The Mwanza Intervention Trials Unit (MITU, or the Unit) was established in 2006 by the Tanzania National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with initial funding from the UK Medical Research Council (MRC). The Unit was established to build on the longstanding and highly successful research collaboration in Mwanza between the two institutions. This collaboration dates from the late 1980s when the HIV epidemic was expanding rapidly in East Africa. Mwanza was chosen as a site for HIV prevention research, particularly since HIV prevalence had not reached high levels and there was the prospect that such research could have a substantial impact on the development of the epidemic. Underlying the rationale for locating research in Mwanza was the existence of a major NIMR research centre in the city, which could provide a strong and well-established base for the collaboration.
For more than 29 years, this collaboration has carried out ground-breaking research studies on the epidemiology and control of HIV and other sexual health problems, with a particular focus on randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of preventive interventions. The first major HIV prevention trial, often known as “the Mwanza trial”, was conducted between 1991 and 1995 as part of a close collaboration between LSHTM, the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), NIMR Mwanza and other partners. This was the first trial in the world to demonstrate that improved treatment services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) could reduce HIV incidence in the general adult population. Through this, the collaboration has built a reputation as one of the leading centres worldwide for HIV prevention research.
During the past 15 years, the Unit has expanded its research portfolio into the following main themes: