Two Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) students have graduated with their PhDs from the University of Witwatersrand. Dr Ntombizodumo (Dumo) Mkwanazi and Dr Natsayi Chimbindi were part of the July 5th Faculty of Health Sciences graduation at the university.

Dr Ntombizodumo Mkwanazi’s research focussed on the experiences of women enrolled in AHRI’s Amagugu maternal HIV-disclosure intervention in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Through in-depth interviews with mothers and focus groups with healthcare staff, she found that  HIV-related stigma, family strengthening, and access and adherence to HIV treatment emerged as main themes around HIV disclosure. She was supervised by Dr Ruth Bland, Dr John Imrie and Dr Tamsen Rochat.

Mkwanazi grew up in KwaZulu-Natal and did her initial degree in Social Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. While employed as a breastfeeding counsellor for the Africa Centre’s Vertical Transmission Study (VTS) a Norwegian researcher, Dr Marina de Paoli, encouraged her to apply for a Master’s degree in Norway. Mkwanazi was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Oslo and completed her MPhil in 2009. Once back in South Africa, her former employer from the VTS, Dr Ruth Bland, offered her an opportunity to do her PhD on the Amagugu study and she says she “grabbed it with both hands”. She chose to work on the Amagugu Intervention because it’s a topic close to her heart – and she had previously worked with many of the mothers enrolled in the study. “I would like to thank everyone; family, friends, my church, former colleagues and all the institutions that have contributed to both my personal and professional development,” she said.

(Above: Dr Ntombizodumo Mkwanazi) 

Epidemiologist Dr Natsayi Chimbindi credits her family, supervisors and AHRI staff for their support from the beginning of her PhD journey. “I knew I wanted to further my studies – I have always been curious and eager to learn,” she added.  Chimbindi’s research, supervised by Professor Till Bärnighausen and Professor Marie-Louise Newell, focussed on factors associated with availability, affordability and acceptability of public healthcare HIV and TB services for patients in a high prevalence area. Healthcare is free of charge, but Chimbindi found that there are many high healthcare-related financial costs – and time costs – for patients using primary healthcare clinics. Her PhD findings are particularly significant in the context of universal test and treat programmes being rolled out in South Africa.

Chimbindi grew up in Zimbabwe. She did a Bachelor in Health Education and Promotion at the University of Zimbabwe Medical School, and then went on to work for the Biomedical Research Training Institute. A Masters in Epidemiology took her to Wits in Johannesburg, where she was supervised by Dr Khin San Tint and the Africa Centre’s Dr Kobus Herbst; and so was introduced to the Africa Centre’s work. She joined Africa Centre as an epidemiologist in 2009, and later enrolled for a PhD part-time. She is currently working on an impact evaluation study for DREAMS at Africa Health Research Institute, and hopes to develop a research agenda nested within the project. “I feel so blessed for all the opportunities I have had in life and here at AHRI, and for all the wonderful people I work with – who have all together helped me to be where I am today. I am especially grateful to my family who have been a great source of strength and inspiration,” she said.

(Above: Dr Natsayi Chimbindi) 

About the Africa Health Research Institute

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB-HIV and Africa Centre for Population Health have joined to form an exciting new interdisciplinary research institute, the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI). We do cutting-edge research that ranges from lab bench to population, applying the latest scientific innovations in the heart of the HIV and tuberculosis co-epidemic. Our aim is to become a source of fundamental discoveries into the susceptibility, transmission and cure of HIV and TB and related diseases, seeking always to improve diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Another of our major missions is training the next generation of outstanding African scientists.