Global Fellows Research Academy
Nationality: South Africa
Institution: Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI)
Country of work: South Africa
What is your motivation for engaging in HIV cure and remission research?
Although anti-retroviral drugs have been successful in improving and prolonging the quality of life in HIV infected individuals, these drugs are not always easily available in resource limited settings. Thus, the large number of untreated individuals contributes to ongoing HIV transmission in such settings and necessitates the need for an HIV cure. My hometown, Durban, KwaZulu Natal is at the epicentre of the HIV epidemic. We are faced with the reality and enormity of the problem daily. The high HIV infection rate and having met and interacted with young women afflicted most profoundly by South Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, motivates me to make a contribution to HIV cure research.
What is your current area of research?
Although treatment of HIV with ART has significantly reduced mortality rates and improved the quality of life of infected individuals, it is also contributes to the establishment of viral reservoirs. However, little is known about reservoir establishment during hyperacute infection. In our current study we aim to understand viral reservoir seeding and persistence in a well characterised cohort of persons with hyperacute HIV infection, established in Durban, South Africa. The cohort called FRESH recruits uninfected high risk women who are screened twice weekly for plasma HIV RNA, together with immediate initiation of antiretroviral therapy during the earliest phases of infection we have a unique opportunity to address mechanisms of reservoir establishment and assess viral and host determinants of viral reservoir persistence.