Nothando Ngwenya

Dr Nothando Ngwenya is a faculty member and recent Wellcome Trust intermediate fellow at AHRI.  Nothando holds honorary appointments at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and University College London.

Nothando received her PhD in 2010 in Psychology on the use of e-health for palliative and end of life care and held various postdoctoral training positions in Oncology before receiving an NRF visiting fellowship that allowed her to return to HIV work in South Africa in 2016. This fellowship was concurrent with a post to lead the development of adolescent research at AHRI funded by ViiV healthcare Positive Action for Adolescents. Nothando’s long-term goal is to promote health and wellbeing for adolescents and young adults (AYA) living with HIV by developing sustainable interventions that foster resilience and equips them with self-management skills.

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Nothando Ngwenya

Ngwenya Group

Nothando Ngwenya’s research focuses on human behaviour in adverse and complex social-ecological systems. Her work is strongly anchored in her interest in understanding how adversity and ill health shapes behaviours, and the implications of these interactions for resilience and wellbeing when living with a long-term condition. Resilience in this context is the capacity of an individual to deal with drastic change/trauma and continue to develop and thrive. One of Nothando’s main research questions is how a diagnosis of an incurable condition, such as HIV and associated uncertainties, influence individual behaviour impacting mental health decision making processes and self-management. Her research is informed by social-ecological systems research, behavioural change science, health, cognitive, social, and cultural psychology.

Nothando’s research work is led by two main perspectives: 1) that of public mental health and 2) complexity-based approaches within cultural contexts.  The intersection with mental health is from a public health perspective, of identifying the risks and vulnerabilities that make adolescents living with HIV more susceptible to common mental disorders and addressing those through fostering resilience with the support of lay peer counsellors. Complexity based approaches are of interest due to the acknowledgement that the dynamic interactions involved between humans and their social-ecological systems can be complex and influence resilience and wellbeing. Central to these social-ecological systems are culture, and hence the ethnographic articulation of experiences/trauma/distress within an individual’s language and culture is essential to effective management of the condition. Nothando is therefore interested in local conceptualisations of ill health and wellbeing as they underlie a person’s self-understanding and self-representation.

Meet the Team

Nduku Wambua - Ngwenya Group

Nduku Wambua

Postdoctoral fellow

Dr Nduku Wambua has a background in clinical psychology and for the past eight years she has focused on mental health research in Kenya. Her PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal explored the construct of resilience in first episode psychosis. At AHRI Nduku is working on solutions that bridge the treatment gap, with a particular interest in the application of culturally and contextually relevant psychological interventions for the management of child and adolescent mental health problems.

Tamlyn Seunanden  - Ngwenya Group

Tamlyn Seunanden

PhD student

Tamlyn is a PhD student in the social science team at AHRI. She holds a masters in research psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Tamlyn has conducted research in the clinical trial and public health systems environments in South Africa. She has held project management roles in evaluation type studies on HIV, chronic diseases and health systems in Southern Africa. She is passionate about improving the lives of adolescents. She has led and facilitated programmes that aim to develop the life skills and career goals of adolescents and young adults. Tamlyn’s current research focus is to explore the perceptions and experiences on antiretroviral therapies in adolescents participating in the BREATHER Plus trial in South Africa.

Thandeka Smith  - Ngwenya Group

Thandeka Smith

PhD student

Thandeka is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where she also obtained her master's in medical science (Research) in 2022 exploring how young people living with HIV develop their identity and agency. Her current research intricately explores the intersections of mental health, HIV, and trauma in socially adverse settings in KwaZulu-Natal.

Nondumiso Dlamini - Ngwenya Group

Nondumiso Dlamini

Masters student & research assistant

Nondumiso's masters research at AHRI focuses on empowering adolescents living with HIV and mental health issues through the establishment of a lived experience group. Her use of engagement theory and practice aims to tackle mental health and HIV stigma in rural KwaZulu-Natal. She holds a BA honours degree in social work from UNISA.

Syethemba Nkosi - Ngwenya Group

Syethemba Nkosi

Research intern

Syethemba holds an honours in criminology and forensic studies from UKZN. His research at AHRI focuses on understanding the perceived impact of mental health on medication non-adherence for adolescents living with HIV in resource limited settings, using a health behaviour model (COM-B) to conceptualise the factors that explain individual health behaviours.

Selected Recent Publications

Ngwenya N, Iwuji C, Petersen N, Myeni N, Nxumalo S, Ngema U, Seeley J. Investigation of Post-Trial Access Views among Study Participants and Stakeholders Using Photovoice and Semistructured Interviews. Journal of Medical Ethics, June 2021.

Ngwenya N, Barnett T, Groenewald C, Seeley J. Complex Trauma and Its Relation to Hope and Hopelessness among Young People in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, Apr. 2021, pp. 166–77.

Bernays S, Lanyon C, Dlamini V, Ngwenya N, Seeley J. . Being Young and on the Move in South Africa: How ‘Waithood’ Exacerbates HIV Risks and Disrupts the Success of Current HIV Prevention Interventions. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, vol. 15, no. 4, Oct. 2020, pp. 368–78.

Ngwenya N, Nkosi B, Mchunu LS, Ferguson J, Seeley J, Doyle AM. Behavioural and Socio-Ecological Factors That Influence Access and Utilisation of Health Services by Young People Living in Rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Implications for Intervention. PLOS ONE, edited by Rachel A. Annunziato, vol. 15, no. 4, Apr. 2020.

Desmond C, Seeley J, Groenewald C, Ngwenya N, Rich K, Barnett T. Interpreting Social Determinants: Emergent Properties and Adolescent Risk Behaviour. PLOS ONE, edited by G.J. Melendez-Torres, vol. 14, no. 12, Dec. 2019.