Newswise — CAPE TOWN, South Africa– As part of an ongoing effort to reduce HIV transmission in South Africa, RTI International and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) are co-hosting a policy forum to address the state of key populations at risk of HIV in the Western Cape and discuss findings from two recent prevention studies funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The policy forum, titled "In the trenches with drug-using women and couples: key populations most at-risk for HIV in Cape Town, South Africa," will be held on Tuesday, 19 Aug. 2014 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the President Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.

The forum will address studies that have successfully demonstrated HIV risk reduction through a decline in alcohol and drug use, reduced victimization of women, and decreased sexual risk through behaviours such as increased condom usage.

Since 2007, RTI, together with SAMRC partners, has adapted and conducted the Women's Health CoOp, an evidence-based intervention programme for women that addresses the intersecting risks of alcohol and drug use, sexual risk, and gender-based violence in the Western Cape. The programme has reached a range of vulnerable populations including sex workers, alcohol and drug users, pregnant women, and HIV positive women across South Africa.

The Women's Health CoOp was adapted in 2008 to include men as part of the Couples Health CoOp, an initiative to address the aspects of heterosexual partnerships that increase the risk of HIV transmission within a couple.

The forum will also address plans to move forward toward the implementation and sustainability of evidence based interventions such as the Women's Health CoOp in the Western Cape.

The forum will be chaired by Professor Glenda Grey, president of SAMRC and will include speakers such as Wendee Wechsberg, Ph.D., director of Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluations and Interventions at RTI and lead of the Women's Health CoOp and Couples Health CoOp studies; Councillor Benedicta Van Minnen, Cape Town city council's mayoral committee member for health; and Minister Albert Fritz, MEC for Social Development.

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