University of East Anglia Featured PhD Programmes
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Featured PhD Programmes
University of Nottingham Featured PhD Programmes

Resourcing resilience: Positive psychology among adolescents living with HIV

Project Description

Applications for this PhD position beginning October 2020 are invited to join the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) at the Universities of Brighton and Sussex, for a 3-year PhD working on an exciting study on positive psychology and HIV.

Globally, an estimated 2.1 million adolescents are living with HIV. Adolescents are the only age group among whom AIDS-related mortality is on the rise despite free access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART). This has been attributed to low HIV testing, treatment initiation and retention in care, which are compromised by a negative synergy of HIV-related stigma and poor mental health (1–4).

Critical evidence gaps limit our ability to capitalise on young people’s resilience and develop adolescent-centred HIV services. First, there is currently no research on positive psychology among adolescents living with HIV, but this is a critical concept for informing adolescent HIV and mental health services. Meta-analytic evidence suggests that adults commonly experience positive changes and benefits after their HIV diagnoses, and this was associated with improved mental and physical health outcomes (5). Second, there is a dearth of research on what works to improve the mental health of and reduce the stigma experienced by adolescents living with HIV (2,6,7). Third, research on adolescent HIV has nearly exclusively focused on negative and often reductionist narratives, which can further perpetuate self and societal stigma, weaken mental health and hence damage linkage to care and adherence to ART (8).

PhD Objectives

This PhD will be an interdisciplinary exploration of positive growth (benefit finding; cognitive reappraisal) among adolescents living with HIV in the UK. The successful candidate may choose to add a comparative component with a second country that varies substantially in terms of HIV prevalence, health service infrastructure, linkage to care and perceptions around adolescent HIV (e.g. South Africa). The second country will be chosen by the applicant with negotiation by the supervisory team. The PhD will qualitatively explore young people’s trajectories towards positive growth and views around their HIV status, in order to inform context-relevant and age-appropriate mental health and HIV interventions.

Learning outcomes and supervisory team:
This PhD offers a wide range of training opportunities and the student will be able to acquire essential skills from a variety of areas including research methods, research governance and ethics, publishing in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations. The supervisory team will span the disciplines of health psychology and global health, across three Brighton & Sussex Medical School departments (Primary Care & Public Health, Medical Education and Global Health and Infection) and with an international collaborator. Dr Marija Pantelic (Department of Medical Education) has published widely on adolescent HIV and stigma. Dr Collins Iwuji (Department of Global Health and Infection) has extensively researched linkage to HIV care in South Africa. Prof Carrie Llewellyn (Department of Primary Care and Public Health) brings decades of research on HIV and health psychology in the UK including positive psychology. The supervisory team have well-established collaborations with UK and international civil society organisations and universities. This PhD will provide the successful candidate with critical skills and substantial experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position, especially in the fields of sexual health, health psychology and public health.

Funding Notes

Applicants should possess or expect to obtain an equivalent of a First or Upper second Class Honours Degree in a social science, psychology, humanities or public health related field of study. Informal enquiries should be directed to Professor Carrie Llewellyn (). Please see the website for fees.

The school will contribute up to a maximum of £3,000 for running costs, travel for interviews, 1 conference within Europe and 1 overseas return flight (if applicable). Additional costs will be funded by the student/students sponsor.


1. Baisley K, Seeley J, Siedner M, Koole K, Matthews P, Tanser F, et al. Findings from home‐based testing and facilitated linkage after scale‐up of test and treat in rural South Africa: young people still missing. HIV Med [Internet]. 2019 Nov 27 [cited 2019 Nov 20];20(10):704–8. Available from:

2. Pantelic M, Steinert JI, Park J, Mellors S, Murau F. “Management of a spoiled identity”: systematic review of interventions to address self-stigma among people living with and affected by HIV. BMJ Glob Heal [Internet]. 2019 Mar 19 [cited 2019 May 14];4(2):e001285. Available from:

3. Pantelic M, Boyes M, Cluver L, Meinck F. HIV, violence, blame and shame : pathways of risk to internalized HIV stigma among South African adolescents living with HIV. J Int AIDS Soc [Internet]. 2017;20(1):1–9. Available from:

4. Earnshaw VA, Bogart LM, Laurenceau J-P, Chan BT, Maughan-Brown BG, Dietrich JJ, et al. Internalized HIV stigma, ART initiation and HIV-1 RNA suppression in South Africa: exploring avoidant coping as a longitudinal mediator. J Int AIDS Soc [Internet]. 2018 Oct 1 [cited 2018 Nov 29];21(10):e25198. Available from:

5. Sawyer C, Ayers A, Field SP. Posttraumatic growth and adjustment 1 Running head: POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH AND ADJUSTMENT Posttraumatic Growth and Adjustment among Individuals with Cancer or HIV/AIDS: A Meta-Analysis. 2010.

6. Pantelic M, Shenderovich Y, Cluver L, Boyes M. Predictors and correlates of internalised HIV-related stigma: A systematic review of studies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Health Psychol Rev [Internet]. 2015 Jan [cited 2016 Feb 8];9(4):469–90. Available from:

7. Betancourt TS, Meyers-Ohki SE, Charrow a, Hansen N. Research Review: Mental health and resilience in HIV/AIDS-affected children: a review of the literature and recommendations for future research. J Child Psychol Psychiatry [Internet]. 2012 Sep 4 [cited 2013 Mar 6]; Available from:

8. Pantelic M, Stegling C, Shackleton S, Restoy E. Power to participants: a call for person-centred HIV prevention services and research. J Int AIDS Soc [Internet]. 2018 Oct [cited 2018 Oct 22];21:e25167. Available from:

In order to apply please visit University of Brighton website. Please contact the BSMS Doctoral and Research Officer ([email protected]) with any queries.

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here

The information you submit to Brighton & Sussex Medical School will only be used by them or their data partners to deal with your enquiry, according to their privacy notice. For more information on how we use and store your data, please read our privacy statement.

* required field
Send a copy to me for my own records.

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2020
All rights reserved.