Category Archives: Blog

Kelesitse Phiri: Examining Pediatric AIDS in Botswana

Kelesitste Phiri


Oddly enough, Kelesitse Phiri learned about the enormity of the AIDS epidemic in her native Botswana when she was studying at Bryn Mawr College in suburban Philadelphia. The year was 2000. That June UNAIDS released figures showing that Botswana’s adult HIV prevalence at the end of 1999 was 35.8%, the highest in the world.

“At that time, people back home didn’t talk about HIV or that somebody had died of AIDS, but more and more we were hearing about it in the global news. At school people were coming up to me and saying ‘What’s going on in your country?’” Kele, as her friends and colleagues call her, began wondering how the infection rate could be so high in her country, one of the most developed in Africa. To learn more, she enrolled in a course called “The Sociology of AIDS.”  It was a decision that changed her life. Continue reading

AIDS Walk Boston

Boston Walk 2008

Most staff members at the Harvard AIDS Initiative could tell you that 24% of the adult population in Botswana is HIV-positive. Yet most couldn’t tell you how many people in Massachusetts, with a population of 6.4 million, are living with HIV/AIDS. The answer, according to 2007 statistics, is 16,866.

To acknowledge that AIDS is a local, as well as an international problem, a dozen staff members took part in the Boston AIDS Walk on June 1. Though many of us work at HAI because we believe that our research and programs are of great importance in helping to fight and eventually end the AIDS epidemic, there are days when these goals get lost in the day-to-day aggravations of the work place.

On a beautiful Sunday morning, as we joined the group of 20,000 walkers, we were reminded that the epidemic is here, as well as there. Family, friends, children in strollers and a couple of dogs rounded out the HAI group. It was a joyful experience—one that gave meaning to Monday’s work.

Niki Farahani


One of HAI’s youngest walkers, Niki Farahani, wrote a pictoral essay on the experience. Check it out here (PDF).

First Harvard Undergraduates in Botswana

Undergrad student in Botswana 2007

This spring, three adventurous young women were the first Harvard undergraduates to study abroad in Botswana. The three biology majors lived on the campus of the University of Botswana and took classes there. The greater part of their education took place at the Botswana-Harvard Reference Laboratory. Continue reading

Viewpoints: Max Essex

Max Essex photo by dave Cliff

Dr. Max Essex is Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative (HAI), the Lasker Professor of Health Sciences, and Chair of the Botswana-Harvard Partnership for HIV Research and Education (BHP). As the BHP celebrates its 10th anniversary, Martha Henry, Editor of Spotlight, asked Dr. Essex to reflect on past accomplishments and future goals of the BHP. Continue reading

Research & Interventions

Using Nevirapine More Effectively

A study published in the January 11th issue of  found that for mothers given a single dose of nevirapine during labor to reduce the chance of HIV transmission to their children, waiting six months after birth before taking a nevirapine-based antiretroviral treatment dramatically reduced their chances of developing resistance to nevirapine. Continue reading

Max Essex

Max Essex

Max Essex is the Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard University, Chair of the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI), and Chair of the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP).