Category Archives: Spotlight

Research Nomads

Keitumetse Tshwene, a Research Assistant, carries the equipment necessary for in-home HIV testing and counseling.

By Martha Henry

Each of the two field teams for the Botswana Combination Prevention Project (BCPP) consists of 16 Research Assistants (RAs), seven drivers, two supervisors, two lab assistants, and two IT assistants. Team members come from across Botswana. In addition to Setswana, many of the RAs speak other local languages. They range in age from early 20s to late 30s. Many of them worked as HIV counselors before joining the team. Continue reading

It Takes 30 Villages: Building Trust in a Clinical Trial

By Martha Henry

Because of his own history, Dr. Mompati Mmalane had ideas about how best to introduce a complex clinical trial to communities like Shakawe, a remote village in northwestern Botswana.

HIV is no stranger to rural villages. Although the national adult prevalence is 24%, the rate is much higher in some villages. Older adults remember the days before antiretroviral treatment (ART), when Saturdays were crowded with funerals for friends, relatives, and neighbors who had died of AIDS. Continue reading

Counting to 73,700: A Guide to Randomization

Google Earth map of Shakawe, Botswana

From: Scott Dryden-Peterson
Sent: Friday, June 19, 2015
Subject: BCPP milestone

Today we completed mapping of the last study community. In one of the many remarkable behind-the-scenes contributions that has made a project of this scale possible, during nights and weekends over the past 18 months, Oaitse (cc’d here) single-handedly identified and labeled ~73,700 households from Ranaka to Shakawe. We are indebted to you, Oaitse.

Thanks,
Scott Continue reading

Max Essex: The Persistent Investigator

Dr. Max Essex Photo by Dominic Chavez

By Martha Henry

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever meet anyone more focused than Max Essex. A 1986 New York Times profile described him as “mild mannered” with “a thatch of thick hair” and “among those in the forefront of the worldwide effort to find a cure for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” Today, though his hair is white, that description still fits. Essex, now in his 70s, still arrives at the office by six o’clock most mornings and spends long days planning and improving research projects around the world. He remains, as the Times reporter described, “deeply exercised about the fate of AIDS patients.”
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The Botswana Combination Prevention Project: A Way to End the Epidemic?

BCPP field team members and villagers in Shakawe

By Martha Henry

The end of AIDS as a public health threat may not come from an effective vaccine, as many had hoped for decades, but from a collaborative effort across nations to prevent new HIV infections. The epidemic that spread mainly through sexual connections may be subdued not from a single breakthrough, but through long-term transnational collaborations. Continue reading

Elliot Eton: The Precocious Researcher

Max Essex with Elliot Eton

First he had to convince Max Essex.

Elliot Eton had just graduated from high school when he ended up in Essex’s office. After receiving his acceptance letter to Harvard, Elliot assumed he’d begin college in the fall with the other freshmen. Then he read a letter from the Dean of Admissions, encouraging students to consider a gap year. Continue reading

Kiwelu’s Successful Defense

Dr. Ireen Kiwelu
Dr. Ireen Kiwelu

Kudos to Dr. Ireen Kiwelu who, on September 24th, successfully defended her PhD thesis, “The molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 among female bar and hotel workers in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.” Her work was supervised by Drs. Max Essex and Vladimir Novitsky at the Harvard AIDS Initiative. Born in Moshi, Tanzania, at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kiwelu was educated in Tanzania, Denmark, England, and Norway. She returned to her hometown to work as a Senior Research Scientist at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre.

HEU Infants: How Big and Bad Is the Problem?

Mother and Child
©iStock.com/MShep2

By Martha Henry

Imagine that you’re a young woman in southern Africa, giving birth to the child you’ve carried for nine months. Between the pain and the pushing, you feel both excitement and dread. At the antenatal clinic several months ago, you learned that you were infected with HIV. The doctor gave you antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to prevent your child from being born with HIV. You pray that they worked.

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