Research

AHRI aims to find answers about HIV, TB and related diseases that have truly global significance, but are grounded in and relevant to the health of people locally.

Research at AHRI is led by a team of scientists, each of whom heads up their own research group. Our Faculty cover research disciplines including HIV immunology, HIV virology, TB microbiology, TB clinical epidemiology, HIV epidemiology, health systems, paediatrics, social science and ethics and HIV prevention. To express an interest in joining one of our research teams, please contact our Science Office via science@ahri.org.

AHRI Research Departments

Support for AHRI’s research is structured through five Research Departments. The AHRI Science Office coordinates research activities, providing research and clinical governance, grants and ethics support for new funding applications and protocols and postgraduate education support.

Laboratory Research Department

The Laboratory Research Department provides world-class laboratory facilities, equipment and technologies, skilled staff, as well as training and capacity development in support of AHRI’s scientific strategy and research agenda. The Department is co-led by Dr. Theresa Smit, Head of Diagnostic Research, and Dr. Hollis Shen, Head of Exploratory Research. Diagnostic Research services include clinical sample logistics and biorepository management, diagnostic tests for HIV, TB and other infectious agents as well as molecular services (including sequencing). Exploratory Research provides access to and support for various high-end analytical and imaging instruments and small animal research models.

The key services offered by the Department include:

  • Specimen biobanking
  • M. tuberculosis diagnostic tests and drug susceptibility test
  • Quantitative virological assays and HIV serological tests
  • Next generation sequencing
  • Specimen histological preparation and Imaging
  • Flow cytometry analysis and cell sorting
  • Liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry analysis
  • Mice and guinea pig M. tuberculosis infection models

Research Data Management Department

The Research Data Management Department ensures that research data generated from AHRI’s population, clinical and laboratory studies are efficiently integrated, managed and curated in accordance with the best research data management practices. The Department extracts, transforms, documents and loads datasets from study data management systems into the data repository, where researchers can access data in an integrated way for analysis and publication.

The department is led by Mr. Dickman Gareta, supported by two senior research data managers; Mr. Day Munatsi, based in Durban and responsible for clinical research data management, and Mr. Jaco Dreyer, based in Somkhele and responsible for intervention studies data management. The Department also has a clinical research data manager and a team of junior research data managers and data management assistants.

Clinical Research Department

The Clinical Research Department focuses on the clinical aspects of AHRI’s research. The Department works at clinics and hospitals in Somkhele and Durban, as well as in the field in communities in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The clinical team interacts with healthy participants and participants with specific illnesses such as HIV, TB and non-communicable diseases. The Department, currently led by Dr Olivier Koole, is involved in studies ranging from explorative to observational, as well as clinical trials. The Department is made up of two research coordinators, two study coordinators, one research physician, 35 nurses, 20 clinic research assistants and two support staff.

Social Science and Research Ethics Department

Social Science and Research Ethics at AHRI is engaged in a range of research projects, both led by members of the Department and collaborating on projects led by other Groups. Department members include Senior Social Scientists, Social Science Coordinators and Social Science Research Assistants, skills in the use of both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, analysis and writing. The team also has skills in community and public engagement.

Population Research Department

The Population Research Department provides world class, coordinated research operational support for population-level research studies including development and implementation of innovative, efficient and cost-effective field-based and telephonic data collection systems, anchored on robust quality assurance and quality control practices.

The department is led by Mr Tinofa Mutevedzi and is organised into five functional sections:

  • Ms Phumzile Dlamini leads a Fieldwork team of 70 staff experienced in home-based paper and electronic data collection, anthropometry measurements, collection of dry blood spots (DBS) and capillary blood through finger prick, urine and saliva, and rapid HIV testing.
  • Ms Thobeka Mngomezulu leads a Special Task team of 20 staff specialising in tracking hard-to-reach populations such as migrants.
  • Mr Halalisani Madida leads a Data Processing team of 20 staff responsible for quality control, data capture, and telephonic data collection through a Call Centre that is also able to reach study participants through SMS services.
  • Ms Lindiwe Sithole leads a Document Management team of four staff responsible for printing, control and digital archiving of data documents.
  • Mr Sabelo Ntuli coordinates provision of GIS services including production of maps and collection of spatial data.