Melanie Bisnauth researches HIV/AIDS infected women in South Africa
maHp/ACMS PhD candidate Melanie Bisnauth is featured in Maastricht University’s latest Master of Science in Global Health newsletter as an alumna, discussing her current doctoral research on HIV/AIDS.
Melanie Bisnauth is no stranger to hardship. While completing the MSc Global Health program, she tragically lost two close relatives. At the time, she was overseas in Johannesburg, conducting her thesis research on HIV-positive women. “Processing the loss motivated me to dive head first into what I am most passionate about,” explains Bisnauth, who continues to pursue HIV/AIDS research, currently working as a senior researcher with Wits Reproductive Health and the HIV Institute in South Africa. She is also completing a PhD in Population and Public Health in collaboration with the African Centre for Migration and Society through the University of Witwatersrand.
“I decided to pursue my PhD in patient-centered care in South Africa because I wanted to provide a platform that would give voice to those often silenced – whether it’s the patients or frontline healthcare professionals,” says Bisnauth.
She points out that South Africa has the world’s largest HIV epidemic, and among the 7.1 million1 people living with the disease, women aged 15-24 account for 25% of new infections – four times that of men.
Bisnauth’s focus is on strengthening the response to marginalized women in high mobility contexts who are facing accessibility barriers when it comes to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) HIV health care services. This work builds on her Masters research.
“My research has allowed me to develop and execute strategic interventions to create sustainable system-level program changes between executives, healthcare professionals and patients,” she explains. This research is now being used at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital (RMMCH) and South Africa’s National Department of Health for effective and efficient improvement in PMTCT programming to improve the health of millions.
Reflecting on the program, Bisnauth feels grateful for an experience that allowed her to make connections, develop a global skill set, and, follow her passion. “I’m also very grateful for such a supportive committee who mentored me throughout my thesis experience during unexpected life challenges. This goes way beyond the teachings within classroom walls.”
This article was first published on Maastricht University’s Master of Science in Global Health 2016-2017 newsletter.