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Prof Frances Cowan
CeSHHAR Zimbabwe
9 Monmouth Road
Avondale West
Tel: +263 772 257949
  • Professor of International Sexual Health and HIV
  • Infection & Population Health
  • Institute of Epidemiology & Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences

I am a clinical epidemiologist who has been living and working full time in Zimbabwe since 1999. I lead a large portfolio of HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health research including several clinical trials and impact evaluations of national programmes. The group works closely with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and the National AIDS Council to undertake research to facilitate intervention scale up and inform the evidence base for their HIV prevention and care policies and programming.  I oversee implementation of Zimbabwe’s National Sex Work Programme ‘Sisters with a Voice’ now operating in 36 sites across Zimbabwe. My research group consists of 60-100 staff (depending on stage of research implementation), with a core staff of 10 mid-level researchers, 3 of whom are enrolled as PhD students at UCL. In 2012, I registered the research group as a not for profit Trust (CeSHHAR ZImbabwe). I am the Executive Director of the Trust and Principal Investigator of all the research projects that it currently supports. 

 The overall goal of CeSHHAR Zimbabwe (www.ceshhar.co.zw) is to become a centre of excellence in research, education and capacity strengthening for sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. Specifically CeSHHAR Zimbabwe supports the development of evidence-based reproductive health and HIV programming and policy making in Zimbabwe through collaborative research, education, capacity building and community engagement. Current grants focus on five research areas of high priority to the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and to the global HIV prevention treatment and care community more generally. The data generated by CeSHHAR on sex work, PMTCT, circumcision and behaviour change was extensively used to support Zimbabwe’s successful HIV application to the Global Fund to fight AIDS TB and Malaria in 2013.

Research Summary

Current grants focus on five research areas of high priority to the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and to the global HIV prevention treatment and care community more generally (key populations; circumcision; elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV; integration of sexual and reproductive health; HIV and adolescence).

Current Grants
NIH Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) - Improving Mental Health Education and Research Initiative (IMHERZ)
Social science sub-study nested within the ARROW trial of ARV treatment for HIV positive adolescents in Zimbabwe and Uganda.
GIZ funded a survey using respondent driven sampling of 3 sex work sites in Zimbabwe (Mutare, Victoria Falls and Hwange)  
NIH funded mental health hub ‘Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental health (AFFIRM)’
Evaluation of Zimbabwe’s Accelerated Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV Program. Funded through CIFF
Study to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of introducing neonatal circumcision for HIV prevention using Accucirc. BMGF
Zimbabwe National Sex Work Programme 'Sisters with a Voice' which operates in 36 sites around Zimbabwe. It is funded by DfID.
Sisters ART Programme for Prevention of HIV – an Integrated Response (SAPPHIRe). It is funded by DfID.
Collaborative operations research studies with PSI Zimbabwe aimed at improving the evidence base for integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV programming.
The Third Generation: A study to describe the clinical and psycho-social status of perinatally HIV-infected mothers and its implication for their children (UNICEF Zimbabwe)
Behavioral Economics in Reproductive Health Initiative (BERHI) - Using demand and supply interventions to increase uptake of long acting reversible contraception. 
Comprehensive HIV Prevention and Treatment for sex workers in Zimbabwe (Ngezi Mine) USAID funded through PSI Zimbabwe
Social Science sub-study for UK MRC funded REALITY trial (Reduction of EArly mortaLITY in HIVinfected adults and children starting antiretroviral therapy)
Active and Passive Surveillance of adult Male Circumcision conducted using the PrePex™ Device. Funded through USAID

Teaching Summary
My teaching largely involves supporting post graduate training and research. I am co-supervisor for the UCL Masters Module in Sexual Health. I am co-principal investigator on three large education research capacity strengthening grants funded by NIH and Wellcome Trust working closely with investigators at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, across Africa and globally - (www.nectar.co.zw; www.sacore.org; www.affirm.uct.ac.za). I have, in addition, been primary supervisor for two UCL PhD student projects in India.

I supervised the successful application of a Zimbabwean colleague to get a Wellcome Trust Developing Country Masters Fellowship which the Trust then agreed ‘under exceptional circumstances’ to convert to a PhD fellowship. Two of my staff have been awarded African Graduate Scholarships to come and undertake the MSc in Global Health and Development at UCL, one a Chevening Scholarship to undertake an MSc in Development Studies at University of Reading and two have been awarded AVAC (AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition) fellowship and another a scholarship to undertake a Diploma course at University of Rotterdam.

01-FEB-2012 Executive Director   Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Research Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
OCT-2011 Board Member   JF Kapnek Trust, Zimbabwe
MAR-2000 Lecturer Community Medicine University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Zimbabwe
Academic Background
2000 FRCP Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians – Clinical Medicine Royal College of Physicians
1995 MD Doctor of Medicine – Epidemiology and Public Health London
1990 MSc Master of Science – Epidemiology London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
1987 MRCP Member of the Royal College of Physicians – Clinical Medicine Royal College of Physicians
1984 MBBS Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery – Clinical Medicine University of London
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