To South Africa and Back

The SUGAR team recently returned from a very busy project trip in South Africa, split between projects in both Pretoria and Cape Town. Drs. Wechsberg, Browne, and Bonner and Ms. Ndirangu staggered project activities across the span of a month, managing to kick off the start of a new project (PrEPARE Pretoria), conduct post-study focus groups, hold a youth advisory board meeting, conduct project quality assurance procedures, and close out a field site!

Getting the field site ready!

PrEPARE Pretoria Project

(PI: Wendee Wechsberg; PD: Jacqueline Ndirangu) Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant R01 HD094629

This study seeks to examine a multilevel strategy to uptake pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), reproductive health care, and condom use among adolescent girls and young women 16 to 24 years old who engage in condomless sex in Pretoria. Preparation for this new study was completed during this trip,  including setting up the field site which is located on the premises of Setshaba Research Centre (our implementing partner), training staff, distributing marketing materials, and conducting the first participant intake appointments. Since the start of the project, 32 participants have already been enrolled!

Implementation Research for Vulnerable Women in South Africa

(PI: Wendee Wechsberg; PD: Jacqueline Ndirangu) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant R01 AA022882

Project Director Ms. Ndirangu recently finished closing up the Cape Town project field site. There is a lot that goes into starting and closing out a project, including packing up materials at the field site, moving project vehicles, and closing out final finances. This project, in collaboration with our South African partner, Kheth’Impilo, implemented the Women’s Health CoOp (WHC) program in health clinics and substance abuse treatment clinics in Cape Town. Over the course of four cycles, this study reached 480 women living with HIV who used alcohol or other drugs and had a 99% follow-up rate! Preliminary evidence shows reduced alcohol use and greater ART adherence.

Cape Town Teens

(PI: Wendee Wechsberg; Co-PD: Felicia Browne; Co-PD: Tara Carney, South African Medical Research Council) National Institute on Drug Abuse grant R01 DA041227

Our Cape Town Teens project is beginning to wind down, with study recruitment of 500 out-of-school young women complete! The Young Women’s Health CoOp intervention had 92% completion rate for both workshops. Project staff continue to conduct both 6- and 12-month follow-ups and currently have a 96% follow-up rate. We expect to end field operations later this year.

Recommendations of Young Women for Research and Knowledge Development

(Diversity Supplement to National Institute on Drug Abuse grant R01 DA041227 (PI:Wechsberg); Fordham University, Research Ethics Training Institute Scholar: Courtney Peasant Bonner; Celia B. Fisher PI/PD: NIDA Grant R25DA031608) 

As part of Dr. Peasant Bonner’s Diversity Supplement, she secured a pilot grant from the Fordham HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) to conduct a study to examine the experiences among young women who participated in the Cape Town Teens Study. Dr. Peasant Bonner successfully completed four focus groups with 31 young women, developed a youth advisory board with eight young women, and conducted a youth advisory board meeting as part of this project. The groups offered great insights into their experiences in the project – especially the in loco parentis (in place of parent) consenting procedure and the role of parents in the consent process. Participants also shared ways to “ease into” sensitive questions in the interview and spoke about which incentives were valued most.


 “I wanted to be here, I felt I could learn here”.

(Focus group participant regarding study participation)

Focus group with young women.


Felicia Browne

"I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work on applied, gender-focused projects in the community in which I grew up, in hopes of having an impact on HIV, STIs and other health outcomes among African-American adolescent girls and young women."

Wendee Wechsberg

“We must listen to the communities, the local people, to understand culturally what is going to fit and what is going to be the language of the research, and not just say we know what to do here.”