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Fellows and Researchers

Dr. Rebecca Hodes (Director: ASRU, Dept of Historical Studies)

Rebecca Hodes is a medical historian. She is the Director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit, an Associate of the Department of Historical Studies at UCT, and an Honourary Affiliate of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at Oxford University. Hodes is Co-Principal Investigator of the Mzantsi Wakho research study, about the health practices of South African adolescents and youth. She is the author of Broadcasting the Pandemic: A History of HIV/AIDS on South African Television (HSRC Press, 2014). Her research has been published in African Affairs, the African Journal of AIDS Research, the Journal of Southern African Studies, the International Journal of African Histories Studies, the Social History of Medicine and the South African Medical Journal, in addition to numerous edited volumes.

Current research
Her current research interests include the histories of science, race and sex, and on HIV treatment and reproductive health.

Download Dr Rebecca Hodes’s CV

Contact details
Email: rebecca.hodes@gmail.com

Jessica Casimir

Jessica CasimirJessica  is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida where she is a McKnight Doctoral Fellow. Her research interests are based in Medical Sociology and Global Health where she focuses on the experience of chronic illness across the life course. 
Her dissertation qualitatively explores the health trajectories of grandmother caregivers in rural KwaZulu-Natal and how their experiences of illness are shaped by the experience of caregiving. 
Her research has been supported by the Centre for African Studies at the University of Florida and the National Security Education Program David L. Boren Fellowship.




Lesley Gittings

Lesley GittingsLesley is a research associate with the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU), and a doctoral student with the University of Cape Town’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine, co-supervised by Dr. Rebecca Hodes and Assoc. Prof Christopher Colvin. Her PhD research, conducted as part of the Mzantsi Wakho study, focuses on the way that adolescent boys living with HIV engage with biomedical and traditional health services. Lesley is a fellow of the South African Social Science and HIV Programme (SASH). She holds a Masters degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from the University of Ottawa in Canada. Her research interests include sexual health and HIV, gender, and biomedical and traditional understandings of health and wellness.



Samantha Malunga

Samantha Malunga

Samantha graduated with an MPH from University of Cape Town (UCT)’s Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, in the Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Her thesis was titled, “Men Who Care: Men’s Motivations in Taking up Positions in Community Mobilisation Organizations in Gugulethu to Improve the Public Healthcare System”, it was awarded a distinction. She is currently an honorary Research Associate with The AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) at the Centre for Social Research (CSSR), UCT.   




Professor Nicoli Nattrass

Nicoli NattrassNicoli Nattrass is a professor in the School of Economics and previous director of ASRU.  She has published widely on AIDS related topics and is currently working on employment and human-wildlife conflict in South Africa. Her most recent book, co-authored with Jeremy Seekings, is Policy, Politics and Poverty in South Africa (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; South African edition published 2016.)


Gemma Oberth

Gemma OberthGemma is a Research Associate with the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU), concentrating the financing and governance of African HIV responses. She is an Associate Editor for the African Journal of AIDS Research, a peer-reviewed research journal publishing papers that make an original contribution to the understanding of social dimensions of HIV/AIDS in African contexts. She works as an independent consultant to organizations such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, specializing in assignments related to HIV and TB investment decisions and meaningful engagement of affected communities in program design and delivery. Gemma holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto, a Master’s degree in Political Science from York University, and a PhD in Political Studies from the University of Cape Town.  

Namhla Sicwebu

Namhla Sicwebu Namhla is a Masters student at the school of Public Health and Family medicine at the University of Cape Town. For her MPH dissertation within the division of Social and Behavioural Sciences, she is currently doing a process evaluation of a new decentralised model of paediatric HIV disclosure, and she is co-supervised by Prof Christopher Colvin and Dr Megan Wainwright. Besides HIV disclosure to HIV positive children, her research interests also include mental health and HIV, Community health research and pedagogy. She is currently a fellow of the South African Social Science and HIV programme (SASH). Namhla has a background in


Elona Toska

Elona is a post-doctoral research fellow at the AIDS and Society Research Unit, University of Cape Town. She is a quantitative co-Investigator of the Mzantsi Wakho study, the world’s largest cohort study of HIV-positive adolescents. She focuses on the sexual practices of adolescents. She was born in Albania, but has spent most of her life practicing legal migration in the United Kingdom, United States, South East Asia, and since 2012, South Africa. She spent 2013-2014 in the Eastern Cape province, in South Africa, setting up and coordinating the baseline of the longitudinal survey of Mzantsi Wakho. Together with Prof. Lucie Cluver and Dr. Rebecca Hodes, she is currently conceptualising a study on adolescent parenthood in the context of HIV and is looking forward to learning from colleagues with experience in related research and programming. For some of our publications, please see: http://www.mzantsiwakho.org.za/publications.

Jo Thobeka Wreford

Jo Thobeka WrenfordJo was a research fellow with the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) from 2004 to 2011. She holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cape Town and is a graduate isangoma. Her research focused on efforts to create a more cooperative and reciprocal relationship between traditional and biomedical approaches to HIV/AIDS. She now lives in the UK and practices as a bereavement counsellor. Jo has established a new project called GOLD - Grief and Loss in Dementia Care, which is intended to enable family carers of people living with dementia to acknowledge, understand and work through the grief and loss of this challenging experience.


Siyanai Zhou

Siyanai ZhouSiyanai Zhou Is a quantitative researcher with Mzantsi Wakho who recently finished an MPhil in Demography at the University of Cape Town under the Centre for Actuarial Research. He is currently a Data Analyst at the AIDS and Society Research Unit, focusing on quantitative analyses of the Mzantsi Wakho cohort data and has been directly involved in the data cleaning process of the study data, the world’s largest cohort study of HIV-positive adolescents. His primary focus is the application of Advanced Statistical methodologies and Demographic techniques in Health Social Science. Together with Dr Elona Toska, they are currently conceptualizing a study on refining a symptom-based TB screening approach among HIV-positive adolescents in South Africa, which could have applications in primary healthcare provision and screening.