Dr Anthea M. Lesch - Reflections on the (in)compatibilities of social justice and HIV vaccine research agendas in resource-poor communities in South Africa

For the common good - Reflections on the (in)compatibilities of social justice and HIV vaccine research agendas in resource-poor communities in South Africa.

In this talk I reflect on my experiences as community health psychologist conducting qualitative social science research on HIV vaccines in South Africa. My reflection centres on the competing narratives of social justice, community engagement and scientific research that confront me in my work. Positioning myself as scholar-activist, I discuss the challenges that arise at the intersection of qualitative research on community engagement in HIV vaccine research and the process of scientific experimentation.

HIV vaccine research spans complex relationships between local and global stakeholders. In South Africa, HIV vaccine research takes place amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised populations. Communities who host HIV vaccine research are the victims of oppression, reflected in the enduring impact of structural inequalities that threaten their health and well-being. They become the target for HIV vaccine research participation due to their elevated risk of HIV infection. Clinical trials to test candidate HIV vaccines bring resources into local communities. Participation in HIV vaccine research mediates community members’ access to these resources.

Researchers and trial funders emphasise the crucial role that local communities play in the successful development of a safe and efficacious HIV vaccine. Power hierarchies between researchers, funders and local communities reproduce inequalities and challenge notions of equal partnership and mutual benefit. Community engagement processes designed to promote participation in HIV vaccine research continue to fulfil an ethical and operational function, neglecting issues of community capacity-building and empowerment.

Dr Anthea M. Lesch is a lecturer, scholar, activist and qualitative researcher based in the Psychology Department at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Her work adopts a community psychological approach to examining inequality and its impact on the health and well-being of marginalized and oppressed groups in society. Her current research focusses on community engagement in communities affected by HIV/AIDS, black women’s sexual and reproductive health, the lived experiences of people living on the streets of urban Cape Town and exploring narratives about race, racism and the racial collective consciousness in contemporary South Africa.

Dr Anthea Lesch is an ILAS visiting fellow hosted by Dr Lisa Dikomitis, Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences (iPCHS) and School of Medicine and Professor Mihaela Kelemen, Director of the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC). Find out more about their project ‘For the common good, health and wellbeing: developing creative participatory methodologies for patient and public involvement and engagement in global health research.'

Refreshments will be available from 12.30pm onwards.

This seminar is free and all are welcome to attend.

Dr Anthea M. Lesch - profile image - 300x450


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Keele Hall, The Old Library
Steve Kilner or Jo Flynn
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+44 (0)1782 7 34449 / 34434