Global Fellows Research Academy

Omolara Baiyegunhi

Nationality: Nigeria
Institution: HIV Pathogenesis Programme, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Country of work: South Africa

What is your motivation for engaging in HIV cure and remission research?

Despite decades of global HIV/AIDS research, a functional HIV cure is still elusive. With the current WHO guidelines for early treatment, there are increasing numbers of HIV infected people on life-long antiretroviral therapy, underscoring the need for a therapeutic vaccine. Specifically, the African continent bears the heaviest burden of the epidemic, thus pinpointing a population for HIV pathogenesis and persistence studies directed at developing novel cure strategies. In my opinion, a better understanding of the reservoir will be synergetic to reservoir elimination strategies for HIV cure.

What is your current area of research?

I am currently focused on understanding the ontogeny of CD4 T cell responses in the blood and lymph node compartments during hyperacute HIV infection and how early intervention with antiretroviral therapy impacts these anti-HIV responses. I am also investigating HIV persistence in lymph nodes as actively replicating virus and as a latent reservoir, using advanced imaging and molecular techniques. My view is that these HIV infected cell subsets are potential targets for elimination to achieve HIV cure. For my research, I have access to a unique cohort of patients in KwaZulu-Natal initiated on antiretroviral therapy during hyperacute HIV infection, the majority at Fiebig stage I.