CAPRISA congratulates Francois van Loggerenberg on being awarded his PhD in Public Health Medicine through the Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). His research focussed on behavioural interventions to enhance adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART), in a study conducted at the CAPRISA eThekwini Clinic in Durban. Concerns that the current didactic adherence counselling may be responsible for low antiretroviral therapy adherence have led to calls for more intensive individualised adherence counselling approaches which require substantial additional health care staff time and resources. Results from his study, which was supervised by Dr Alison Grant, Head of the Department of Clinical Research and Professor of International Health, LSHTM, showed that individualized motivational counselling did not achieve higher treatment adherence or virologic suppression rates than the routinely provided three-session didactic adherence counselling. Virologic suppression at nine months was achieved in 89.8% of control (n=) and 87.9% of intervention patients (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.90-1.07, p=0.62). At least 95% adherence by pill count was achieved by 82.9% of control arm patients and 79.5% of intervention arm patients (RR 0.96, 95%CI 0.85-1.09, p=0.51). These data are reassuring that didactic counselling, which can be provided in groups and is less costly and less time-consuming, is not inferior to intensive individualized motivational counselling. The study was funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, through an Operations Research on AIDS Care and Treatment in Africa (ORACTA) grant.
Francois’s tuition and related costs (2006 – 2011) were covered by a Commonwealth PhD scholarship. Francois is a registered research psychologist who spent several years teaching psychology, statistics and research methodology at the tertiary level before joining CAPRISA in 2002. At CAPRISA, Francois served as the study manager and behavioural interventions co-investigator for the NIH-funded acute HIV infection project. He is currently the co-principal investigator for CAPRISA 007, an impact assessment study of a randomized controlled trial examining a cash incentivized combination prevention intervention which aims to reduce HIV infection in adolescents.