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Funded PhD opportunity to investigate co-producing sexual health services with African and Caribbean heritage community to tackle HIV inequalities

20 July 2021 

The University of Bristol is offering a three-year funded PhD studentship for an individual with strong social science/qualitative/mixed methods skills and an interest in co-production, sexual health and addressing HIV health inequalities experienced by people of African and Caribbean heritage.

Montage of headshots of young people of African & Caribbean heritage

As the world grapples with the effects of Covid-19, a more protracted battle against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic continues to be fought. Although anyone could become infected with HIV there are some groups in society that are disproportionately affected by HIV. In Bristol this includes disproportionate numbers of people of African and Caribbean heritage who identify greater stigma and barriers to recognising HIV risk and accessing testing and treatment services, which can result in worse health outcomes. Bristol became an HIV Fast Track City in December 2019 aiming to eradicate new HIV infections and HIV stigma by 2030.  

The studentship will be linked to NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol's pioneering Common Ambition Bristol (CAB) project which aims to tackle HIV health inequalities, by people of African and Caribbean heritage working in equal partnership with sexual health service staff, to co-produce sexual health services to ensure they fit the needs of African and Caribbean heritage communities. By working together, sharing responsibility, decision-making and power, the project aims to co-design and co-produce bespoke HIV testing and support services to increase HIV awareness, HIV testing, while reducing HIV stigma.

Common Ambition Bristol is a major community powered project led by Brigstowe (Bristol charity for people living with HIV) and African Voices Forum (Bristol network of African and African-Caribbean community organisations) working in collaboration with African and Caribbean communities. They will be working in partnership with health care professionals from Unity Sexual Health and the public health team from Bristol City Council to introduce new ways to improve HIV testing and broader sexual health services for African and Caribbean communities in Bristol. Researchers from the University of Bristol will evaluate the project.  

This studentship offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate how sexual health interventions can be co-produced and co-implemented to optimise their acceptability and effectiveness. It will be an opportunity to develop methodological innovations to evaluate the co-implementation of interventions with experienced supervisors Dr Jeremy Horwood, Dr Michelle Farr and Dr Fiona Fox. This studentship offers further benefit from co-supervision from Professor Isabel Oliver, Director of the National Infection Service of Public Health England.

This studentship offers will be based at the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation in the University of Bristol’s department of Population Health Sciences, a leading centre for research excellence. This studentship will begin by October 2021.

Candidate requirements

Applicants are sought from individuals who have, or are expected to obtain, a 2.1 or higher degree in relevant health or social science discipline (for example, medical anthropology, medical sociology, health psychology). Possession of a relevant Master’s degree, or research experience, would be advantageous.  Funding is for UK applicants only. International/EU students are welcome to apply if they can self-fund the difference in fees. A research proposal is not required at application stage.

How to apply

Please make an online application by Monday16th August 2021, at http://www.bris.ac.uk/pg-howtoapply. Please select Faculty of Health Sciences and Population Health Science PhD on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the NIHR/HPRU funding in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Further information

For further information about this PhD project see the FindAPhD advert and for informal enquiries  please contact Dr Jeremy Horwood (j.horwood@bristol.ac.uk).


Further information

About the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol is one of 14 HPRUs across England, part of a £58.7 million investment by the NIHR to protect the health of the nation. 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation is a partnership between Public Health England and University of Bristol, in collaboration with MRC Biostatistics Research Unit at the University of Cambridge and University of the West of England. 

Each NIHR HPRU undertakes high quality research that is used by PHE to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

About the NIHR 

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.