School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

Dr Adenike Soogun celebrates earning her PhD in Statistics from UKZN.

Statistical Modelling of AIDS Epidemic Scores PhD

Statistical and Spatial Modelling Geared Towards Achieving UNAIDS Indicators in an HIV Hyperendemic Area of KwaZulu-Natal, was the focus of research for Dr Adenike Soogun’s PhD in Statistics from UKZN.

Supervised by Professor Temesgen Zewotir and Professor Delia North, Soogun was the first PhD graduate in both her and her husband’s families as well as the first woman from her village in the western part of Nigeria to obtain this distinction in Statistics.

Despite being the mother of three children, Soogun completed her master’s in 2019 before proceeding to PhD.

‘My wish was to have a doctoral degree by the age of 40, but getting it at 47 is still a dream come true,’ said Soogun. ‘Never give up on your dreams – be resilient because you can.’

‘In her thesis, Adenike addressed challenging statistical methodological research questions in identifying the spatially correlated risk factors for achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets and unsuppressed viral load in rural KwaZulu-Natal,’ said Zewotir. ‘Her novel work contributes to copula methods and epidemiology of HIV by providing insight on prevention and intervention towards ending the epidemic by 2030.’

Three of Soogun’s scientific contributions have been published in high quality international journals.

Soogun explained the significance of her research: ‘Firstly the study developed a Joint Bayesian Trivariate copula model to examine predictors of achieving UNAIDS 959595 targets among HIV positive men and women.

‘Secondly, the study identified high risk areas of not achieving the UNAIDS targets within the enumeration area to inform epidemiologists and public health practitioners on targeted intervention and control strategies.

‘And thirdly, predictors of unsuppressed viral load were identified. Through simulation of the HIV data, the research established the best copula function and estimator for a trivariate copula modelling,’ she said.

Soogun thanked her two supervisors. ‘I also enjoyed the resources and wealth of knowledge as a Research fellow at CAPRISA under the mentorship of Prof Ayesha Kharsany.’

She is currently an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Biostatistics Unit, Griffith Health Group, Griffith University in Australia.

Although now based far from UKZN, Soogun made sure to be at her graduation with her family!

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini