In January, the Botswana Harvard Partnership (BHP) celebrated its 20th anniversary. At the ceremony in Gaborone, Dr. Max Essex , Chair of both the BHP and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative, delivered these remarks:
Botswana and the Botswana Harvard Partnership have much to celebrate. Although AIDS in Africa was recognized as a major epidemic in east and central Africa in the early to mid 1980s, it was not yet a big deal in southern Africa. By the early to mid 1990s, however, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization prevalence estimates showed that southern Africa was much more impacted than all other regions of the world.
Dr. Soon-Young Yoon is an anthropologist and advocate for women’s human rights. She made the following remarks at the Botswana Harvard Partnership’s 20th anniversary celebration in Gaborone on January 26, 2017:
His Excellency former President Ketumile Masire, Honorable Minister Dorcus Makgatho, H. E. Ambassador Miller, distinguished speakers and guests.
In 2001, I was honored to represent the Harvard AIDS Initiative’s International Advisory Council when we presented His Excellency former President Festus Mogae with the Leadership Award for his inspiring response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. On that occasion, he said that we all live with AIDS because everyone has a relative or friend whose life has been changed by the disease. I remember thinking how fortunate this country was to have a leader who was willing to go against the tide of fear and doubt and express compassion instead of blame for AIDs patients.
Richard M. Smith is a member of HAI’s International Advisory Council. He attended the Botswana Harvard Partnership’s 20th anniversary celebration in Gaborone, Botswana on January 26, 2017 and delivered the following remarks:
It was in 1983 that I first heard about HIV/AIDS. I was the Executive Editor of Newsweek magazine, and our medical editors and reporters had come in to describe a mysterious disease that had received no national media attention, but was spreading at an alarming rate. By the time their briefing was over, our natural skepticism had vanished, and we ultimately scheduled a cover story. The cover image was a vial of blood, and the main headline was simply: EPIDEMIC.
The story created a firestorm. Our critics said that we were guilty of sensationalism—that we had just discovered another disease of the month. How could we raise so much fear about a disease that was still afflicting a relatively small group of people?
A native of Zimbabwe, Sikhulile Moyo moved to Botswana after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Zimbabwe, Harare in 1996. He started working at the Botswana Harvard Partnership as a Lab Assistant in 2003 and was promoted to Laboratory Coordinator, then Deputy Lab Manager, then to his current position as Lab Manager.
Loading file cabinets onto a truck in Lobatse, Botswana wasn’t in Morgan Packers’ job description. Neither was pressing contractors to bring renovations up to code at the Nyangabgwe Hospital Clinic, but unhesitatingly, she did both.
“She’s someone you trust to do a job well and on time,” said Dr. Shahin Lockman, one of Morgan’s mentors. “She’s resourceful, adaptable, and has the ability to work with new people in a completely new environment,” said Dr. Kenneth Maswabi, a colleague in Botswana. “Doing whatever needs to get done, that’s the nature of project management,” said Morgan herself. Continue reading →
Raabya Rossenkhan was always interested in science, so majoring in biology at the University of Botswana (UB) was an obvious choice. When she was offered a scholarship to continue her education, she saw the need to study HIV/AIDS. The year was 2003. In Botswana, the HIV prevalence among pregnant women was almost 40%.
Early on my first morning in Gaborone, I arrived at the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) Research Lab and met Dr. Simani Gaseitsiwe, the Deputy Research Director. The night before, I had again reviewed several recently published articles he had sent to me, all analyzing immune system-driven HIV adaptation. He helped me synthesize this material, and we began to consider hypotheses to test. Continue reading →
I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac at Sir Seretse Khama Airport in Gaborone, Botswana. It was not as hot and humid as I had expected. After months of preparation, I had finally arrived. I was thrilled! My excitement, though, was not without nervousness. For one, my flight had been delayed. I was wondering if my pick-up ride would still be waiting. For another, I, an eighteen-year-old high school graduate, was about to spend the next few months without family or friends in an entirely unfamiliar place.
Time is critical in much of medicine. This is especially true for pregnant HIV-infected women who want their children to be born HIV-free. About 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant annually. If these expectant mothers begin taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) before the third trimester of pregnancy, their risk of passing HIV to their babies can be reduced to as low as 1%. Without ARVs, the rate of infant infection is between 25-40%.
We have the knowledge and medications, yet less than one third of eligible women worldwide begin taking ARVs prior to delivery. In Botswana, where 29% of pregnant women are HIV positive, researchers want to do better.
It’s hard to write a profile of someone who doesn’t complain, especially when that person encounters innumerable problems on a daily basis and has to solve them quickly and efficiently or important clinical trials will come screeching to a halt. Continue reading →