Bostwana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP)

The Botswana–Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) is a collaborative research and training initiative between the Government of Botswana and Harvard established in 1996. Located in Gaborone, Botswana, the BHP also houses the Botswana–Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory, the largest HIV/AIDS laboratory in Africa, which serves as the reference testing lab for all AIDS activities in Botswana. The BHP is an NIH-funded Clinical Trials Unit site for various trial networks including the HIV Prevention Trials Network, AIDS Clinical Trials Group, the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Group, and the HIV Vaccines Trial Network. The BHP has also been an attractive site for U.S. medical and graduate students, and participates as a site for the FIC AIDS International Training and Research, Scholars, Fellows, and Fulbright programs.

The Site Director

Dr. Max Essex, Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Chair, Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership
messex@hsph.harvard.edu

In 1982, Essex hypothesized, with Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier, that a retrovirus was the cause of AIDS. For this the three shared the 1986 Lasker Award, the highest honor given for medical research in the U.S.

With doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, he identified the envelope proteins of HIV that are routinely used for diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and for blood screening. His laboratory group also identified many other protein products of both HIV and HTLV, including the transforming protein Tax of HTLV-1, and the nef, vif, pol, vpx, vpu, and vpr of HIV. With students and collaborators, he identified the simian T cell leukemia virus (STLV) and the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in monkeys, and HIV-2 in people in West Africa. His group showed that HIV-2 was less virulent and less transmissible than HIV-1, and that certain subtypes of HIV-1, particularly HIV-1C, are more efficiently transmitted from mother to infant in utero and during the process of birth.

Dr. Joseph Makhema, Chief Executive Officer, BHP
jmakhema@bhp.org.bw

Dr. Makhema is Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), where he oversees all clinical research and training projects. He joined BHP as Senior Clinical Research Manager and Co-Director in 2003. He became BHP Project Director in 2006. A specialist physician by training, he also participates in the clinical conduct of research trials, capacity building, and training initiatives at the BHP.


Site-based mentors

Simani Gaseitsiwe, Deputy Laboratory Director, BHP
sgaseits@hsph.harvard.edu

Dr. Gaseitsiwe is the Laboratory Director at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) and a Research Associate in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. At the BHP, he is involved with capacity building through the mentorship of students and postdocs. His interest is in infection biology and spans HIV, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) and Hepatitis B. His current research focuses on drug resistance studies in HIV-1C infection and molecular characterization of Hepatitis B in HIV-infected patients in Botswana.

Joseph Makhema, Chief Executive Officer
jmakhema@bhp.org.bw

Dr. Makhema is Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), where he oversees all clinical research and training projects. He joined BHP as Senior Clinical Research Manager and Co-Director in 2003. He became BHP Project Director in 2006. A specialist physician by training, he also participates in the clinical conduct of research trials, capacity building, and training initiatives at the BHP.

Rosemary Musonda,  Laboratory Director
rmusonda@bhp.org.bw

Dr. Musonda is a Research Associate at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her main interests are in understanding the molecular structure of HIV, its pathogenesis, and the nature of host immunity to the virus. She is involved with capacity building and training young researchers in Africa. Dr. Musonda holds several grants dedicated to postgraduate training of African scientists in southern Africa.

Kathleen Powis, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Research Associate, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
kpowis@partners.org

Dr. Powis holds clinical appointments in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and a Research Associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She has served as Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator on multiple clinical trials at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership. Her research interests include preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and the HIV-free survival of HIV-exposed uninfected infants.