HIV remains among the world’s most serious healthcare challenges, with over a million new infections annually. In sub-Saharan Africa, the epicentre of the pandemic, young women are at extreme risk of infection. The UNAIDS estimates that every week 6000 adolescent girls and young women become infected with HIV.
Strategies to reduce HIV infection rates in this key population are thus urgently needed. This working group focusses on identifying biological and socio-behavioural risk factors for HIV acquisition in adolescent and young women, and developing tools to address this risk.
We are involved in clinical cohort studies in which we collect socio-behavioural, demographic and clinical data. We also collect clinical samples to study microbial communities in the female reproductive tract by measuring microbial proteins (metaproteomics) and isolating and characterising bacteria (culturomics).
We investigate immune profiles by measuring inflammatory protein production (proteomics, luminex, ELISA and gene expression) and HIV target cell populations (flow cytometry).
- To compare biological and socio-behavioural factors between adolescent/young women and adult South African women with the aim of explaining differences in HIV infection rates.
- To evaluate changes in the microbiome and immunity of the female reproductive tract following the initiation of different forms of contraception.
- To develop a biomarkers point-of-care test to identify women at high risk of HIV acquisition.
- To develop female reproductive tract biotherapeutics to reduce HIV infection risk in women.