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

View all Research Theme's publications

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Developing More Effective Strategies for Sex Work, Law and Poverty

IDS Policy Briefing 101 (2015)

The welfare of female sex workers in low-income countries has attracted significant attention in recent years. In line with human rights and development goals, advocacy focuses on decriminalisation of sex work, attaining economic rights, ending violence and improving sexual and reproductive health. More details


Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy: Outputs April 2014 – March 2015

Accountable Grant Outputs Brochure (2015)

In much writing about development, policy and practice are portrayed as if they are joined at the hip. Policy shapes practice, while learning from practice informs policy processes. In this portrayal, practice is usually understood to refer to development practice, or how development programmes and projects are implemented. More details

IDS Evidence Report 137 Front Cover

Constitutional Reforms and Access to HIV Services for Women in Low-resource Settings in Nairobi, Kenya

IDS Evidence Report 137 (2015)

After more than two decades of agitation for a new constitution, the violence that followed Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections finally led to a reform movement to overhaul the way the country was governed. On 4 August 2010, voters approved a new Constitution by a clear majority, reflecting a widespread desire for change. More details

ER100 Front Cover

Non-Communicable Disease and Development: Future Pathways

IDS Evidence Report 100 (2014)

From a biomedical perspective, non-communicable disease (NCD) is not a new problem, particularly in the global North. However, awareness of the increasing burden from these conditions in low- and middle-income countries (L&MICs) has only recently emerged in the arena of development policy and practice (Beaglehole et al. 2011). More details


Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy: Outputs November 2012 – March 2014

Accountable Grant Outputs Brochure (2014)

Knowledge and evidence are important elements of all policy processes. While the availability of more or higher quality evidence does not guarantee better policy processes, it is difficult to imagine how development policy and outcomes can be improved without it. More details

PB66 Front Cover

Building Mutual Understanding for Effective Development

IDS Policy Briefing 66 (2014)

In recent years a number of countries, referred to collectively as the rising powers, have achieved rapid economic growth and increased political influence. In many cases their experience challenges received wisdom on inclusive development. More details

ER67 Front Cover

Maternal Mental Health in the Context of Community-based Home Visiting in a Re-engineered Primary Health Care System: A Case Study of the Philani Mentor Mothers Programme

IDS Evidence Report 67 (2014)

This document constitutes a briefing summary of the case study of a maternal mental health intervention in South Africa, the Philani Mentor Mothers Programme. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The 2001-03 Famine and the Dynamics of HIV in Malawi: An (Un)natural Experiment

The number of people without secure access to food has risen over the past 15 years, in large part propelled by high and volatile food prices. This pattern is likely to continue under the influence of speculation, increasing demand from rapidly growing economies and for biofuels and due to the effects on production of climate change and variability. Most vulnerable are consumers and small farmers in countries where farming is predominantly rainfed. More details

Image Teaser for Evidence Report 3, 'Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Women Living with HIV in South Africa'

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Women Living with HIV in South Africa

IDS Evidence Report 3 (2013)

South Africa's constitutional and legal framework reflects the country's commitment to women's Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in line with international commitments. Nevertheless, women's rights are still abused and overlooked. More details

Publication cover for KS-APCOM discussion paper on Islam, sexual diversity and health services

Islam, Sexual Diversity and Access to Health Services

In the Asian region, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia have a majority Muslim population. Islam, in essence, does not condemn anyone due to sexual orientation, and the Quran does not prescribe punishments for homosexuality. More details

APCOM and IDS Knowledge Services policy brief on HIV prevention and men who have sex with men living with HIV

More than a virus: HIV prevention and men who have sex with men living with HIV

APCOM Policy Brief (2012)

This policy brief examines current best practice and guidance for MSM programming in Asia and the Pacific More details

IDS publications on international development research

The ARV Roll Out and the Disability Grant: A South African Dilemma?

Journal of the International AIDS Society 15.6 (2012)

Prior to the antiretroviral (ARV) drug roll out in 2004, people living with HIV (PLHIV) in South Africa received disability grants when they were defined as "AIDS-sick". In the absence of available and effective medication, a diagnosis of AIDS portended disability. The disability grant is a critical component of South Africa's social security system, and plays an important role in addressing poverty among PLHIV. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Livelihood and Economic Strengthening in Communities Confronting HIV and AIDS: An Exploratory Study in Uganda and Ethiopia

Livelihood security is an important determinant of HIV risk, care and treatment outcomes and AIDS’ impacts. This study aims at enabling the STOP AIDS NOW! partners to identify areas for more focused intervention with respect to livelihood strengthening in communities confronting HIV and AIDS, a priority in STOP AIDS NOW!’s Strategic Plan 2010-2015. More details

This is the image for 'Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Institutional Settings'.

Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Institutional Settings

Gender inequalities, and the violence that maintains them, are not simply a matter of individuals and their behaviours; they are maintained by the social, economic and political institutions that structure all of our lives. More details

This is the image for 'Politicising Masculinities: Beyond the Personal'.

Politicising Masculinities: Beyond the Personal

During 15–18 October 2007, a diverse mix of people came together in Dakar, Senegal, to debate issues of men, gender and power: unconventional practical academics, open-minded policymakers, reflective practitioners and activists. It was a unique gathering and offered a unique opportunity – to inform and inspire a greater engagement by men in the struggle for gender justice and broader social change. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Framing Rights and Responsibilities: Accounts of Women with a History of AIDS Activism

BMC International Health and Human Rights 11.Suppl 3 (2011)

In South Africa, policy with respect to HIV/AIDS has had a strong rights-based framing in line with international trends and in keeping with the constitutional overhaul in the post-Apartheid era. There have also been considerable advances since 1994 towards legal enshrinement of sexual and reproductive health rights and in the provision of related services. More details

Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities

Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities features an exciting collection of contributions from some of today's leading thinkers and practitioners in the field of men, masculinities and development. More details

IDS Research Report

Aid for AIDS: How do Community Groups and Other Stakeholders negotiate the New Financial Architecture in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia?

IDS Research Report 66 (2011)

In the past decade global health resources for AIDS have increased dramatically. What have these investments meant to responses of communities affected by HIV and AIDS? More details

IDS publications on international development research

Lessons from the Children and AIDS Regional Initiative (CARI): Child and HIV Sensitive Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa

This documentation explores child- and HIV-sensitive social protection implemented under the umbrella of CARI in five of nine selected countries within the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR): Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Tanzania. More details

IDS Research Summary

Aid for AIDS How do Community Groups and Other Stakeholders Negotiate the New Financial Architecture in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia?

IDS Research Summary of IDS Research Report 66 (2011)

In the past decade global health resources for AIDS have increased dramatically. What have these investments meant to responses of communities affected by HIV and AIDS? More details

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