previously, the EDCTP1-funded SASHA study was conducted at this site. That project studied the feasibility of adolescent HIV vaccine trials in South Africa and built the capacity for such trials. Moreover, the project developed an ethical-legal guide for conducting clinical trials with adolescents.