HEARD researchers will be amongst the delegates participating in the 9th SA Aids Conference, the second largest HIV conference in the world, taking place at the Durban ICC from 11 to 14 June.

HEARD Research Director, Dr Kaymarlin Govender, was selected to be part of the conference committee, charged with putting together a compelling and relevant programme reflecting current regional and international perspectives on HIV and Aids under the theme; Unprecedented Innovations and Technologies: HIV and change.

Govender is also the co-chair of Track 4 of the conference for Social Drivers of the Epidemic: Society, Race, Class, Culture, Stigma, Violence, Diversity and Challenges. Biomedical research has been at the forefront of the Aids response. However, there are persistent social, structural and economic barriers to reaching national and global HIV and Aids targets. This track offers a critical lens to the epidemic and the societies and communities in which it is lodged. More specifically, it will offer critiques of the biomedical interventions and seek ways in which social sciences can influence the agenda towards reducing new HIV infections and getting people who are diagnosed with HIV immediately on treatment as well as improving treatment adherence. This track will also seek to contribute new insights into how social aspects of HIV and Aids may be more critically and effectively understood and implemented,” said Govender.

HEARD’s research in economics and social science on health, particularly HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, entails linking research findings to human settings in all their variety- relational, political, sociological and financial-  towards the advancement of health and dignity of the people of Africa. We are amongst those organisations based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal which have been at the forefront of technologies and innovations in HIV and Aids. Govender will also chair a session titled: Innovative Approach to Social Behaviour Change. “A key thematic area of our research that is related to ‘HIV and Change’ is on understanding the structural drivers of poor HIV and SRH outcomes and testing novel and low cost interventions to improve these outcomes. Our work offers a critical lens on how health related evidence is generated. We also have a solid track-record of brokering the translation of evidence into polices and evidence-informed programming, he said.

Dr Tamaryn Crankshaw, Programme Leader for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights will chair a panel discussing Gender based violence: Risk factors and interventions along with co-chair Dr Victoria Marcia Mutambara who recently joined HEARD as a post-doctoral scholar. Mutambara is part of the newly established GBV research cluster headed by Crankshaw. “GBV is a cross cutting issue which is now viewed as both a cause and consequence of HIV. However, there is still work to done to better understand the complex interaction of the intersecting forms of gendered power relations and inequalities which converge to render some women more vulnerable to experiencing violence and less able to seek support than others” said Crankshaw.

Senior Researcher Russell Armstrong will do a poster presentation of work with Key Populations in Zambia and share results of a baseline study on human rights-related barriers to HIV services in South Africa as a panelist. Programme leader for Health Systems Strengthening. Dr Gavin George, will also co-chair a session while research HEARD has collaborated on will be shared by partners at various other session.

For live coverage of the conference please follow HEARD_UKZN on Twitter.

To find out where each of our researchers will be at the SA Aids Conference, please click on the cards below.