RTI International to integrate women-focused evidence-based HIV intervention into general practice in South Africa

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — Experts at RTI International are using an innovative implementation science method to bridge the gap between research and practice by integrating a women-focused evidence-based intervention into general practice in South Africa.

The Women's Health CoOp (WHC) is an evidence-based intervention programme targeting substance-using women at-risk for HIV in South Africa. The program, originally developed in the United States, was adapted and tested in multiple studies for vulnerable women in South Africa.

The five-year study is funded by a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Wendee Wechsberg, Ph.D., director of Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluations and Interventions at RTI and leader of the Women's Health CoOp, will establish a marketing strategy with in-country support to sustainably integrate the Women's Health CoOp into the existing health care delivery in South Africa.

"South Africa has one-fifth of the world's HIV burden, among women in particular, so effective interventions are essential to scale up," Wechsberg said. "Ideally, evidence-based interventions should move quickly and smoothly from research to practice, although in reality this is not the case. This is where implementation science can help decrease barriers and address challenges."

Researchers will work with local collaborators within the context of health care infrastructure in South Africa to roll out the intervention in local HIV and antenatal clinics, as well as drug rehabilitation facilities.

Local staff will be trained in delivering the intervention, and researchers will continuously engage with clinic staff and clients to improve the uptake of the Women's Health CoOp and strengthen sustainability, while also evaluating patient outcomes.

According to researchers, HIV is a leading cause of premature death in South Africa. In 2013, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, or UNAIDS, estimated that 6.3 million people were living with HIV in South Africa.

The Woman's Health CoOp has been included in the United States Agency for International Development compendium of prevention interventions that are recommended for use in Africa.

Related Experts


Wendee Wechsberg


Substance abuse treatment

Gender issues and HIV risk

Community-based research

International HIV adaptations