Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) statistician, Nondumiso Mthiyane, and independent medical doctor, Sonia Haribhai, have been awarded this year’s AHRI UCL PhD and Masters studentships respectively.

Funded by UCL’s Global Engagement Office, the awards cover tuition, living costs and round-trip airfares to and from the UK. The scholarships are administered via AHRI and are for applicants whose academic background and interests are aligned with the programmes of research at the Institute. The selection process is rigorous. Shortlisted candidates go through a competitive selection process, before applying to UCL.

“Warmest congratulations to both of this year’s recipients. These studentships are an integral part of the support UCL offers AHRI in its mission to train the next generation of African population-based research scientists. The work done by talented young researchers such as Nondumiso and Sonia will, in time, have a direct impact on our ability to develop new therapies and interventions that can address the HIV/TB co-epidemic.” said UCL’s Vice-Provost (Heath) Professor David Lomas.

Nondumiso’s PhD project will look at the impact of combination HIV prevention interventions on non-HIV outcomes, including common mental disorders and sexual reproductive health in young people in the rural KwaZulu-Natal district of uMkhanyakude.

“Young people in this setting are not only at high risk of getting infected with HIV, but also face other health-related issues. Studies at AHRI have found poor mental health and sexual and reproductive health in adolescents and young people. All these issues can increase HIV risk, so we need to address them to improve the health of young people,” said Nondumiso. Although several interventions been found to be effective in reducing new HIV infections, little is known of how combining these HIV interventions affect young people’s broader physical and mental well-being, she added.

Sonia will be pursuing a coursework MSc programme this academic year and will commence her dissertation in 2021. “I am immensely grateful to AHRI and UCL for this opportunity and look forward to building insight into how best to advocate for and empower others at a population level, in the alleviation of critical health challenges,” she said.


“This is a great opportunity for Nondumiso and Sonia to enhance their research skills and generate data that is needed to improve the health and well-being of communities affected by HIV/Aids in South Africa. We are proud that the partnership between AHRI and UCL is enabling capacity building and the generation of knowledge to tackle some of the intractable local health challenges that we face in South Africa,” said AHRI Deputy Director, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u.​​​​​​​

*The next call for applications for the AHRI/UCL awards will be made in November.