Business Day, 29 October 2002, HSRC success aids research, Science and Education Correspondent

CAPE TOWN The revamped Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) almost doubled its earnings from research contracts and grants during financial year to March, increasing its capacity to conduct "socially relevant research", particularly in the HIV/AIDS arena.

The council began a major restructuring exercise in 2000. This saw it reduce the proportion of administrative staff, recruit new blood to head its research components, and reorient its research programmes to focus on large scale inter-disciplinary projects for government departments and other public sector users.

Its research earnings grew from R6m the previous year to R28m. This income is in addition to its parliamentary grant of approximately R60m, which is used to fund research for disadvantaged communities that cannot afford to commission work.

CEO Mark Orkin said that the HSRC's research earnings for the current year had already exceeded the target of R45m. This was due to an increased proportion of larger collaborative projects that extended over several years, he said.

The council secured more than R20m in the current financial year for various research programmes into the social aspects of HIV/AIDS.

"The projects span awareness and prevention, care, and the impact of the epidemic," Orkin said. "By collaboration among the various HSRC research programmes, and with universities and nongovernmental organisations here and in neighbouring countries, the HSRC is achieving the concerted research response that the pandemic demands."

One of the HSRC's key HIV/AIDS projects is a 10000 household survey of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in SA, the results of which are due to be released next month.

The research findings will, for the first time, offer estimates of the disease based on a nationally representative sample. Current estimates are based on HIV prevalence testing among pregnant women attending public health care facilities.

The study also incorporates an assessment of HIV/AIDS media campaigns and different behavioural prevention strategies.