Global WACh

August 26, 2020

Dr. Irene Njuguna receives NIH Emerging Global Leader Award to support HIV+ adolescents thrive in schools

Congratulations to Dr. Irene Njuguna (Pediatric Infectious Disease Resarcher, Kenyatta National Hospital) for receiving a National Institutes of Health K43 Emerging Global Leader Award!  Dr. Njuguna is currently involved in multiple University of Nairobi-Global WACh collaborative studies focused on pediatric and adolescent HIV.  This five-year award supports her growing research career in this field.  The new study titled “Understanding the role of schools in supporting HIV treatment outcomes among HIV infected adolescents,” — also known as TIMIZA, the Swahili word for “achieve” – focuses on the role of schools in supporting HIV treatment for adolescents in Kenya.

In 2017, an estimated 101,000 Kenyan adolescents aged 10-19 were living with HIV, the majority of whom are enrolled in schools. Schools provide unparalleled access to adolescents, are critical for shaping long term health and life trajectories and could be leveraged to support adolescents living with HIV (ALWHIV) treatment goals. Despite excellent outcomes among HIV-positive children and adolescents on antiretroviral treatment, there are gaps in ensuring ALHIV not only survive but thrive and excel academically for their future career aspirations.  Dr. Njuguna’s research aims to gain a deeper understanding of the school environment, and the factors that influence treatment retention and health outcomes.  Through interviews with caregivers and ALWHIV, Dr. Njuguna will learn how treatment and school experiences, such as policies on medication use and storage in schools, distance to an HIV clinic, school absences, stigma, and HIV disclosure may influence school choice and treatment outcomes.  The findings will support the development and pilot of a school-based intervention for non-health outcomes (acceptability, feasibility, and appropriateness).  The results will supplement ongoing work related to holistically supporting adolescents in healthcare systems.

Dr. Njuguna’s mentors comprise of HIV expertise from the University of Washington, Drs. Grace John-Stewart (Global WACh), Gabrielle O’Malley (Global Health), Brandon Guthrie (Global WACh), Sarah Gimbel (Nursing), and Anjuli Wagner (Global WACh); University of Nairobi/Kenyatta National Hospital, Drs. Irene Inwani (Pediatrics and Child Health) and Dalton Wamalwa (Pediatrics and Child Health).