Thandiwe Papalagae, Recruitment and Retention Team Leader
Aurum Institute CRS, Klerksdorp, South Africa
I started working on HIV programs in 2014 at Matlosana Youth Centre. In 2007, I joined Aurum as a Counsellor/Recruiter/Research Assistant and started to be more involved in community education. From 2008 I commenced working on HIV vaccine studies, and then community education became intense. It is exciting to educate people on HIV vaccines, which is something new to most of the people. When you give examples like the mothers taking their children for immunizations, people start getting the idea.
I feel honored to be part of the journey working toward and HIV-free society though clinical trials, and I have been part of several HVTN studies (HVTN 100, HVTN 108, HVTN 086, HVTN111, HVTN 503, HVTN702, and HVTN 705). I get an opportunity to work together with different people. I get exposed to different cultures and religions. I learned how different people from different cultures and religions perceive vaccines, HIV, and the drawing of blood samples.
Educating and empowering our communities about HIV and vaccines has given me great pleasure and a purpose in life, as we need informed communities to participate in our clinical trials. I have come to realize that there is no research without our communities. That is why it is vital to educate and empower our communities.