After graduating from Berkeley in 2005, Marni von Wilpert left California to serve as a social worker in the Peace Corps. She was sent to Mokubilo, a rural village in eastern Botswana. There, she provided services for babies born with HIV and children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS. She also helped with education, treatment, and care for HIV-positive adults.
“I witnessed a lot of discrimination in my village,” said von Wilpert. “Kids were kicked out of the one primary school in the village and told they couldn’t come back because they were showing signs of HIV infection. A lot of women were divorced by their husbands because women were often the ones to test first since they’re the ones to get pregnant. There was only so much I could do as a social worker. I became convinced that legal assistance could make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who faced discrimination. From my village in Botswana, I applied to law school.”
The AIDS epidemic has had a devastating impact on child survival in sub-Saharan Africa. In Botswana, under-five mortality almost doubled from 1990 to 2000. Since then, remarkable progress has been made to prevent pregnant HIV-positive mothers from passing the virus to their infants, either in utero or through breastfeeding. Yet in a study published this July in BMC Pediatrics, Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI) researchers found that HIV-exposed or infected children in Botswana account for more than half of deaths in children younger than two. Continue reading →
For almost 30 years, Dr. Richard Marlink helped shape the work of the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI). As he leaves to create and lead the Rutgers Global Health Institute, we—his colleagues at HAI— created a short video to express our appreciation of his work and gratitude for his friendship.
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 →
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.
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.” Continue reading →
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 →
(Eton spent a gap year working with HAI in Boston and Botswana. He’s now a freshman at Harvard. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Harvard Science Review.)
The target is 2030. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has ambitiously set 2030 as the year by which we should achieve the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has claimed the lives of 39 million people globally since the first cases were reported in 1981.1 This past year, to help drive united progress and accountability towards the goal, UNAIDS articulated the 90-90-90 targets. If these goals are reached by 2020, UNAIDS predicts, then the AIDS epidemic could come to an end by 2030:
Goal 1: “By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.”
Goal 2: “By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.”
Goal 3: “By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.”2
Missed the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston, February 22-25, 2016? No worries. You can still view videos of major HAI/BHP presentations and press conferences. Continue reading →
The role bacteria play in human health—what’s termed our microbiome—has been much in the news lately. Each person is host to a unique assortment and concentration of over 100 trillion bacterial cells, most of which are beneficial. For example, the bacteria in our gut help us digest food and produce some of the vitamins we require. They also have a strong influence on everything from mental health to the immune system.
Dr. Kate Powis, a clinician and researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative (HAI), is studying the gut microbiome of HIV exposed but uninfected (HEU) infants. These HEU babies are born to HIV-positive mothers, and even though the babies don’t have the virus, they are two to three times more likely to die in the first two years of life than babies born to HIV-negative mothers. Over 1.5 million HEU children will be born this year.