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Dr TF Rinke de Wit has been appointed professor of Sustainable Health Care in Africa at the Faculty of Medicine.

Dr TF Rinke de Wit (b. 1961) has been appointed professor of Sustainable Health Care in Africa at the Faculty of Medicine of the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA).

In his research, Tobias Rinke de Wit will be focusing on the evaluation of sustainable health care in Africa. Important key words in this respect are ‘multidisciplinary’; ‘applied’ and ‘aimed at advancement of capacity’. Rinke de Wit’s view is that there is a higher chance of success when development issues are analysed from several disciplines at the same time. For instance, the success of the introduction of a new insurance package for health care in Namibia can be measured on the basis of biomedical parameters in patients, but also on the basis of socio-economic living circumstances of the insured persons and their families. A combination of these observations allows for a broader and therefore more meaningful interpretation of research results. Rinke de Wit will also be focusing on direct applicability of the research results. The aim is for operational research in developing countries to lead to the advancement of local research capacity, with African researchers themselves in the long run evaluating the challenges of sustainable health care.

Rinke de Wit obtained his PhD degree on the molecular biological and immunological characterization of human transplantation antigens in 1991. This project prepared him for performing research in Africa. Rinke de Wit began work as senior researcher at the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI) in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in 1990. He worked here for three years in an international team on the identification of antigens specific to leprosy, tuberculosis and leishmaniasis in order to develop future diagnostic tests and vaccines. Furthermore, he lectured at Ethiopian universities and assisted in the local advancement of capacity of laboratories.

Rinke de Wit was appointed Laboratory Director of the Ethio-Netherlands AIDS Research Project (ENARP) in 1994. Subsequently he worked for seven years at the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI), where ENARP is situated. He was responsible for the establishment of a large reference laboratory and two secondary labs, the scientific support of a team of laboratory assistants and students and the coordination of the research programme with Dutch partner institutes. The subject of the research programme was immunology, virology and epidemiology of the natural history of HIV infections in the context of Africa (according to the concept of the well known Amsterdam HIV/AIDS cohort studies). At the same time Rinke de Wit supported extensive information campaigns on HIV.

Since 2001, Rinke de Wit has been director of Advocacy & Research of PharmAccess Foundation, a not-for-profit organization specialised in the organization and implementation of access to AIDS treatment within the context of sustainable general health care in developing countries. He is closely involved with the implementation of various HIV/AIDS programmes, mostly through private sector initatives in Africa. In 2004, Rinke de Wit offered a proposal for insuring AIDS treatment in Namibia. The experiences of this project have contributed to the concept of the Health Insurance Fund (HIF), an innovative financing mechanism that supports insurance premiums of target groups in Africa. The first HIF project will take place in Nigeria during the next five or six years. Rinke de Wit will be combining his professorship with his job at PharmAccess. The chair is endowed by a research grant from the AIDS fund.