Health care providers in South Africa will soon have speedier access to a vast trove of reliable information about HIV and its treatment, due to the collaborative effort of UCSF, the National Library of Medicine and a South African university.
In February, carbon copies of two comprehensive HIV/AIDS websites will be launched on an Internet server at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The two sites, “HIV InSite” and “Women, Children, and HIV” are resources developed and maintained by the UCSF Center for HIV Information, or CHI. The center’s director is Laurence Peiperl, MD, who is also editor-in-chief for HIV InSite.
Once the South African “mirror server” is up and running, it will dramatically increase access and decrease download times for South African users of the two websites, says Sahai Burrowes, international project manager and associate editor at CHI.
In South Africa, an estimated 11.4 percent of the population—around 5.3 million people—is infected with HIV. “Accessing up-to-date HIV treatment information from South Africa has been very difficult,” Burrowes says. “Creating a mirror site is a simple intervention that’s not particularly expensive. It will give people access to most of the information that’s available in the U.S., which will let them choose what materials they want, instead of someone here in the U.S. trying to pre-select information for them.”
The two websites are recognized worldwide as leading web resources on HIV/AIDS. They provide information geared to physicians, researchers, policymakers, educators, consumers and others needing timely, reliable, and unbiased information about HIV/AIDS. They are continually updated and edited by internationally recognized HIV experts. More than 100 authors have contributed to the sites’ content.
Establishing the mirror server is only the first step of a bigger project, Burrowes says. Once access to the websites is established, she and others at CHI will be working with South African health care workers to tailor and condense some of the sites’ content in order to meet the region’s specific needs.
In addition to its affiliation with UCSF, the center is supported by the San Francisco VA Medical Center’s department of medicine, which is headed by a leading AIDS expert, Paul Volberding, MD, who is also professor of medicine at UCSF. Peiperl, the center’s director, is also staff physician at SFVAMC and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCSF.