Miriam Bangisa, 58, is a traditional healer in Cape Town, South Africa. Healers like Bangisa provide an important bridge between HIV Vaccine Trials Network sites and surrounding areas, informing local residents about what the HVTN does and advising it on how to be sensitive to local culture and politics.
In October, Fred Hutch opened the Cape Town HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) Immunology Laboratory, which will analyze trial participants’ blood samples. The HVTN is partnering with the South African government as it expands HIV research.
Likhapa Monica Faku, 24, has felt AIDS’ toll first hand, losing an uncle and a close friend. She’s fighting back by participating in an HIV vaccine trial. Developing a vaccine in South Africa requires recruiting thousands of participants who don’t have the disease. Faku, who is on an HVTN community advisory board, said being in the trial makes her better equipped to educate others.
The new Cape Town lab opening coincided with an HIV conference, co-hosted by the HVTN and the South African Medical Research Council. Research Council President Salim S. Abdool Karim told the audience that the end of AIDS is possible.
Dr. Larry Corey, Fred Hutch president and director, addressed the HIV conference in Cape Town and described the massive endeavor to develop an HIV vaccine.