Kenya among most active nations in HIV/Aids research

This report shows the tight relationship between burden of disease and research publishing. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH.

Kenya is the second leading country in Sub-Saharan Africa after Uganda in conducting relative activity in HIV/Aids research, as stated by a new report. The report conducted by Elsevier charts global trends in Aids and HIV research. The researchers analysed HIV/Aids studies published between 2014 and 2018 and provided a comprehensive view of country-level research output on HIV/AIDS based on absolute publication count.

The countries’ output was then measured using a Relative activity index (RAI), a measure of the proportion of the country’s HIV/Aids research output comparative to the ratio seen globally. The results revealed that Uganda was leading at 40 output compared to Kenya that recorded 22. South Africa is at third position recording 13, Nigeria, in the fourth position. When a country’s RAI for a particular subject, for instance, HIV/Aids, is above 1.0, it indicates that the country’s research in that subject exceeds the proportion seen on average globally. When a country’s RAI is below 1.0, its analysis is below the portion recognised globally. “This may reflect, to some extent, the combination of the high priority this research has taken in countries where the disability-adjusted life years lost due to HIV/AIDS is high, and research culture including infrastructure and workforce are strong,” says the report.


The report looked at countries that produced the most publications. It identifies the United States as a research leader in the field globally, followed by the UK and South Africa. Rounding out the top 10 nations are China, Canada, France, India, Italy, Australia, and Spain. Looking at the overall research conducted on HIV/Aids, the report finds that the US is the leading producer of HIV/Aids-related research with 35,493 publications between 2014 and 2018.

This surpasses the second highest contributor, the United Kingdom (7,879 papers), by over 27,000 articles. South Africa’s research output in the field of AIDS/HIV accounts for a total of 6,823 publications. “This leading position may reflect the high priority AIDS/HIV research has taken in countries where the incidence rate is high and suggests strong support for research overall, through infrastructure, funding, and research workforce,” says Dr Linda-Gail Bekker, professor of medicine at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre. Globally, an estimated 38 million people are infected with HIV. The vast majority of those people over 25 million live in Africa. The study further underlines that the relative activity in HIV/AIDS research is highest in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria.


 In Kenya, 1 600 000 people were living with HIV in 2018 according to the latest data by UNAIDS.  “This report shows the tight relationship between burden of disease and research publishing. South Africa is a relatively small country but has carried a massive HIV burden and punched well above its weight in research publishing,” Dr Bekker said.

The report also charts top research institutions in the area of HIV/AIDS institutions that produce the most research on HIV/AIDS by providing data on both their research output and the share of international collaborations. The highest percentage of collaboration can be seen in research by the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand, with approximately 74 per cent involving collaborators overseas.

“It also shows that, like the epidemic, the response has been global with significant north-south collaboration. The collaborative role that institutions, entities, and governments in the North have played is reflected in the large number of collaborative papers from UCT and The University of Witwatersrand.” Dr Bekker said.

The report comes in the wake of an HIV/Aids clinical human trial launched in Kenya in June, that has the potential to stop HIV infecting cells. The clinical trial will test the vaccine candidates with a molecule cloned to look exactly as the HIV one on Kenyan volunteers to check for safety. “We are going to the root cause … We are at the cusp of a scientific revolution in human genomes that can change the course, quality and longevity of life,” said co-author of the report, Dr Howard Gendelman, director of the Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases. The research also included the most active nations and institutions and trends HIV/Aids research that reflect developments in drug targets.