AIDSTAR-Two: Advancing Evidence-Based Research on Orphans and Vulnerable Children

The millions of children orphaned and made vulnerable by the AIDS pandemic face particular challenges, including loss of their primary care givers, increasing poverty and a greater risk of dropping out of school. When the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was launched nearly 10 years ago, interventions were put in place to address the specific needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Over the past decade, research regarding the effectiveness of these strategies has identified successful program interventions and potentially fruitful new directions. However many program implementers and policy makers remain unaware of this growing evidence base so don’t use it when designing interventions or policies.

To address this gap – between what is known and what is done – the AIDSTAR-Two project, led by Management Sciences for Health, is collaborating with PEPFAR and The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), a research organization based in South Africa, to produce a monthly newsletter, What’s New in Research? This new publication, launched in January 2012, is collecting, organizing, documenting and disseminating relevant research to support more evidence-driven programming for children affected by the epidemic.

Each month, the newsletter highlights six to eight published articles with a focus on evidence-based applied science, policy research, tests of effectiveness, rigorous program evaluation, and cost analysis. Recent studies in the newsletter have looked at the impact of a micro-finance intervention on depression levels of AIDS orphans in Uganda; the specific issues of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in India; the costs of interventions for orphans and vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa; and whether the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption adequately protects vulnerable children and their families, including those affected by HIV and AIDS.

According to Linda Richter, Distinguished Research Fellow at HSRC, subscribers to What’s New in Research receive a regular, easy-to-read overview of the current research; a greater familiarity with research concepts, which can give program implementers more confidence in talking about research and the strength of the evidence with respect to different interventions; and ideas for applying it to their work.

Dr. Richter, who reviews the studies published in What’s New in Research? notes, “Doing these reviews has made me conscious of how relatively few of the articles are freely available online. Many are available only by subscription through individual payment or university libraries. This really cuts practitioners off from research. Our newsletter’s summary of six to eight papers a month is one way that practitioners can learn about new research findings.”

What’s New in Research? is distributed to 3,000 subscribers through OVCSupport.net, a website and global knowledge exchange hub dedicated to sharing experiences, practices, and tools on policy and programming related to children and HIV, managed by the AIDSTAR-Two project. Register to learn more or to subscribe to the newsletter.

Funded through the Global Health Bureau’s Office of HIV/AIDS, AIDSTAR-Two contributes to stronger and more sustainable, country-led HIV/AIDS programs, organizations and networks by offering systematic institutional capacity building assistance to local HIV/AIDS implementing organizations. Led by MSH, the project is supported by consortium partner, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Save the Children, as well as the Human Sciences Research Council in Durban, South Africa. Other partners in the AIDSTAR-Two consortium include Cardno Emerging Markets; Health and Development Africa; Initiatives, Inc.; and Religions for Peace.

For more information, visit www.aidstar-two.org.

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