Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Research into foetal growth and HIV

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Ms Ferial Isaacs, a Radiography staff member who recently graduated with a MTech in Radiography (Ultrasound), coordinated private research in Ultrasound for her Masters Degree.

The research evaluated foetal growth during pregnancies of HIV women in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu clinics. Through this 18-month quantitative research process, she discovered that the foetal growth of babies born from HIV positive mothers do not significantly differ from those born from HIV negative mothers.

The results of the antenatal ultrasound findings also showed no significant difference when comparing foetal biometry, placental thickness and amniotic fluid index.

Ms Isaacs chose to do this study after completing projects in Retreat and Hanover Park where many women were HIV positive. Upon further research, she discovered that in 2002, 8% of pregnant women in the entire Western Cape were HIV positive, in comparison to the approximately 25% of HIV positive women in Guguletu and Khayelitsha.

Her research was born from a genuine curiosity and a desire to do work that would be beneficial to the community. Ms Isaacs managed to raise R150 000 through sponsorship and donations for an ultrasound machine to conduct her research.

She took the machine into Guguletu and Khayelitsha twice a week, where she saw 40 patients a week monitoring the growth of their unborn babies. Ms Isaacs screened HIV positive and HIV negative women.

The outcome of this study suggests that there is no need to adapt clinical monitoring of foetal growth specifi cally for the HIV infected women who were scanned as part of the research. This machine is now used for teaching.

Challenges faced during her research include the lack of knowledge about AIDS in townships, working at primary healthcare centres, administration difficulties and the drop-out rate of pregnant women who failed to return for continuous evaluation.

However, she was inspired everyday by meeting HIV positive women who, despite their status, are strong, positive and ambitious. There were many who had no partners and many who have not disclosed their HIV status.

The project taught her about research, compiling proposals, identifying potential donors, requesting sponsorship and being open-minded. She said, “You must have an open mind about research as findings are not always predictable. Remain focussed, remember your hypothesis and stick to it. Use the pitfalls in your research experience to learn from.”

Ms Isaacs thanked her sponsors that included the institution, the Mauerberger Foundation for the Solm Yach Fellowship and Safmarine for their support and contribution.

* Ms Isaacs is also running a training programme for ultrasonographers to provide a service in the Boland region.

CAPTION: WOW FACTOR: Ferial Isaacs makes interesting discoveries about foetal growth in HIV+ mums-to-be.

Written by CPUT News

Email: news@cput.ac.za