Matthew M. Kavanagh

Visiting Professor
Director, Global Health Policy and Governance Initiative


Matthew M. Kavanagh, PhD is a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center and director of the Global Health Policy and Governance Initiative at the O’Neill Institute. A political scientist by training, with extensive policy experience, he works at the intersection of global health, law, and political economy. Dr. Kavanagh’s research and policy work focuses on the drivers of access to healthcare and medicines in low- and middle-income countries and the impact of human rights and constitutional protections on health outcomes.

He currently serves on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for UNAIDS, as an advisor to the Health Global Access Project, and has previously advised the WHO, U.S. State Department, and various NGOs on human rights and global health policy. As a social scientist, Dr. Kavanagh uses both qualitative research methods and large-N statistics to understand how governance institutions help or hinder advancement of population health – with recent empirical field work in South Africa, India, Malawi, Lesotho, and Thailand as part of projects on HIV treatment policy and the constitutionalization of health. His policy work seeks to address these governance challenges and has included leading transnational efforts focused on access to HIV treatment, community participation in global health programs, international trade, financial industry regulation, and water rights. This work has included drafting legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives; presenting before the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Right to Health, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, and the U.S. Trade Representative; and leading a successful policy change effort that secured expanded HIV treatment access in East and Southern Africa.

Dr. Kavanagh’s work has appeared in a social science and health journals such as The Lancet, Studies in Comparative International Development, Health & Human Rights, and others and he has been interviewed in outlets ranging from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to the BBC and Al Jazeera.

He completed a PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, certificate in health law from Penn’s law school, Masters in communities and policy from Harvard University and BA from Vassar College.

Selected Publications

Schwartz S, Kavanagh M, Quinn T, Beyrer C, Sugarman J, Solomon S, Njindam IM, Rebe K, Toure-Kane C, Baral S. “Challenges and opportunities of HIV viral load monitoring among key populations in Low and Middle Income Countries. “Journal of the International AIDS Society (forthcoming).

Kavanagh M. 2016. “Health Rights: Institutional Effects of Constitutional Provisions on Health Outcomes.” Studies in Comparative International Development 51 (3): 328.

Kavanagh M, Cohn J, Mabote L, Meier BM, Williams B, Russell A, Sikwese K, Baker B. 2015. “Evolving Human Rights and the New Science of Antiretroviral Medicine.” Health & Human Rights Journal 17(1): 76.

Meier B, Gelpi A, Kavanagh M, Forman L & Amon J. 2015. “Employing Human Rights Frameworks to Realize Access to an HIV Cure.” Journal of the International AIDS Society 18 (1): 20305.

Kavanagh M, Headley J, Russell A. 2015. “Political Conditions of U.S. Global AIDS Programs Slow Down.” The Lancet 285: 419.

Beyrer C, Birx D, Bekker, Barre-Sinoussi F, Cahn P, Dybul M, Eholie S, Kavanagh M, Katabira E, Lundgren J, Mworeko L, Pala M, Puttanakit T, Ryan O, Sidib� M, Montaner J. 2015. “The Vancouver Consensus: antiretroviral medicines, medical evidence, and political will.” The Lancet 386 (9993) 505.

Kavanagh M. 2014. “The Politics & Epidemiology of Transition: PEPFAR and AIDS in South Africa.” Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 65(3): 247.

Kavanagh M and Baker B. 2014. “Governance and Transparency at PEPFAR.” Lancet Global Health 2 (1): 13.

Selected Publications


Kavanagh, Matthew M, and Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola. "PEPFAR Policy at the Front Lines in South Africa: Report on Interviews in Public-Sector Facilities." (2018).


Meier, Benjamin M, Adriane Gelpi, Matthew M Kavanagh, Lisa Forman, and Joseph J Amon, eds. "Employing human rights frameworks to realize access to an HIV cure." Journal of the International AIDS Society 18, no. 1 (2015): 1-7.