Keeping South African Girls HIV Free

Photo by Audrey Pettifor

Photo by Audrey Pettifor

Project Team  |  Funding  |  Collaborators  |  In The News

GGG_south africa_pettiforKeeping young South African girls in school and HIV free

A project in South Africa aims to reduce HIV risk in adolescent girls by tackling two major risk factors for young women: poverty and schooling, and negative gender norms and risk behaviors of male partners. To address the issue of poverty and schooling, young women and their parent guardians in an area of rural northeastern South Africa are randomized to receive a monthly cash transfer conditioned on school attendance. The study will measure whether girls getting the cash transfer are less likely to become infected with HIV than girls not receiving the cash transfers.

To address the risk posed by male partners, the project is also challenging negative gender norms and sexual risk behavior among young men in the same area, as inequity in gender and power, intimate partner violence and male partner behaviors also place young women at increased risk of infection. Read More

Dr. Audrey Pettifor, associate professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School and faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center, leads the study in collaboration with colleagues at the Medical Research Council/Wits Rural Health and Health Transitions Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute. The study started in 2011 and completed enrollment in 2012, enrolling over 2000 HIV-negative young women and an equal number of parents/guardians, and will finish follow up at the end of 2014. The study is part of the NIH HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN 068).

In a country where HIV infection rates are extremely high in young women, Pettifor designed this study around previous findings that high school completion among young girls is associated with dramatic reductions in HIV infections. Known as “Swa Koteka” (It is possible) in the local language (Shangaan), the study will also measure the intervention’s impact on genital herpes rates, school outcomes, and HIV risk behaviors. It will consider the influence of alcohol use, mental health, social networks and hope for the future on HIV risk behavior.

In the work to change negative gender norms among young men, Pettifor’s team is partnering with a local nonprofit, Sonke Gender Justice, to mobilize communities to challenge and reshape gender norms and reduce intimate partner violence in rural Agincourt, the same study area as the cash transfer intervention. The idea is that young women receiving the cash transfer and living in communities mobilized to challenge negative gender norms will have a lower risk of HIV than girls receiving either intervention on its own.

Results are expected in 2015.

Project Team


Sponsored by: National Institute of Mental Health and the HIV Prevention Trials Network

Total funding: $12,548,148


In The News

Ann Gottert, health behavior doctoral student, and Colby Gottert documented the teams work with a series of short and powerful films. They tell stories of transformation of three community mobilizers.

One Man Can – King from DDC International on Vimeo.

One Man Can – Marvel from DDC International on Vimeo.

One Man Can – Orphen from DDC International on Vimeo.