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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

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.)

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 counselor with a particular interest in grief and loss in the experience of dementia.


Lesley Gittings

Lesley 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 Malunga is an Associate Programme Officer at ELMA Philanthropies, Cape Town office. She has been with the organisation for four months. Before moving to ELMA she worked at Evidence Based Solutions where she was a Public Health Research Manager. She was instrumental in coordinating and compiling work feeding into a Commonwealth Secretariat commissioned report entitled “Health Facility-based Coordinated Responses to Gender-based Violence: Experience and Lessons in the Commonwealth”. Prior to this, she worked at PATA (Paediatric – Adolescent Treatment for Africa) as a Project Co-ordinator on the Re-Engage Adolescents and Children with HIV (REACH) programme. During that time she worked with 20 facilities across six countries (Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya and Cameroon) and engages 40 Peer Supporters and their supervisors.

As she was working, Samantha was admitted as a South African Social Science and HIV Programme (SASH) Fellow from 2016 to 2018. The SASH fellowship is a joint project of the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and Brown University in Providence, USA. The overall aim of SASH is to promote integration of the social sciences into teaching, mentoring and research around HIV/AIDS at UCT’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine. During this time she was also a member of the i-ALARM project. Her Master’s thesis was couched in the i-ALARM project, a 5-year NIH-funded study that aims to use health information to ‘raise the alarm’ about men’s continuing poor performance and outcomes in HIV care, from prevention and testing, through to ART initiation, adherence and retention in care. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Movement for Change and Social Justice members, entitled, “Men Who Care: Men’s Motivations In Taking Up Positions In Community Mobilisation Organizations In Gugulethu To Improve The Public Healthcare System” which 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.

When she is not working in philanthropy, Samantha enjoys running sexual and reproductive health workshops for adolescents and young people on university campuses in the Western Cape. She is an alumni of the Young Women’s Leadership Project based out of UCT’s African Gender Institute and often returns to present at forums held by the Project."


Namhla Sicwebu

Namhla SicwebuNamhla Sicwebu 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


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.


Fundiswa Menziwa

Fundiswa MenziwaFundiswa originally comes from Port Elizabeth but now stays on the Cape Flats in Cape Town. She studied Early Childhood Development at False Bay College and started working at Clowns Without Borders as a Facilitator in 2013 and then she was later promoted as a Trainer of two programmes Sinovuyo Teens, and Kids. October, 2017 she started working for Mzantsi Wakho as a research assistant and data-capturer. She is very passionate about her work and knowing that she is making difference in many families keeps her going.


Nozuko Boqwana

Nozuko BoqwanaNozuko was born in Port Elizabeth but grew up in Cape Town. Her first job as a research assistant was with Teen Talk, Young Carers under Dr Lucie Cluver for three years. She continued working as an assistant researcher for Sinovuyo parenting under Clowns Without Borders South Africa translating, collecting data, conducting home visits and interviews, and screening participants. Currently she works for Mzantsi Wakho under the supervision of Dr Elona Toska collecting and capturing data, conducting fieldwork around Western Cape. She enjoys what she is currently doing

Jessica Casimir

Jessica Casimir

Jessica  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.