Meet the CIPHER grantees

Wipaporn Natalie Songtaweesin

Year awarded: 2017
Institution: Songtaweesin
Research site: Research Unit in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Vaccines, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Primary mentor: Nittaya Phanuphak, The Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center, Bangkok

Wipaporn Natalie Songtaweesin is a medical graduate of St George’s, University of London, and completed her Paediatric Residency at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital. Her clinical experience includes work in the British NHS, Thai Royal Navy and Thai Red Cross.

More information on Wipaporn | Email

“This opportunity from CIPHER to carry out this project has transformed the services we have been able to provide to at-risk adolescents in reducing their risk for HIV. Personally, it has been a life-changing opportunity for me to establish myself as a researcher in the field of paediatric HIV research both through meeting other investigators and the support they have provided in carrying out the research itself.”

Research project: Youth-focused strategies to promote adherence to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis among youth at risk for HIV in Thailand

The issue

PrEP is highly effective in preventing behaviourally acquired HIV, but its efficacy depends heavily on adherence. HIV incidence in youth is increasing, but PrEP availability is lacking and poor adherence is common in this population. It is important that evidence-based strategies to enhance PrEP adherence in youth be developed as little is currently known on what is effective.

A Thai ban on HIV testing for under-18s without parental consent has been lifted. In its 2015-2019 operational plan, the Thai National AIDS Committee urges that the country “address the gap between the current response and the optimized response needed to effectively end AIDS in Thailand by 2030”. This underlines the importance of studies on the optimization of HIV prevention strategies to support service delivery.

The CIPHER project

Dr Songtaweesin will recruit youth from an international UNICEF PrEP demonstration project being conducted in Thailand, Brazil and South Africa, titled “Enabling scale up of PrEP and linkage to testing among sexually active older adolescents with substantial HIV risk”. In Thailand, it will provide PrEP to 2,500 at-risk youth aged 15-19 years, including 500 at the Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic. A sub-study at the clinic is proposed with three objectives:

  • Investigate youth-focused strategies that maximize PrEP adherence
  • Evaluate correlations of adherence through self-report and drug levels
  • Investigate the association of sexually risky behaviour and STI incidence with PrEP adherence.

The impact

Findings will provide valuable guidance on optimal PrEP delivery as a choice for HIV prevention in adolescents.