HIV and AIDS remains one of the greatest health and development challenges of our time. There have been diverse and creative responses to the pandemic and many lessons have been documented, if not always fully learned. It is certainly not all about vulnerable women and poverty, nor simply targeted interventions with the most vulnerable and excluded groups.

Thembi, a voluteer Peer Educator at the Love Life centre in Cape Town, sits with a group of young people discussing HIV prevention. Thembi was tested positive for HIV at the Love Life centre a few years ago and she goes there on a regular basis to monitor her health and receive counseling. Image Credit: Giacomo Pirozzi / Panos

We have destabilizing processes of global economic development, where increasing wealth gaps, mobility of people and goods (including drugs), urbanisation and breaks with tradition all play their part in the drivers, dynamics and responses to the epidemic. The new voids, opportunities and aspirations created in the tensions generated by affluence in the presence of relative scarcity have everything to do with HIV.

At IDS we work with partners to bridge disciplinary and sectoral boundaries, trouble unhelpful development stereotypes of 'vulnerable victims' or stale binary gender constructs to develop and adopt more purposeful and critical concepts and language for unlearning dogma, communicating new ideas and developing new kinds of partnerships. The IDS approach to HIV forges links across different areas of research, teams, partnerships and communications to support an evolving body of research.

Our activities centre around four key themes:

Gender, sex, power and HIV – beyond the personal

This area of research attends to drivers and contexts of risk and vulnerability to HIV infection, exploring the links between inequality, exclusion, gender, sexuality and HIV. It assesses how they affect prevention, care and other responses to the epidemic, whilst challenging essentialist stereotypes like ‘male predators and female victims’, which adversely impact on development and HIV work.

Particular areas of focus include men and masculinities, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as discriminations linked to gender and sexuality affecting HIV work with groups such as sex workers or sexual minorities. Under this theme, our HIV work links substantively with the IDS Sexuality and Development programme and other work on Gender at IDS, under a Sida-funded Gender, Power and Sexuality programme. 

HIV-related citizenships and governance - beyond the theraputic

This area of research considers the complex bio-social dynamics of living with HIV and managing the disease, asking how HIV may disrupt, transform and/or reinvent identities, social movements and health systems. We look at how AIDS actors, ‘therapeutic citizens’ and patient groups as consumers can help us understand how health care is changing. We also explicitly consider and explore how issues of global-local linkages in AIDS relate to citizenship, policy and governance processes, drawing attention to participation and legitimacy in processes. Under this theme, our work links substantively with the IDS-coordinated STEPS Centre and other IDS work on health and policy process. 

Children and HIV-sensitive social protection

Focusing on mitigating the welfare implications and impacts of AIDS to individuals and families, research in this area started with a focus on children and social protection with IDS’ participation of the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and AIDS (JLICA), in 2007-08, and with the Centre for Social Protection subsequently playing an increasingly important role in advancing the concept internationally. IDS organised a 2010 policy workshop, with UNICEF and UNAIDS, that reviewed the evidence for and research gaps around HIV-sensitive social protection.

The vulnerability and resilience of children to HIV and AIDS and inter-generational dynamics are a principal concern within this approach and in 2011, IDS researchers completed a study of the lessons learned from a wide range of HIV-sensitive social protection efforts supported by UNICEF under its Children and AIDS Regional Initiative (CARI). More recent work includes a study of case management in child protection and the interplay between social protection and child protection initiatives to provide a comprehensive response to vulnerable children, including children affected by HIV and AIDS.  

Securing livelihood in the context of HIV and AIDS

Research in this area examines how responses to HIV and AIDS can be better aligned with development initiatives that support people’s efforts to secure their livelihood. We consider the impact of policies and programmes in different sectors that may or may not currently take account of HIV, including social protection initiatives.

Our research includes studies of responses and their epidemiological consequences to situations of restricted access to food and livelihood, notably during the Malawi famine of 2001-03 and recent high and volatile food prices. Within this theme, an exploratory study commissioned by STOP AIDS NOW! has shed important light on the operational and institutional challenges in integrating livelihood strengthening in HIV prevention, care and treatment and impact mitigation.

Bridging the Gap Evaluation

This is a mid-term evaluation of the Bridging the Gaps Programme a global program operating in 16 countries across all the main key populations at-risk for HIV. More details

HEART (Health and Education Advice and Resource Team)

HEART is a consortium of leading organisations in international development, health, nutrition and education. IDS works together with these organisations to support the use of evidence and expert advice in policymaking. More details

Men, Masculinities and HIV

The Men, Masculinities and HIV project is one of the workstreams of the Gender, Power and Sexuality (GPS) programme, funded by Sida. This work stream aims to influence norms and institutions at global and local levels to more effectively tackle the challenge of achieving gender equality, and particularly looking at the role of men in this process. More details