The Senegal Sex Workers Study

Sex worker and physician on a street in Dakar

How prostitutes in Dakar contributed to our knowledge of HIV

By Martha Henry

Phyllis Kanki had thought the S stood for singe, the French word for monkey, but a call to France revealed that the S stood for Senegal—in particular, sex workers in the capital city of Dakar. And that changed everything. Continue reading

HAI Founded 30 Years Ago This Month

Headline of Harvard Gazette for May 6, 1988: University Announces AIDS Research Institute

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

Botswana Harvard Partnership Excels at AIDS Conference

BHP & HAI Researchers at CROI

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.

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Will Black Panther Inspire Young Africans to Become Scientists?

Shuri, the Black Panther's brilliant scientist sister

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

Spotlight Summer 2017

Spotlight Header

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

Phylogenetic Viral Linkage: A Tool for Evaluating HIV Prevention Efforts

Graphics showing Phylogenetic Viral Linkage

By Martha Henry

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?

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Are Migrants Driving the Epidemic?

People waiting for the Ferry to Botswana in Kazungula.

By Martha Henry

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

The Talent & Know-How: Dr. Simani Gaseitsiwe Becomes BHP Lab Director

Simani Gaseitsiwe

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

Fogarty Under Threat

Pandemic Crisis

By Martha Henry

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

Curiosity Saved the Cats

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