The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been conducting HIV and STD research in Malawi since 1990 when it collaborated with the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) to provide technical assistance in the design of several clinical management guidelines for HIV and STDs.
In 1999, this relationship with the MOH was institutionalized when UNC's Malawi activities were consolidated into a center of excellence for HIV/STD research, care and training called UNC Project-Malawi. Located in the capital city of Lilongwe, UNC Project-Malawi is on the grounds of Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), a 1,000-bed, public tertiary care hospital operated by the MOH that serves a population of nearly four million people. An estimated 70% of adult hospital admissions are the result of HIV-related illness.
Starting with just two UNC faculty members working in Malawi, UNC Project now employs more than 250 people, including medical and clinical officers, nurses, laboratory and pharmacy technicians, data officers, and administrative and logistical support staff. The project also works with a number of international consultants in clinical, laboratory, and information and communications technology (ICT) development.
UNC has worked with the Malawi Ministry of Health in designing programs to control the spread of HIV and STDs, developing and testing country-specific STD guidelines, and facilitating care in STD clinics. UNC now provides free HIV testing and counseling to outpatients at KCH and provides staff to the Lighthouse HIV outpatient clinic at the hospital. UNC research projects have included improving the treatment of STDs and reducing adult and mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
UNC Project has a strong and growing relationship with the Malawi College of Medicine (COM) in Blantyre. Several UNC faculty members hold joint appointments at COM, and COM classes are taught at UNC Project in epidemiology, pediatrics and HIV care. The two institutions collaborate in training, supplies and strategic planning.
Since 1999, UNC Project-Malawi has served as a training site of the NIH Fogarty International Center's AIDS International Training and Research Program. Through this program, UNC Project offers short-, medium- and long-term training of personnel in Malawi. UNC works in partnership with several important international organizations, including UNICEF and The World Food Programme, to develop care and support programs for people in Malawi.