Women face an unacceptability high burden of morbidity and mortality in most low- and middle-income countries; in sub-Saharan Africa, this burden is further intensified by a generalized HIV epidemic. The intersection of HIV and women?s reproductive health (WRH) is an important field of investigation, one with pressing scientific questions and potential for broad impact. In this application, we propose the UNC-UNZA- Wits Partnership for HIV and Women?s Reproductive Health to help meet the urgent need for HIV research in pregnancy, contraception, and cervical cancer. We leverage ongoing connections between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), the University of Zambia (UNZA), and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) to strategically build research capacity in Zambia. Our key innovation is the structure of North-South and South-South collaborations upon which this program will be founded. We employ a forward-thinking approach to capacity building that considers the evolving academic landscape at UNZA, including the founding of a new School of Public Health and a new university-wide Centre for Women?s Health Research. Our overarching goal is to develop a cadre of UNZA faculty researchers who are independently funded to conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research in HIV and WRH. We propose two specific aims. First, we will provide training opportunities for Zambian investigators at the doctoral and postdoctoral level. We will support doctoral training for five promising candidates, employing an interdisciplinary hybrid PhD program in which students complete coursework at Wits and dissertation research at UNZA. We will also support five postdoctoral fellows, based in Zambia, for 12 months at a time. All trainees will receive intensive and structured mentorship from an experienced team of US, South African, and Zambian faculty. They will be assigned to ongoing HIV and WRH studies in Lusaka, leveraging these independently funded research platforms to embed their own laboratory, clinical, epidemiologic, and/or implementation studies. Second, we will invest resources in the professional development of current UNZA faculty members. Every year, we will support two faculty to complete targeted methodological short courses at the Wits School of Public Health (10 in total). We will also support faculty research through capacity building grants. Competitively awarded, these small grants will be designed to provide strategic investment in methodological training, technical skills building, and/or equipment to enhance UNZA?s overall research capabilities. Our program leadership is deeply committed in research capacity building in Zambia and has a strong understanding of the training environment. We are uniquely positioned to oversee a project of this scope given our strong field presence: six of seven key personnel (including the contact PI) are based full-time in either South Africa or Zambia. Our training program is designed to meet the training needs of UNZA and the national priorities of the Zambian Ministry of Health. Through it, we will build the capacity and collaborations needed to advance the science of HIV and WRH.

Public Health Relevance

We propose a training program to further develop research capacity at the important intersection of HIV and women?s reproductive health. We will leverage ongoing partnerships between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Zambia, and the University of the Witwatersrand to train the next generation of Zambian leaders in the field. Through this multidisciplinary program, we will build the regional and cross- continental collaborations needed to foster positive and lasting change in the Zambian health sector.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Fogarty International Center (FIC)
International Research Training Grants (D43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Bansal, Geetha Parthasarathy
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Obstetrics & Gynecology
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
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Oberlin, Austin M; Rahangdale, Lisa; Chinula, Lameck et al. (2018) Making HPV vaccination available to girls everywhere. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 143:267-276