The spread of HIV/​AIDS across Africa has had a dev­as­tating effect for decades. Richard Wamai, assis­tant pro­fessor of African Amer­ican studies, is researching how a range of inter­ven­tions — par­tic­u­larly male cir­cum­ci­sion — can offer hope for the continent’s future in HIV prevention.

HIV preva­lence across Africa really varies by pat­terns of male cir­cum­ci­sion more than by any other indi­cator,” Wamai said.

He said research studies dating back to late 1980s have noted the poten­tial for male cir­cum­ci­sion to reduce alarming HIV/​AIDS preva­lence, and ran­dom­ized con­trol trials in recent years con­firming its effec­tive­ness have ener­gized global health agen­cies into action.

Wamai is col­lab­o­rating with other experts from among others, the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago, Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, Brown Uni­ver­sity, the Uni­ver­sity of Nairobi in Kenya, and the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney, to examine how male cir­cum­ci­sion pro­grams are being car­ried out in dif­ferent African coun­tries, the cost effec­tive­ness of this and other HIV/​AIDS inter­ven­tions, and how large-​​scale inter­ven­tions affect other health ser­vices many Africans des­per­ately need.

As part of a health-​​service sys­tems study, one project will ana­lyze male cir­cum­ci­sion efforts in Kenya. Wamai points to increased efforts in 14 African coun­tries to cir­cum­cise mil­lions of men in a short period of time. For example, in 2009, he says, 36,000 men were cir­cum­cised in a 30-​​day Rapid Results Ini­tia­tive in Nyanza, Kenya.

The project also focuses on what hap­pens to other basic health ser­vices — such as maternal and child health, and malaria and tuber­cu­losis treat­ment — during these mas­sive scale-​​up pro­grams, which mobi­lize hun­dreds of health-​​care workers in one place.

The intro­duc­tion of a new inter­ven­tion brings addi­tional resources onto an existing system, but when a lot of health­care per­sonnel are being taken away from daily activ­i­ties at health facil­i­ties during such accel­er­ated scale-​​up, there are inevitable impacts at the health-​​systems level which we want to explore,” Wamai said.

Wamai, whose research aligns with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to solve global health chal­lenges, is also con­ducting studies on health and HIV/​AIDS in the United States among African-​​born immi­grants. One study is focusing on pop­u­la­tions in Mass­a­chu­setts, New York and Wash­ington, D.C.

In addi­tion, he and a col­league at Har­vard Med­ical School will begin a new study later this year on cer­vical cancer in Cameroon. It will assess knowl­edge and atti­tudes of cer­vical cancer in the country on a pop­u­la­tion being tar­geted for a vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram being con­ducted by Eliz­a­beth Glaser Foundation.

View selected pub­li­ca­tions ofRichard Wamaiin IRis, Northeastern’s dig­ital archive.