University Honors Program

University Honors Program

Public Health and Infectious Diseases: the South African Experience

Fall 2014 honors seminar with study tour to South Africa!

Video about the study tour made by 12S student Cheshire Hardcastle.

This course will provide students with hands-on, real world exposure to public health and infectious disease research in South Africa. The focus will be on HIV/AIDS.

There is growing interest among students in understanding how infectious diseases impact public health.  HIV/AIDS is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide; however, students have little experience with public health infrastructures outside of the US.  Moreover, students have limited knowledge of the challenges inherent to responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in resource-limited settings.

Students will be encouraged to think globally during in-class discussions focusing on the themes of HIV prevention/education, diagnosis, treatment, and social/ethical issues.  The primary example for these discussions will utilize South Africa, thus emphasizing the global public health impact of HIV/AIDS. Additional out-of-class trips may also be incorporated, possibly including visits to the UC Infectious Diseases Clinic, the County Tuberculosis Control Clinic, and an area NGO working on HIV prevention/education.

Immediately following fall semester, the class will engage in a required study tour to South Africa. The group will depart during finals week.

Tentative Study Tour Itinerary
The travel dates for this study tour will be from December 9th - 24th. This itinerary is tentative and is subject to change. Students will leave during finals week.

Day 1  Meet at CVG for departure to DC

Day 2  Arrival in Johannesburg

Day 3  Topsy Foundation - introductory talks and tour; visit local community

Day 4   Introduction to University of Limpopo medical campus
            Visit to Tshephang Clinic and George Mukhari Hospital
            Lunch with honors and graduate students
            Tour of campus
            Dinner around University campus or Hatfield

Day 5   Walking tour of Pretoria
            Course photo at Union Buildings
            Dinner around University campus or Hatfield

Day 6   Visit flea market at Hatfield Square
            Travel to Durban

Day 7   CAPRISA overview at UKZN
            Durban city tour

Day 8   Welcome to Department of Medicine at King Edward VII Hospital
Ward rounds
            Discussion and tour
            Lunch at Department of Medicine
            Discussion & questions

Day 9   Tour of HIV Pathogenesis Program research labs at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
            Lunch with graduate students at UKZN / research talks
            Outing to Africa Art Centre

Day 10  CAPRISA Vlulindlela (rural HIV clinic)

Day 11  Travel to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game park (Mpila camp)
              Evening game drive

Day 12   Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game park (Mpila camp)
              Morning & evening game drives

Day 13   Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game park (Mpila camp)
              Morning & evening game drives

Day 14   Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game park or nearby St. Lucia Wetlands Park     (Mpila camp)
              Morning & evening game drives

Day 15   AM travel back to Durban, departure to JNB and onward

Day 16   Return trip, arrive in CVG

*Note that the group will depart on the during finals week. It is each student's individual responsibility to contact their instructors as early as possible to find out if it will be possible to make alternate arrangements for any final exams or projects that are scheduled for that week.

In collaboration with the University of Limpopo (Pretoria, South Africa), the tentative itinerary includes visits to the University’s HIV clinic and affiliated hospital, as well as the Department of Virology research laboratories.  In collaborator with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa), the tentative itinerary includes visits to an urban HIV clinic, a rural HIV clinic, a tuberculosis control clinic, HIV research laboratories at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, and non-governmental organizations in Durban working on HIV prevention and education at the community level.  Additional cultural trips in the greater Durban area will be included when possible and may include the KwaMuhle and Phanzi Museums, the African Art Center, the breachfront/promenade, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Park, and/or Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park.

In Pretoria, we will visit the Topsy Foundation – The mission of the Topsy Foundation is prevent and treat HIV infection through a number of related projects, including the Topsy Comprehensive HIV Care Clinic, voluntary counseling and testing service, psychosocial support for families affected by HIV, empowerment through skills training, influencing youth behavior through life skills sessions, and rising awareness of HIV in isolated communities.

In Durban, South Africa, we collaborate closely with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa –  The main goal of CAPRISA is to undertake globally relevant and locally responsive research that contributes to understanding HIV pathogenesis, prevention and epidemiology as well as the links between tuberculosis and AIDS care.

Course Information

  • Meeting times: Wednesdays, 5:30pm - 7:50pm
  • Classroom: Swift Hall
  • Honors Seminar
For more detailed information on the flights and questions about South Africa in general please visit the FAQs

While in Pretoria, the group will stay in the Thats It Guesthouse.

While in Durban, the group will stay at the Glenmore Pastoral Centre.

To apply for this seminar, please click here

The application period for this seminar is closed. 

University Honors students must be in good standing with the UHP to participate.

UC undergraduates who are not in the University Honors Program are welcome to apply, provided the student has a cumulative university GPA of 3.4 or above. Graduate students are not eligible to enroll. Priority is given to University Honors students, but we are often able to offer spaces to other students as well. A waiting list will be maintained.


Total expected cost to be paid to UC is $2500. The actual cost per person for UC is $4000, but this will be offset by a $1300 grant from University Honors as well as a $200 block grant from UC International, making the actual final cost $2500. All participants will receive this grant.

Costs will include airfare, ground transportation in South Africa, accommodations, tours, some meals, CISI insurance, and a program fee (which covers faculty costs, program supplies, lecturers, and other on-the-ground expenses).

Costs do not include baggage fees, immunizations, passport, additional insurance (health or travel), some meals (at airports and some other meals) or other personal expenses.

Travel Documents

In order to travel outside the United States, you will need to have passport that is valid for at least six months after your return.  To find the forms you need to apply for or renew your passport, go to the Passport page on the US State Department's website.  New passports regualrly cost $135 while renewals cost $110.

Vaccinations and Health Precautions
Contact your physician to ask about what vaccinations and heath precautions (like taking antibiotics with you) are recommended. Also look at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) webpage on South Africa.

Faculty Leader

Dr. Jason Blackard is the faculty director for this course and study tour. Dr. Blackard is a professor in the Division of Digestive Diseases and is the Director of the Office of Global Health at UC's College of Medicine. In 2007, he was a visiting professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Dr. Blackard completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University and has a BS from the University of Arkansas.

Contact faculty director Dr. Jason Blackard or Neil Choudhury of the University Honors Program.