212. Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Soweto, South Africa

Please note: Applying for this internship will not count against the three application limit. You do not need to receive permission to submit an additional application for this internship.

Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) is one of Africa’s leading research centres, situated at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital—known locally as ‘Bara’—in Soweto, Johannesburg. PHRU is affiliated with University of the Witwatersrand and engages in research, training, policy-formulation and advocacy concerning HIV-positive people and their children.

Specifically, PHRU conducts adult, paediatric and adolescent HIV treatment research, HIV prevention research and investigations into tuberculosis and other HIV co-infections. In addition to the numerous pharmaceutical and publicly-funded clinical trials PHRU continues to carry out, the unit also conducts important behavioural and social science research, advocates for research access and provides needed care to the people of Soweto.



Summer Project

Two students will be placed at the Bio-Behavioural Research (BBR) Division of the PHRU. The division focuses on multi-disciplinary, cross-sectional and longitudinal research projects centred on adolescents and young adults aged 13-25 years and uses a combination of research methodologies to do so. The division runs several qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research projects, focusing on innovative ways to prevent HIV in young people living in Soweto. Current projects involve research aimed to deliver sexual risk assessment via digital health tools, understanding clinical trial participant’s willingness to use future HIV prevention methods and understanding the feasibility and acceptability of providing daily versus on-demand PrEP to adolescent boys and girls.


The interns will be involved in a variety of tasks, including analysis of existing qualitative and/or quantitative research data, literature reviews and write-up, assisting in the day to day running of research projects, data capturing, community engagement activities, shadowing other divisions and research projects, site visits and ward rounds at Chris Hani Academic Hospital, where possible. The main output of this placement will be linked to writing up an abstract and a manuscript. Main responsibilities will include:

  • Performing literature reviews for abstract and manuscript write-up
  • Qualitative and/or quantitative analyses and interpretation of results
  • Write-up of an abstract and manuscript
  • Responding to and incorporating regular feedback from project investigators and co-authors that shall reflect on the final abstract and manuscript
  • Assisting on running projects
  • Assist in community engagement activities


  • Experience in analyzing and interpreting qualitative and quantitative datasets
  • Experience in writing literature reviews, abstracts and manuscripts
  • Ability to work independently
  • Clear passion for working in global health contexts
  • Empathy towards people living with HIV and TB

Please note, this internship is open to rising juniors and seniors.

Work Environment

The interns will join the BBR team, based at the PHRU within a 12-floor building located at the Chris Hani Academic Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. Interns will be mainly office based, with their own work station, but rotate within the PHRU and the surrounding communities in Soweto, as required by project deliverables and responsibilities. They will engage and meet with a variety of experts in the field to ensure exposure, support and learning. For the manuscript output, interns will meet regularly with their mentor(s), statistician, principal investigator and co-authors to ensure that a manuscript draft is completed by the end of the placement.


On a scale of 0 to 5, the level of internship supervision from very little (0) to a great deal (5) will be a 4.

Special Instructions

In your statement, please speak about the experience and skills you bring to fulfill the   responsibilities of this internship placement. You should also include your expectations for this placement and what you would like to achieve within the internship period.

Additional Requirements

  • Students would need to ensure that they apply for the correct visa category for the duration on their internship in South Africa. Students usually apply for a 90-day visitor’s visa.
  • The PHRU will provide support and suggestions for accommodation and transport, but students are requested to finalise their own arrangements.
  • The students would also be asked to bring their own laptop.

Quotes from Previous Fellows

“I am working at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit of "Bara" hospital in Soweto, South Africa.  My primary topic has been assessing the wllingness to participate (WTP) in future HIV vaccine trials of adolescents in South Africa.  The idea is that adolescents here are at very high risk of infection due to risky sexual behavior, so any licensed vaccine will have to first be successful in adolescent specific trials.  This, of course, will require the recruitment of a large number of high-risk adolescents to participate in these trials, and unfortunately there are a lot of psychosocial inhibitors that determine how willing an individual will be to participate in them.  My project aims to combine these factors (both inhibitors and enablers of participation) into a questionnaire/scale that produces a score which indicated how willing a given individual will be.” Aaron Viser, Summer 2018

“This summer, I am working in the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. My main research focus is exploring the processes of HIV status disclosure and treatment adherence in adolescents and young adults who have perinatally acquired HIV. Specifically, I am interested in how social support structures interact with these processes. Additionally, I am working on a systematic review of vaccinations in Sub-Saharan Africa, writing a manuscript about the market for clinical research trials in South Africa, working on a project regarding a mobile phone application to assess sexual risk, and working with the ZAZI sexual health clinic associated with the hospital.” Dylan Rice, Summer 2018

This summer I am working at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit, a division of Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. My primary research concerns sex workers, studying the correlations between self-reported mental health and substance abuse. I’ve attended creative space workshops for the sex workers in order to better understand the sex work experience in Soweto. I am also working on a report to serve as evidence against the criminalization of sex work, writing a manuscript on the clinical trial market in South Africa, and performing a literature review on adolescent pregnancy. In terms of field work, I am shadowing researchers as they perform contact screening for TB in the pediatric wards and Sowetan households.” Ellis Jaewon Yeo, Summer 2018

“This summer, I have the privilege of working at PHRU, the Perinatal Research Unit, at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. As HIV treatment becomes more readily available and accessible in South Africa, the exciting projects I am working on focus on the intersection of behavioral psychology, mental health, and medical research in order to explore and discover how to increase uptake of HIV prevention, testing, and treatment in adolescents and adults alike. Specifically, two of the projects I'm working on focus on using social media to increase HIV testing in adolescents and mitigating stigma to increase treatment adherence.” Maetal Haas-Kogan, Summer 2017

“I am doing HIV research for the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. I am researching the co-infection between tuberculosis and HIV, as well as looking at social desirability in HIV, and testing the effectiveness of HIV self tests.”  Brianna Oppong-Antwi, Summer 2017

“This summer I have been working in the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, one of the leading organization in HIV/AIDS treatment and TB research in South Africa. I have been helping to analyze the effect that social desirability responding bias has on the self-reported hygiene practices of adolescent women and how this relates to their laboratory measured HIV/ STI statuses. In addition to writing this manuscript, I have been visiting the several communities in South Africa PHRU serves and of course, enjoying braais, markets and the company of amazing people along the way.” Sandra Ojeaburu, Summer 2017

Click here for instructions on how to apply.

See also: See All, ISURGH, Africa