Hi-tech weapon in Aids battle

July 8, 2005

UK-Africa collaboration is breathing life into the continent. Olga Wojtas reports

The first comprehensive guide on Aids awareness in South Africa has emerged from a ten-year partnership between four South African and two British higher education institutions.

The Tabeisa partnership uses the South African technological institutions as a catalyst for local economic and social development, by teaching entrepreneurship to the black student population.

Courses have been backed by business and scientific expertise provided by Coventry and Greenwich universities. The initiative has helped create hundreds of township businesses and more than 1,200 jobs.

The project, funded by the European Union, is directed by Jane Conlon of Coventry. John Humphreys, pro vice-chancellor at Greenwich, is director of research and development.

Professor Humphreys said that the EU had encouraged public health intervention to help young Africans understand the causes and prevention of Aids.

"We developed material in the form of a book, How 2b Aids Aware , which has turned out to be hugely in demand because there is no equivalent accessible material," he said.

"Aids is not only a personal tragedy and socially destructive but also an economic problem, stripping out a big chunk of the workforce.

"Students tend to be the best- educated people in their communities, and this has within it a cascade model so that they teach other young people about Aids."

Tabeisa's work has expanded to include academics in Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya. Professor Humphreys said the benefits had not been one-sided, and the UK institutions had been helped to understand and develop new ways of supporting deprived communities in the UK.

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