A UNIVERSITY of Southampton researcher has been awarded one of only two research professorships to help improve adult health in Sub Saharan Africa.

The £2 million award from NIHR Global Health Research Professorship will allow Nuala McGrath (pictured) Professor of Epidemiology and Sexual Health, and her team, to carry out the five-year project devising ways to deal with the growing numbers of couples contracting HIV, STIs and diabetes.

Her team will work in partnership with the University of Cape Town and the South African Human Sciences Research Council.

The project will also provide opportunities for Southampton students to gain research experience in South Africa.

Nuala is an expert on HIV epidemiology, with particular expertise in prevention and treatment in couples.

She has spent many years living, working and directing health research institutions in Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Malawi.

She was also involved in the first US trials to identify appropriate treatment for HIV-infected children.

Nuala said: “Couples-focused health research is an expanding and innovative research area. Partners have a significant influence on each other’s health and tend to be more similar in health status and health behaviours, therefore couples may be a very good target for interventions to improve health.”

South Africa has experienced one of the most severe generalised HIV epidemics in the world and by 2015 diabetes was the second largest cause of death.

More than two-thirds of all HIV-infected adults worldwide live in Sub-Sharan Africa and the area also has the highest rates of mortality due to diabetes and undiagnosed cases of diabetes.

The colliding epidemics means increasing numbers of men and women are living with more than one illness.