Chronic & Non-communicable Diseases

    Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

AXA Chairs

South Africa

Examining the Relationship Between Syndemics and Societal Change in South Africa

Low- and middle-income countries, particularly those experiencing rapid demographic shifts, are vulnerable to co-occurring pandemics, also known as syndemics, whether they are caused by infectious and/or non-communicable diseases. For example, in South Africa, 20% of adults are living with HIV, while at the same time, rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension are on the rise due to changing lifestyles, socio-demographics, access to healthcare, and public policies.

Prof. Lara Dugas, AXA Chair in Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology, has over 10 years of experience exploring non-communicable disease risk in Africa-origin populations in epidemiologic transition, with a focus on caridometabolic disease risk and the role of the gut microbiota. With her research team, Prof. Dugas will study the intersection of these phenomena in black South African adults living with HIV, as well as their gut microbiomes. Her aim is to determine whether the colliding infectious HIV epidemic alters non-communicable disease risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes.

The program’s outcomes will drive public health policy in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, to populations experiencing similar economic transition, syndemics, and urbanization. Ultimately, Prof. Dugas’s goal is to contribute to better health for all through a more complete understanding of the interactions between these societal and disease conditions.



University of Cape Town


South Africa


South African

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