The year was 1988. People were afraid. A total a 106,994 people had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and 62,101 were dead. Scientists were making progress, but there was no effective treatment. One night the evening news would feature protests by AIDS activists demanding faster drug approval. The next night the news featured parents demanding kids with HIV be barred from public schools.
On May 6, 1988, Harvard President Derek Bok announced the establishment of the Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI) to expand and accelerate AIDS research at Harvard. “The conquest of AIDS will require the commitment of experts concentrated at the School of Public Health, the Medical School and its teaching hospitals as well as from many disciplines throughout the University,” said Bok. “The Institute’s mission is to focus our resources and redouble our efforts.” Continue reading
In between Nor’easters, the premier gathering for AIDS researchers was held in Boston in early March. The annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) brought together top researchers from around the world to share the latest developments in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS. The Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) made a strong showing, both with the number of researchers attending and the breadth of studies presented.
When Black Panther opens in China on March 9th, worldwide box office receipts should exceed the $1 billion mark, destroying previous records. The movie, based on the Marvel comic, is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, ruled by King T’Challa, the Black Panther. His sister, 16-year-old Shuri, loves to tease her older brother. Shuri is funny and daring and the brilliant mastermind behind the high-tech Wakandan Design Group. (Think Q, Tony Stark and Elon Musk, only smarter, younger, and more fashionable.)
How do real-life African scientists view the character of Shuri? To find out, Martha Henry, HAI’s Executive Director, sat down with two Fogarty Fellows from the Lab of HAI Chair Max Essex. Dr. Catherine Koofhethile earned her PhD in immunology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is currently quantifying levels of provirus in people infected with HIV. Tapiwa Nkhisang arrived in the Lab after graduating from Smith College with a double major in neuroscience and economics. She conducts research related to the Botswana Combination Prevention Project. Continue reading
The Interconnected Issue
Like it or not, we’re all connected. While officials debate whether to strengthen treaties or build walls, infectious diseases easily cross every border. This issue of Spotlight includes a story about how genetics help us understand the way HIV moves within a community, a story about how migrants may influence HIV prevention efforts, and another on how budget cuts could imperil our response to the next pandemic. Plus a profile of the new BHP Lab Director. Continue reading
Major HIV prevention trials are underway in African countries, including Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. These trials involve hundreds of thousands of people and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But how will we know if they work?
When “Treatment as Prevention” was named Science magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year in 2011, there was optimism that we were closing in on AIDS. Results published from the HPTN 052 trial that year showed that in discordant couples, giving antiretroviral treatment (ART) to people with HIV not only was good for their own health, but also lowered the levels of HIV in their blood to undetectable levels, making the chance of infecting their partners extremely unlikely. Continue reading
If a boy from a Botswana village wins second place in the national science fair for a project on optimizing alcoholic brews, predictions about his future could involve his getting into trouble, or working for a large beer company, or, if you’re Dr. Simani Gaseitsiwe, becoming the director of one of Africa’s top research labs. Continue reading
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Last year, just $69 million of the NIH’s $31 billion budget was allocated to Fogarty.
Founded in 1968, the Fogarty Center serves as a bridge between the NIH and the greater global health community by facilitating exchanges among investigators, providing training opportunities, and supporting promising research initiatives in developing countries. Continue reading
The untold story of how Max Essex, some cat ladies, and a small team of researchers saved the lives of millions of felines—and helped identify the cause of AIDS.
By Genevieve Rajewski
In the 1970s, a little-understood virus was the number one killer of cats in the United States. So little was known about it that, in 1970, when an elderly woman first started bringing cats sick with cancer to Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston—the original veterinary teaching hospital for Tufts—there was next to nothing that her veterinarian, Susan Cotter, could do. Read the complete story in TuftsNow.
Illustration by James Steinberg
As our colleagues at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership conclude their 20th anniversary celebrations, we at HAI would like to express our appreciation for the professional collaborations and personal friendships shared for over two decades.