Professor Frances Cowan

Professor of Global Health

Frances joined LSTM on August 1st 2016. Previously a Professor of International Sexual Health and HIV at University College London she has lived and worked full time in Zimbabwe since 1999. Frances has also worked across Southern Africa and in India. In 2012, she founded the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV AIDS Research (CeSHHAR) Zimbabwe and was Executive Director for 10 years. In May 2022 she stood down as director to be able to devote more time to her research interests.


MBBS (1984; University of London)
MRCP (1987)
MSc Epidemiology (1990; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
MD Epidemiology (1995; University of London)
FRCP and FRCPE (2000)

Frances has lived and worked full time in Zimbabwe since 1999 where she leads a portfolio of HIV prevention research which includes large scale impact evaluations of national HIV programmes including Zimbabwe’s National PMTCT programme, an impact evaluation of ART for prevention in female sex workers and evidence to support scale up of voluntary male circumcision. She had a leading role in establishing Zimbabwe’s “Sisters with a Voice’ programme, a nationally scaled programme for sex workers for sex workers in their diversity and which is informed by a series of implementation research studies. Professor Cowan leads a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Science which aims to explore how to optimise differentiated HIV prevention and care among sex workers in southern Africa in order to support virtual elimination of infectious HIV among sex workers in the region. She is Zimbabwe the country lead for the BMGF funded Measurement and Surveillance of HIV Epidemics Consortium (MeSH) led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She works closely with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and National AIDS Council to provide evidence for their HIV prevention strategy - most recently as part of a consortium funded by UNITAID to Stimulate and Shape the Market in HIV self-testing in Africa. She was co-chair of HPTN’s Adolescent Science Committee between 2011-2016, has been on a number of WHO expert panels and was co-PI on a number of research capacity strengthening initiatives focusing on Southern Africa.

Selected publications

  • 1. Chabata ST, Hensen B, Chiyaka T, Mushati P, Musemburi S, Dirawo J, Busza J, Floyd S, Birdthistle I, Hargreaves JR, Cowan FM. The impact of the DREAMS partnership on HIV incidence among young women who sell sex in two Zimbabwean cities: results of a non-randomised study. BMJ Glob Health. 2021 Apr;6(4)

    2. Sibanda EL, Neuman M, Tumushime M, Mangenah C, Hatzold K, Watadzaushe C, Mutseta MN, Dirawo J, Napierala S, Ncube G, Terris-Prestholt F, Taegtmeyer M, Johnson C, Fielding KL, Weiss HA, Corbett E, Cowan FM. Community-based HIV self-testing: a cluster-randomised trial of supply-side financial incentives and time-trend analysis of linkage to antiretroviral therapy in Zimbabwe. BMJ Glob Health. 2021 Jul;6(Suppl 4).
    3. Mavhu W, Willis N, Mufuka J, Bernays S, Tshuma M, Mangenah C, Maheswaran H, Mangezi W, Apollo T, Araya R, Weiss HA, Cowan FM. Effect of a differentiated service delivery model on virological failure in adolescents with HIV in Zimbabwe (Zvandiri): a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Lancet Glob Health. 2020 Feb;8(2):e264-e275.
    4. Mebrahtu H, Simms V, Mupambireyi Z, Rehman AM, Chingono R, Matsikire E, Malaba R, Weiss HA, Ndlovu P, Cowan FM, Sherr L. Effects of parenting classes and economic strengthening for caregivers on the cognition of HIV-exposed infants: a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial in rural Zimbabwe. BMJ Glob Health. 2019;4(5)
    5. Cowan FM, Chabata ST, Musemburi S, Fearon E, Davey C, Ndori-Mharadze T, Bansi-Matharu L, Cambiano V, Steen R, Busza J, Yekeye R, Mugurungi O, Hargreaves JR, Phillips AN. Strengthening the scale-up and uptake of effective interventions for sex workers for population impact in Zimbabwe. J Int AIDS Soc. 2019 Jul;22 Suppl 4:e25320.
    6. Fearon E, Phillips A, Mtetwa S, Chabata ST, Mushati P, Cambiano V, Busza J, Napierala S, Hensen B, Baral S, Weir SS, Rice B, Cowan FM, Hargreaves JR. How Can Programs Better Support Female Sex Workers to Avoid HIV Infection in Zimbabwe? A Prevention Cascade Analysis. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2019 May 1;81(1):24-35.
    7. Cowan FM, Davey C, Fearon E, Mushati P, Dirawo J, Chabata S, Cambiano V, Napierala S, Hanisch D, Wong-Gruenwald R, Masuka N, Mabugo T, Hatzold K, Mugurungi O, Busza J, Phillips A, Hargreaves JR. Targeted combination prevention to support female sex workers in Zimbabwe accessing and adhering to antiretrovirals for treatment and prevention of HIV (SAPPH-IRe): a cluster-randomised trial. Lancet HIV. 2018 Aug;5(8):e417-e426.
    8. Sibanda EL, Tumushime M, Mufuka J, Mavedzenge SN, Gudukeya S, Bautista-Arredondo S, Hatzold K, Thirumurthy H, McCoy SI, Padian N, Copas A, Cowan FM. Effect of non-monetary incentives on uptake of couples' counselling and testing among clients attending mobile HIV services in rural Zimbabwe: a cluster-randomised trial. Lancet Glob Health. 2017 Sep;5(9):e907-e915.
    9. Buzdugan R, Kang Dufour MS, McCoy SI, Watadzaushe C, Dirawo J, Mushavi A, Mujuru HA, Mahomva A, Kangwende RA, Hakobyan A, Mugurungi O, Cowan FM, Padian NS. Option A improved HIV-free infant survival and mother to child HIV transmission at 9-18 months in Zimbabwe. AIDS. 2016 Jun 19;30(10):1655-62.
    10. Cowan FM, Pascoe SJ, Langhaug LF, Mavhu W, Chidiya S, Jaffar S, Mbizvo MT, Stephenson JM, Johnson AM, Power RM, Woelk G, Hayes RJ. The Regai Dzive Shiri project: results of a randomized trial of an HIV prevention intervention for youth. AIDS. 2010 Oct 23;24(16):2541-52.
    11. Shahmanesh M, Wayal S, Cowan FM, Mabey D, Copas A, Patel V. Suicidal behavior among female sex workers in Goa, India: the silent epidemic. Am J Public Health. 2009 Jul;99(7):1239-46.