The Harvard AIDS Institute was established in 1988 by Harvard University President Derek Bok and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Dean Harvey Fineberg. Initial seed funding for HAI was provided by the office of the President Bok and the offices of the Dean of HSPH and the Dean of Harvard Medical School (HMS). Additional seed funding came from Professor Max Essex’s and HSPH patent royalties for the widely-used HIV-blood screening test that was developed from the research conducted by Essex and his colleague, Dr. Tun-Hou Lee.
Max Essex was named Chair of HAI and has been so every since. HAI focused on innovative, cutting edge research concerning the pathogenesis of the AIDS virus and the dynamics of the epidemic.
As the number of AIDS cases continued to escalate disproportionately in Africa and other resource scarce settings, HAI directed its research efforts toward developing prevention and treatment strategies to stem the epidemic in these regions. International partnerships were created with on-the-ground efforts with specific countries affected by the epidemic, including Thailand, Senegal, Botswana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and South Africa.
In 1996, HAI partnered with Botswana’s Ministry of Health to form the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP). In 2001, at a ceremony on World AIDS Day, the BHP officially opened its state-of-the-art laboratory and headquarters on the grounds of Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.
In 2004, the Harvard AIDS Institute changed its name to the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative to better reflect the the base of activity at the School of Public Health. In 2015, HAI officially became the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative as the School changed its name to honor a generous gift from the Chan family.
Today, Max Essex and other scientists at HAI who helped pioneer the field of HIV research continue their efforts, working side-by-side with students and colleagues from the U.S . and around the world.