New CAPRISA Thuthuka grant awards

29 January 2017

CAPRISA congratulates three of its scientists who were recently awarded Thuthuka
grants. These grants are from a joint National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) initiative. The Thuthuka Programme is part of the Human and Infrastructure Capacity Development Directorate of the NRF and aims to develop institutional research capabilities and infrastructure in parallel with human capital to drive the research and development strategies.

CAPRISA Social and behavioural scientist Eliza Govender (PhD) is also an honorary lecturer and research associate with the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) at UKZN. Her research will focus on user readiness for oral pre-exposure prophylaxis. This study explores the key determinants for user readiness to optimize the demand for oral PrEP. “Optimizing user readiness interventions requires an understanding of the perceptions of risk of potential users within localised cultural contexts, identifying opportunities and psycho-social barriers to PrEP implementation and exploring a user-driven perspective to effective PrEP adoption, said Dr Govender. The study will adopt a participatory research approach to explore the perceptions, acceptability and motivations for oral PrEP initiation with adolescent girls and young women (ages 18-30) and young men (ages 23-35) in Vulindlela in KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr Sinaye Ngcapu (PhD) is a basic scientist in the CAPRISA HIV Mucosal Immunology Laboratory and an honorary lecturer in the Department of Medical Microbiology at UKZN. His research is focused on the longitudinal role of vaginal microbial dybiosis in HIV acquisition, genital inflammation, and HIV shedding South African women. ”The proposed project will use 16S sequencing to isolate and characterize bacterial microbiome in longitudinal genital samples from high-risk South African women who later seroconverted versus controls who remained HIV seronegative”, said Dr Ngcapu.

Derseree Archary (PhD) is a Scientist at CAPRISA and also an Honorary Lecturer at the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN. Her main research interests are in defining the immune correlates of protection and risk to HIV-acquisition in the female genital tract. The research being funded by the Thuthuka grant will investigate non-neutralizing antibody effector function in the female genital tract. The study will evaluate the diverse functions of the binding or non-neutralizing antibodies in the genital tract to understand whether prior pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) also impacts antibody functionality. “Understanding the effect of PrEP on the humoral immune system is important, particularly in an era where PrEP and HIV vaccines may be used together to prevent HIV infection,” explained Dr Archary.