About Research

The Research Unit conducts rigorous epidemiologic quantitative and qualitative research studies with a portfolio in the fields of HIV prevention and treatment, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), tuberculosis (TB), COVID-19 infection and mental health. We work in close collaboration with the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation (DTHF), and other national and international partners.

Our main office is in East London, with existing research facilities across the Buffalo City Municipality Metropolitan district. These include the recently established FPD-DTHF Ndevana Community Research Site (CRS) where we conduct clinical trials, four clinical facilities for STI research, and infrastructure to conduct TB research at the community-facility interface.

Our organisation’s values and research philosophy provide important guidance to the design, implementation and dissemination of our research work. This includes a strong focus on working in partnership, local capacity building and skills development, and community engagement. This ensures that our research work is aligned with priorities of the Department of Health and other stakeholders, and that the resources and results benefit the local structures.

The FPD-DTHF Ndevana CRS was established in 2021 to conduct clinical trials of novel options for HIV prevention for adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) and high-risk women in the Eastern Cape. This facility has grown from a collaborative project of community-based delivery and adherence models for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to AGYW. A strong community engagement and development programme is implemented in this community. In addition, diagnostic studies are conducted at this facility utilising the on-site laboratory infrastructure.

Several investigator-driven research projects are currently conducted including studies of a behavioural intervention for couples to promote antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence among men who have sex with men; approaches to management of STIs in pregnancy to improve birth outcomes; Neisseria gonorrhoeae drug resistance profiling; factors that promote or hinder male engagement with TB services and care; analysis of risk factors for long COVID-19, and piloting of a mental health screening tool.

The Research Unit has grown its academic output and publishes 15-20 scientific articles per year as primary/senior author in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, we write for popular science resources such as The Conversation and present our results at conferences such as the International AIDS Conference, the STI & HIV World Congress, the South African Clinicians Society Conference, and the South African HIV and TB conferences.

The Epidemiology and Research Department has a strategic focus on the following research areas:
  • HIV prevention options for adolescent girls and young women, and high-risk women
  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens and treatment adherence
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Maternal and child health
  • Antimicrobial drug resistance and stewardship, especially for STIs
  • Male engagement with the tuberculosis (TB) continuum of care
  • Social determinant of health, especially related to HIV prevention and TB
  • Mental health screening and programme interventions
Our strategic goals are to:
  • Coordinate and conduct rigorous scientific and epidemiologic research including through clinical trials
  • Develop local, regional and international partnerships that bring expertise to bear on issues of Southern African public health importance
  • Cultivate current and next generation public health researchers and epidemiologists through training and mentorship
  • Advance evidence-based policy recommendations
  • Contribute to the global body of scientific knowledge that directly informs public health programs and policy
Our strategic goals are to:
  • Clinical study of STI screening to prevent adverse birth and new-born outcomes (NIH R01)
    • Evaluation of performance, acceptability and usability a novel lateral flow assay for point-of-care detection of Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection (FIND)
    • Phase 3: Randomized, Active-controlled, double-blind clinical study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of oral islatravir once-monthly as pre-exposure prophylaxis in cis-gender woman at high risk of HIV-1 infection (University of Washington)
    • Profiling antimicrobial resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection in the Eastern Cape, South Africa (GARDP)
  • The Community PrEP Study: community-delivery and adherence models for HIV prevention in adolescent girls and young women in South Africa (NIH R01)
  • Partnership in Research to Implement and Disseminate Sustainable and Scalable Evidence Based Practices in sub-Saharan Africa (NIH R01)
  • Identifying Men's Preferences for a Male-Cantered TB Care Intervention (NIH)
    • MPowered in Relationships study to improve HIV outcomes for HIV-positive MSM in Eastern Cape, South Africa (NIH R34)

Could include a link to the full list of research articles/output to date. Have embedded the pdf here as the list will be too long to include as a full list on this single page.