Dr Katherine Lepani


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Katherine Lepani is a long-term resident of Papua New Guinea, where she has extensive community-based and public sector work experience in primary health care, HIV, gender and development, and theatre arts. She has been involved in HIV policy and program work in PNG since the mid-1990s. She coordinated the development of PNG’s first national multi-sectoral strategy for HIV in 1997, and the current National HIV Prevention Strategy 2010-2015. Katherine holds a Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology) degree awarded with Distinction from the University of Hawai‘i (1991), and a Master of Public Health (Tropical Health) degree from the University of Queensland (2001). She completed her PhD in Anthropology at the Australian National University in February 2008. Her thesis explored the interface between biomedical and cultural models of sexuality, risk, and disease and argued for the importance of community engagement in responding to the HIV epidemic. Her book Islands of Love, Islands of Risk: Culture and HIV in the Trobriands (Vanderbilt University Press, 2012) is the first full-length ethnography that examines global and local discourses on HIV, gender, and sexuality in a Melanesian cultural context. The book received the annual Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for the best project in the area of medicine in 2012. She developed and taught the compulsory course on qualitative methodologies for health research in the Master of Culture, Health, and Medicine and the Master of Public Health programs in the ANU College of Medicine Biology and Environment. Her current research interest in HIV focuses on gender vulnerabilities, perceptions of risk, and the social context of voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services in Papua New Guinea. She organised the workshop symposium Sexualities, sexual rights, and HIV in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific: A Workshop Symposium with Professor Gilbert Herdt, held at ANU from 11-13 July 2012.

Research interests

Gender and sexuality, gender and development, critical medical anthropology, HIV and culture, health communication, qualitative research methodologies, interdisciplinary and applied research, public health policy, Papua New Guinea

Expertise Areas

  • Health Promotion
  • Pacific Peoples Health
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Social Policy
  • Studies of Pacific Peoples' Societies
  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality


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