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AFRO-NETS> Botswana Anti-AIDS efforts (2)



Botswana Anti-AIDS efforts (2)
------------------------------

Dear Cecilia,

The details you compiled about the implementation of the programme in 
Botswana are impressive, and it is great news to hear that Francis-
town is included, as it appears to be among the most affected re-
gions.

On the formal grounds of tomorrow's research, it is important to re-
alise the precedents set by new research on HIV/AIDS carried out on 
African blood samples.

<<There does not seem to be recent news on the progress with Botswana 
University, but the new virology laboratory and training center is 
slated for completion by the end of this year, according to the Har-
vard AIDS Institute. As you know, the Botswana-Harvard HIV Reference 
Laboratory (opened in February 2000) is a joint effort between the 
Ministry of Health, who are providing funds for the building and its 
renovation, and the Harvard AIDS Institute, who are providing equip-
ment.>>

It may be for practical reasons easier to perform research at Harvard 
(with a small unit on-site, I am somewhat translating what I am read-
ing above), but in the long-term, Harvard may want to consider to 
dispatch its graduate students or postdocs directly at University re-
search centres in Africa for a few years. Given the misbalance of re-
search funds between the North and the South, such precedent may re-
sult into a kind of research colonialism, even if the underlying in-
tentions were noble, good-minded, kind, gentle in the first place. 

If students at the University of Botswana (UB, http://www.ub.bw) are 
not offered a fair chance to undertake paid research internships on 
HIV/AIDS, how will they react when they hear that research is carried 
out on the blood of their people without using their own student sci-
entific skills? Having research carried in the laboratories at UB is 
the best way to ensure that many students find ways to participate in 
that research. I suppose we would agree that this is also a goal that 
we would like to reach, namely: HIV/AIDS research performed directly 
by African graduate students, postdocs and professors.

The student tuition at UB was increased last year, and there was vio-
lence as a result, because students were outraged at other spending 
by the University, among which in expensive research equipments. I 
visited one of those equipments and was delighted with what I saw: 
well maintained, excellent research, local PhD students using them 
on-site for their research, research collaborations in several 
neighbour countries (by DHL to exchange samples). I had never seen 
something alike in Western laboratories: a research equipment running 
nearly 24 hours a day (with an automatic sampling) and shared by sev-
eral distance laboratories in the region and neighbour countries [1].

The UB has several construction options currently, two of which be-
ing: an Olympic swimming pool, a medical school. One would hope that 
both get underway. But to put it into Western terms, this university 
needs "more exposure".

The current UB science faculty comes from the older Swaziland, Leso-
tho, Botswana science unit and there are still ties between the three 
universities. Possibilities to collaborate with the universities in 
South Africa are few hours away. This is an extra reason why it would 
be quite beneficial to send Harvard research graduate students and/or 
postdocs to perform research programmes on HIV/AIDS in the university 
facilities of Africa instead of receiving African blood samples by 
airplane at Harvard (I am simplifying a little but I am sure you un-
derstand what is at stake here).

There is a component in medicine that is quite important, it is the 
will of patients to fight their disease. The fact of feeling under 
control is one important aspect. There is nothing better for patients 
than knowing that the professors next door have the money to study 
their case, and that the physicians down the street have the means to 
exercise their art.

Christian Labadie
mailto:CLabadie@t-online.de

[1] http://www.ub.bw/faculty/science/chemistry/nabsa/aboutus.htm

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