Employing institution: University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Host institution: Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Germany)

Project title: Acquiring advanced statistical skills for impactful research in HIV observational epidemiology.

Dr Kassanjee trained in Statistics and Computational Mathematics and is passionate about applying these skills in public health to address urgent questions and develop tools that impact decision-making. Her PhD provided theoretical foundations and crucial results for the estimation of HIV incidence cross-sectionally using biomarkers of ‘recency’.

In her current role at the Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research and within the International epidemiological Databases to Evaluate AIDS, she aims to further her HIV research by leveraging observational data.

AREF Fellowship Research Project:

As HIV prevention and care improves in Africa, it is increasingly important to understand the impact of HIV treatment decisions and behaviours on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Statistical methods to accurately estimate these causal effects from HIV cohort data are advanced, and there are complex vulnerabilities in people with HIV and NCD comorbidities – as highlighted by the Covid-19 epidemic.

Her longer-term research goal is to quantify relevant ‘effects’, from within The International epidemiological Databases to Evaluate AIDS Southern Africa (IeDEA-SA) network. IeDEA-SA has consolidated data on over 1 million people with HIV in treatment programmes, also linked to other health-related databases. It also brings together clinicians and policymakers who we hope will inform questions and support translation of findings into practice.

Dr Kassanjee’s placement at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich will facilitate technical skills development in causal inference from HIV cohort data. It will enable in-person collaborations with international experts on the topic – A/Prof Michael Schomaker and Prof Christian Heumann – with the goal of forging lasting relationships and creating personal growth opportunities in an expanded international network of collaborators. Consequently, skills will be further developed and shared within the IeDEA Southern Africa network, and applied to initiate further research within HIV observational epidemiology.

“There is a critical need to build specialised expertise to leverage existing data to guide our on-going response to HIV for Africa from within Africa.”