UKZN Students Scoop Awards at FIDSSA Congress
Two College of Health Sciences students, Ms Noluthando Mazibuko-Motau and Mr Kwabena Asare, and Ms Makhosazane Zondi (Applied Human Sciences) who are also Fellows at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) presented their work at the 9th Federation of Infectious Diseases Societies of South Africa (FIDSSA) Congress in Durban from 3 to 5 November.
The conference focused on infectious diseases, infection prevention and control, clinical microbiology, and paediatric infectious diseases.
Mazibuko-Motau, a PhD student in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Science and UKZN Talent Excellence and Equity Acceleration Scholarship holder was awarded the prize for the best poster presentation. Her study titled, Oral PrEP does not Alter the Vaginal Microbial Communities supervised by Drs Sinaye Ngcapu (CAPRISA) and Douglas S Kwon (Ragon Institute), investigated the impact of daily oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in combination with emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) for PrEP on vaginal microbiota in South African women.
The study provided reassuring findings that oral PrEP in women does not have a negative impact on the vaginal microbiome. ‘I am beyond excited; this is really a proud moment for me. I am grateful to my supervisor Dr Ngcapu and to Dr Andile Mtshali for encouraging me to apply for this congress,’ she said.
Asare, who is a PhD student in the School of Nursing and Public Health under the supervision of Dr Nigel Garrett, CAPRISA and Dr Andrew Tomita, UKZN received the prize for the best short presentation. His study on Prevalence and Incidence of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) from Acute to Chronic HIV Infection in a Prospective Cohort of Women in South Africa revealed high BV incidence and recurrence among women living with HIV with significant risk factors being a younger age, lower CD4 count and detectable viral load. The findings emphasise the role of ante-retroviral treatment (ART) in preventing BV incidence and recurrence and highlight the need for improved ART services, with a focus on younger women. ‘I want to thank CAPRISA and my supervisors for the mentorship,’ he said. ‘I have had fun and learnt so much within a very short time during this PhD journey. I am looking forward to a bright future with more success in public health research and academia.’
Zondi, a master’s student in the School of Applied Human Sciences and Golden Key Member won the award for the best oral presentation. Her study titled, Women’s Experiences of an Expedited Partner Treatment (EPT) Intervention in KwaZulu-Natal, supervised by Professor Mary van der Riet, Ms Kershia Sunjeevan and Garrett examines the efficacy of EPT in reducing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reinfection and prevalence through partner treatment that is delivered by patients. The study found that all the women successfully delivered EPT to their partners and that the majority personally observed its consumption.
Creative strategies resulted in a highly acceptable approach and this was found to be by far the most effective STD intervention targeted at improving partner treatment rates. ‘I am ecstatic to have received this award; it has taught me not to underestimate my potential and the impact of my work. I am grateful to my supportive mother and my supervisors,’ she said. ‘It is important that diverse disciplines work together to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.’