HIV-in-Context Research Symposia


The Annual UWC HIV-in-Context Research Symposium, funded through the VLIR-UOS and CDC grants, is the flagship event of the Centre for Research in HIV and AIDS (CRHA) at the School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape (UWC). 

A highly interactive two to three day meeting, the symposia are attended by about a hundred scholars, practitioners, activists, policy makers and students with a view to engaging across disciplines and sectors on an important dimension of HIV in social and systems context with the aim of initiating or deepening cross-disciplinary research and responses to the drivers and impacts of HIV.

High-level discussion and debate seek to engage students and new partners and to re-energize those who have been at the coalface for years. Students and emerging scholars also strengthen research, writing and communication skills through participating in linked workshops or writing retreats.


Download an information sheet on the symposia.


6th Annual Symposium

What's HIV got to do with it?:

Cross-border migrants accessing health services

17 March 2015




South Africa is home to nearly two million cross-border migrants, many of whom travel great distances at considerable cost in search of a better life. Once in South Africa, they often live precariously and exposed to health risks, including HIV. Access to healthy living conditions, to health care services and especially to continuity of care is poor for migrants in general – including those who move within the country - and for cross-border migrants in particular.

Two research studies undertaken in 2014 investigated HIV/AIDS in sub-sections of the migrant community in Cape Town. A large quantitative investigation by the Medical Research Council throws light on the ‘HIV prevalence and risk behaviours among foreign migrants residing in Cape Town’ while a smaller complementary ethnographic study by the Centre for Research in HIV and AIDS (CRHA) and its associates examined ‘Cross-border migrants’ perspectives on HIV testing, health care and survival in Cape Town slums’. 

In addition, the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University has recently mapped the health-related services available to cross-border migrants through the state and civil society, focussing on Limpopo, Gauteng and the Western Cape.

The findings of these studies were presented and discussed at a one-day symposium held at the UWC on Tuesday 17 March 2015. It was hosted by the Centre for Research in HIV and AIDS, in conjunction with the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University and the University of Montreal (Canada).

The symposium was a space in which participants from civil society, government and academic institutions could engage with these issues – with a view to improving our understandings of and responses to the factors affecting cross-border migrants’ access to health care in particular, and to healthy lives in general.


Download the presentations:

Kruger - Community perspectives in De Doorns

Vearey - Healthy migration in South Africa

Vearey - Lessons from Johannesburg

Vearey, Pugh et al - Migration & health in Cape Town

Zembe - HIV prevalence & risk behaviours among foreign migrant women

Zarowsky & Guttmacher - What's HIV got to do with it?


Download the Symposium Report

Download information sheet: ‘Primary health care and crèche services for an agricultural rural migrant community in De Doorns’.



5th Annual HIV-in-Context Research Symposium

Urbanisation, Inequality and HIV

13 – 15 March 2013


Download the background document


HIV reveals and is produced by social inequalities.  It remains highly unevenly distributed across the country and across communities, and is increasingly concentrated in urban centres.  HIV can galvanize creative societal responses:  through both conflict and co-operation, South Africa has made significant progress in the medical management of HIV. Yet the challenges of HIV and AIDS as a chronic disease requiring lifelong treatment are increasingly clear - particularly with South Africa’s high rates of internal and cross-border mobility and migration. In addition, inequality itself is increasing.

This year's symposium looked beyond biomedicine at some of the social determinants of HIV, and of responses to HIV and AIDS, within and outside the health sector. It examined the links between HIV and AIDS, inequality and the dynamics and impacts of urbanisation – dynamics which play out between settings as people move permanently or temporarily to urban centres, and within the highly unequal spaces constituting South African cities. The particular experience of Cape Town as a destination and transit point on migration trajectories was examined in relation to other cities in South Africa and beyond. Through diverse disciplinary and sectoral lenses, practitioners, researchers, policy makers and civil society activists examined the many ways in which urbanization, inequality and HIV interact and affect people’s lives.


Download the presentations

Download the posters

Download the programme


Download Commission #1 Report: People on the Move: Ensuring Continuity of Care

Download Commission #2 Report: Falling between the cracks: The challenges of inter-sectoral action for health

Download Commission #3 Report: Urban contexts: Spaces of vulnerability and opportunities

Download Commission #4 & 5  Report: Falling between the cracks: The challenges of inter-sectoral action for health


Listen to delegates from a range of backgrounds talk about what they found interesting about the symposium.



urb symposium pic 1-w urb symposium pic 2-w
urb symposium pic 3-w



Previous symposia


The first symposium reviewed HIV research across UWC faculties and with key partners – while the following three addressed the founding pillars of the Centre’s work:

  • public health and health systems,
  • gender and violence, and
  • education.


Documents and reports related to each of the past symposia are available through the following links:

The 2nd Annual "HIV In Context" Research Symposium: March 2010.

Public health in the age of HIV: Reflections and Redirections

The 3rd Annual "HIV In Context" Research Symposium: March 2011.

New research in gender, violence and HIV.

The 4th Annual "HIV In Context" Research Symposium: March 2012.

Building an AIDS-free South Africa: The classroom and beyond.


The symposia are supported by grants from the Flemish government through the VLIR-UWC “Dynamics of Building a Better Society” project and by CDC/PEPFAR through the project "To develop human capacity to address HIV in South Africa".