Category Archives: Q&A

The Botswana Harvard Partnership Turns 20: Q&A with Dr. Joseph Makhema

Dr. Joseph Makhema

The Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) was established 20 years ago to help combat HIV/AIDS at the epicenter of the epidemic. At the time, about 37% of pregnant women in Botswana were infected with HIV. Dr. Joseph Makhema was a young physician working what seemed like unending hours at the public hospital in Gaborone, where effective treatment was not yet available. Today, Dr. Makhema is the CEO of the Institute he played an important role in establishing. Martha Henry, Executive Director of HAI, spoke with him about the BHP’s history and future. Continue reading

LGBT Health in a Trumped-Up World: Q&A With Monica Kriete ‘18

Rainbow test tubes

By Belinda O’Donnell

At a time where the push for full inclusion of LGBT people is gaining ground at a remarkable pace, it’s important to acknowledge that there is still not a single country where LGBT people are not threatened and objectified, have their abilities and contributions discounted, and are subjected to violence because of their perceived or actual LGBT status. Because of this reality, it’s not surprising that LGBT people often struggle to access quality healthcare. And yet as UNAIDS deputy executive director Dr. Luiz Loures notes, “Non-discrimination in health care settings is urgent in order to end the AIDS epidemic.”

Belinda O’Donnell spoke with Monica Kriete, a fierce LGBT health advocate, a former facilitator of a discussion group for queer women in their twenties at the DC LGBT Center, and a first-year MPH student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They talked about how to make health-care settings more inclusive for LGBT people, as well as what it’s like to commit to a career in public health at such a charged political moment in the United States.

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Explore and Immerse: Q&A with Amy Wu

Amy Wu on the summit of Mount Hood in Oregon.

Her life has been anything but linear. Born in Beijing, Amy Wu grew up in Oregon, performed as a concert pianist in her teens, majored in biochemistry at Harvard, conducted HIV research in China and Botswana, and now works 80-hour weeks as a vice president at a tech startup. She also serves on HAI’s International Advisory Council.

Martha Henry, Executive Director of HAI, reached Amy by phone in a conference room in Manhattan.

You were one of the first Harvard undergrads to spend a semester in Botswana conducting HIV research. Almost ten years later, how do you view that experience?

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Using Social Science to Inform and Improve Clinical Trials: Q&A with Dr. Virginia Bond

Dr. Virginia Bond and members of the Zambart social science team

Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Bond is a Social Anthropologist and Associate Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Based in Zambia, she heads the social science unit at Zambart. She is the lead social scientist for PopART (Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmission) a large community-randomized trial being carried out in 21 communities in South Africa and Zambia. The trial is designed to evaluate the impact of a universal test-and-treat intervention on population-level HIV incidence. Similar to HAI’s Botswana Combination Prevention Project, the goal of PopART is to dramatically reduce the number of new HIV infections.

Martha Henry, Executive Director of HAI, spoke over Skype with Dr. Bond in Zambia.

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Q&A with Susan Butler Plum: Enabling Young Lawyers to Work with the Poor

Susan Butler Plum and Dr. Joseph Makhema

Susan Butler Plum is the founding director of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, which every year awards two-year grants to 25 public-interest attorneys. She also serves on a number of boards, including HAI’s International Advisory Council. She recently spoke by phone with Martha Henry, HAI’s Executive Director.

When people ask what your job is, how do you reply?

I say that I’m the founder and director of a foundation that makes grants for young lawyers to work with the poor. Most of our applications come from the best law schools in America. Probably 45 to 50 applications a year come from the top of the class at Harvard Law School. Continue reading

The Future of Nigeria’s Response to HIV: Q&A with Dr. Oluwatobi Victor Popoola

Young women in Abuja, Nigeria.

By Belinda O’Donnell

From June to August, I was a peer collaborator for the Mandela Washington Fellows, based at Howard University in Washington D.C. There I met the remarkable Dr. Victor Popoola, an HIV clinician and 2016 Fellow.

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Q&A with Pride Chigwedere: Examining African AIDS Policies


Dr. Pride Chigwedere is Senior Advisor to the African Union, UNAIDS Liaison Office to the African Union, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. He earned a doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in 2008 and in 2105 was awarded the Emerging Public Health Professional alumni award. A native of Zimbabwe, Chigwedere is now based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He answered questions from Martha Henry, HAI’s Director of Communications.

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The Importance of Being and Having a Mentor: Q&A with Max Essex

Essex Lab retreat in New Hampshire


Q&AMax Essex is the Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard University, as well as the Founding Chair of both the Harvard AIDS Initiative and the Botswana Harvard Partnership. He talked with Martha Henry, HAI’s Director of Communications, about mentoring students and young scientists.

You’re primarily a research scientist. How important is your role as a mentor?

Extremely important. I think mentoring students to learn how to do research is one of the most important things I do.

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From the Bench to the Bank: Q&A with Dr. Debrework Zewdie

Dr. Debrework Zewdie


Throughout her career, Dr. Debrework Zewdie has created and led HIV/AIDS programs with a global reach. As Director of the World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Program, she developed the Bank’s Multi-Country AIDS Program that committed one billion dollars to the global AIDS response. She has also served as Deputy Executive Director/COO at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis and was a founding UNAIDS Global Coordinator. A native of Ethiopia, Dr. Zewdie has a PhD in clinical immunology from the University of London. She is currently a Menschel Senior Leadership Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Zewdie sat down with Martha Henry, HAI’s Director of Communications, to answer a few questions.

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Q&A with Max Essex: Infants and HIV

Max Essex photo Kent Dayton

For over 20 years, the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI) has been conducting research on how best to care for mothers with HIV and their children. Martha Henry, Editor of Spotlight, sat down with Dr. Max Essex, Chair of HAI, to review the progress made and the challenges remaining. Continue reading