Associate Professor Elona Toska

Director and Chief Research Officer, Adolescent Accelerators Research Hub

Research Project(s)

  • UKRI GCRF Accelerate Hub
  • Global Fund
  • Ask-Boost-Connect-Discuss (Grand Challenges Canada: Screen & Support Package)
  • Mzantsi Wakho Adolescent Adherence Study/ UPLIFT (Understanding Predictors of Lifelong Initiation and Follow-up Treatment for adolescents and youth living with HIV)
  • HEY BABY (Helping Empower Youth Brought up in Adversity with their Babies and Young children)
  • Parenting for Lifelong Health 

Research Interests

  • Young people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings
  • Adolescent and young people's sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR)
  •  Adolescent motherhood and their children 
  •  Social and structural factors which underlie HIV acquisition and SRHR


Dr. Elona Toska is an adolescent health and well-being expert and emerging leader in adolescent and HIV/AIDS research. She holds an MSc and DPhil from the University of Oxford (UO) in Evidence-Based Social Intervention. She is the Director and Chief Research Officer of the Adolescent Accelerators Research Hub at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She is also an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at UCT and an Associate Member of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at UO. She is the co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) with Professor Lucie Culver for the UKRI GCRF Accelerate Hub, a joint UCT-UO research initiative. She is co-PI of several large studies: the Mzantsi Wakho Adolescent Health cohort and UPLIFT (Understanding Predictors of Lifelong Initiation and Follow-up Treatment) for adolescents and youth living with HIV,  the Helping Empower Youth Brought up in Adversity with their Babies and Young children (HEY BABY) study on adolescent mothers and their children, the Screen and Support Package study, and the Teen Advisory Groups. She leads the UCT team for Component 1 of the Adolescent Girls and Young Women Strategic Initiative, supported by the Global Fund. Her research has resulted in over 50 high-impact peer-reviewed publications in international journals in the last 5 years, 12 first-authored, over 50 conference presentations, and a dozen webinars. Findings from her research have been cited in several UN documents, including annual UNAIDS reports (2018 & 2019), UNAIDS HIV and social protection guidance, WHO and UNICEF technical briefs. Elona works with an inspiring team of international colleagues at the University of Oxford, University College London, University of Fort Hare (South Africa), Curtin University (Australia), Paediatric Adolescent Treatment for Africa, UNICEF and other UN agencies and governmental partners in South Africa and neighbouring countries. She was born in Albania, but has spent most of her life practicing legal migration in the United Kingdom, United States, South East Asia, and since 2012, South Africa. She can often be found facilitating energizers with young people or fellow researchers, sometimes with a toddler in tow. 

Elona Toska CV

Recent Publications 

  • Laurenzi, C., Ronan, A., Phillips, L., Nalugo, S., Mupakile, E., Operario, D., & Toska, E. (2022). Enhancing a peer supporter intervention for young mothers living with HIV in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia: Adaptation and co-development of a psychosocial component. Global public health, 1–15. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2022.2081711 

  • Van Staden, Q. Laurenzi, C. Toska, E. (2022). Two years after lockdown: reviewing the effects of COVID-19 on health services and support for adolescents living with HIV in South Africa. JIAS. DOI: 10.1002/jia2.25904 

  • Toska, E., Zhou, S., Laurenzi, C. A., Haghighat, R., Saal, W., Gulaid, L., & Cluver, L. (2022). Predictors of secondary HIV transmission risk in a cohort of adolescents living with HIV in South Africa. AIDS, 36(2), 267-276. DOI: 10.1002/jia2.25904