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In 1992, HIV/AIDS researchers in Amsterdam were invited to work in partnership with researchers in Ethiopia to build an HIV/AIDS research infrastructure in Addis Ababa. This project, which began in 1994, was envisioned to contribute meaningfully to fighting the HIV pandemic in the decades to come. Its immediate objective was to establish an HIV research laboratory to serve international partnerships pursuing HIV vaccine research in Ethiopia and to support national health authorities fighting the HIV epidemic in Ethiopia. The overall goal was to develop research capacity at the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI) by improving facilities, training technical and academic personnel at the Ph.D., M.Sc., and M.P.H. levels, establishing cohort studies to study HIV infection progression, and helping the government to implement a national HIV surveillance program.
During the period 1994-2002, the projected HIV/AIDS research laboratory was built and several existing sections of EHNRI were renovated and upgraded. An active HIV-research program also was established. Staff grew to more than 60, including three Ethiopian and three expatriate researcher/managers. Two Ph.D. students graduated in immunology and virology (University of Amsterdam, 2000), and five are currently in training. Several technical persons were trained, and over 19 M.Sc./M.P.H. programs were supported at Addis Ababa University (AAU). The first Ethiopian Ph.D. graduate became the national program manager for ENARP. Two ENARP cohort studies and several HIV-prevalence studies have helped document the severity of the HIV epidemic in Ethiopia, assisting national authorities in formulating national and regional policies to prevent HIV transmission.
Initial funding for ENARP from the Netherlands government was for eight years, to end by 2003. It was expected that management responsibilities would then be transferred from expatriate to Ethiopian staff and all ENARP activities integrated into EHNRI.