UC Berkeley/UCSF SEARCH Consortium Receives $23 Million to Battle AIDS in East Africa

Maya Peterson, MD, PhD

Maya Peterson, MD, PhD

The SEARCH (Sustainable East Africa Research in Community Health) consortium, a joint venture between UC Berkeley, UCSF, and Makerere University, has received $23 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a new five-year research program to combat AIDS in East Africa.

The program will design and test evidence-based prevention interventions and treatment and guide a global effort to end AIDS using a multi-disease, multi-sector approach.

SEARCH was initially launched in 2012 and is headed by Drs. Maya Petersen (UC Berkeley School of Public Health), Diane Havlir (UCSF), and Dr. Moses Kamya (Makerere University). The consortium has already generated profoundly important findings in HIV treatment and prevention for sub-Saharan Africa. 

To date, SEARCH has generated more than 70 publications, has been featured in a Emmy-winning segment on PBS NewsHour, and presented at numerous high-profile international conferences on key findings such as:

  • A novel hybrid, mobile approach of multiple-disease community health campaigns followed by home-based testing that reached and exceeded UNAIDS 90-90-90 target and resulted in a population-level viral suppression target of 82%. 
  • A  multi-disease community level approach to HIV to test and treat that led to 20% fewer HIV deaths, reduced the incidence of HIV and tuberculosis (TB), and improved control of hypertension and diabetes.
  • Among persons with advanced HIV disease, the SEARCH intervention model accelerated treatment start and reduced mortality at a population level with 27% fewer deaths.
  • The SEARCH intervention reduced mother-to-child HIV transmission and increased HIV-free survival among infants born to mothers with HIV.
  • Population-level PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) associated with 79% lower HIV incidence than among matched controls with no PrEP.

The new program, dubbed SEARCH Sapphire: “A Multisectoral Strategy to Address Persistent drivers of the HIV epidemic in East Africa” will aim to eliminate HIV in East Africa with innovative combination strategies for HIV prevention and treatment that are effective, efficient, scalable, and reduce preventable infections and deaths.

“We are honored to have this opportunity to work with the communities we serve on designing, delivering, and evaluating population-based approaches to prevent HIV, improve community health, and take the next steps toward HIV epidemic control,” says Petersen.

SEARCH Sapphire collaborators include UCSF; the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Kenya; Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration and Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of Pennsylvania; and University College London.