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Rakai Health Sciences Program Scoops International Accolade

A health programme in Rakai, Central Uganda, has won an international award and financial support from the government of Kuwait.

The Rakai Health Sciences Program (RHSP) was rewarded in recognition for its important role in improving public health in the African continent by fighting against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and for discovering -three decades ago- the first clinical symptoms of what was then a new medical phenomenon called “slim disease” on the African continent.

The program has succeeded in documenting the importance of male circumcision and its positive impact as an effective means of reducing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, while the publications of the program in prestigious medical journals have had a significant impact on health policies in Africa and the world.

ChimpReports understands RHSP employs 350 full-time Ugandan research and clinical staff that include epidemiologists, demographers, clinical and basic science researchers, behavioral, laboratory scientists, and research support staff.

Additional RHSP staff, about 370, provide HIV treatment and prevention services resulting from RHSP research.

The prize amount of one million US dollars, offered by the State of Kuwait, is awarded annually to individuals or institutions within one of the three fields of Food Security, Health and Education.

RHSP is among the three joint winners of the 2018 cycle of Al Sumait Prize for African Development in the field of Health.

Half of the Prize goes to Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Professor at Columbia University.

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The second half of the prize is to be shared equally between Professor Sheila K. West Vice Chair for Research Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Rakai Health Sciences Program, which is a nonprofit independent research center based in Rakai, Uganda.

Professor Abdool Karim has been jointly awarded the prize for his recognised contributions to science in HIV treatment and prevention over the past three decades, which have led to significant changes in health policy and practices worldwide.

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He has published more than 350 papers in world-class medical journals and his efforts in research on prevention and treatment of AIDS patients has been a major factor in the decline in HIV/AIDS and mortality rates in Africa and the world.

His findings on HIV-TB, a leading cause of death in Africa, are specifically mentioned in many country treatment policies and guidelines, and are being implemented worldwide.

Professor West has been jointly awarded the prize in recognition for her dedicated research focused in Africa on ways to improve trichiasis surgery outcomes and eliminate blinding trachoma. Her work has contributed to the control of blindness for both children and adults.

She has been instrumental in the development of the World Health Organization SAFE strategy for Trachoma prevention and control, a sustainable strategy that is now widely used throughout the world and is preventing blindness among both children and adults.

Professor West continues her work on neglected tropical diseases in the poorest communities with partners across the globe.

Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), said: “Our Laureates for the 2018 Al Sumait Prize are responsible for measurable improvements to the lives and life expectancy of millions of those suffering from HIV and Trachoma and decreasing death rates of AIDS, through innovative research on treatment and prevention and in championing sustainable changes in health polices across Africa and the world.”

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