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The University of Southampton
Social Statistics and DemographyPart of Economic, Social & Political Science

Families in Southern Africa

Families in southern Africa

Improving the health of families in low and middle-income rural communities affected by generalised HIV epidemics has been the main motivation for our research activities on contemporary families and demography in southern Africa. Our studies aim to inform or evaluate health and welfare intervention and policy efforts or, to improve the design, implementation and measurement of effective family-orientated interventions in low resource health settings.  Led by Professors Vicky Hosegood and Nuala McGrath, our research contributes new evidence using data collected through large, longitudinal population-based surveillance systems, ethnographic studies, clinical cohort studies, and randomised controlled trials of interventions. We bring a family perspective to population-based, public health research by examining the uptake and reach of government welfare grants, the impact of HIV treatment on partnering and fertility, HIV prevention strategies targeting couples and households, studies of men’s involvement in families and men’s health and, comparative studies of child, adolescent and family migration in rural communities of southern and eastern Africa.

Couples health

Couples often share the same social and physical environments, adopting similar health behaviours that can adversely impact upon their quality of life. But living a shared life can be the foundation upon which to build a mutually supportive environment that can help couples make the positive changes that lead to better health. The majority of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa occur within heterosexual partnerships but there can be a reluctance to embrace repeat HIV testing and to disclose HIV status to sexual partners.

Uthando Lwethu trial

Meaning “Our love” in Zulu, Uthando Lwethu was a theory-based behavioural couples-focused intervention designed to encourage couples to test for HIV together. The randomised controlled trial successfully increased the proportion of couples that decided to learn their HIV status together: 42% of couples had tested 9 months after joining the programme, compared to 12% in the control group. More information about the research partners and the design of the trial and the main findings.

CHERISH (Couples HEalth Research and Intervention Studies) develops couples-focused behaviour change strategies for health intervention research in Sub-Saharan Africa. For more information about the CHERISH programme see the Cherish website.

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