Spotlight on the people of the HVTN



Maria del Rosario Leon Rhandomy
Maria del Rosario Leon Rhandomy

Maria del Rosario Leon Rhandomy

Head of Community Involvement, IMPACTA CRSs, Lima, Peru

I have worked in the field of HIV for more than fifteen years. I graduated from Universidad de Lima, where I received a Bachelor of Social Communication degree and later completed a Master in Social Investment from Universidad del Pacifico (Peru). I worked in the National HIV Program of Peru as Head of the Information, Education and Communication unit in the implementation of behavioral interventions. My goal: people should be educated about HIV prevention.

However, it was clear that condom use was not enough and we need to work on new prevention strategies. In 2005, I worked as Community Educator at Impacta, on my first HIV vaccine trial, and also served as HVTN CER Co-Chair for the North and South America sites. Since 2007, I was the Community Educator for the Lima sites in the iPrEx trial on pre-exposure prophylaxis, where I designed the branding for the Andean sites, as well as community involvement, recruitment and retention strategies that contributed to the trial achievements. Since 2016, I am working on the AMP Study.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about working with the HVTN is the permanent respect about education and community involvement efforts. These include: putting in action the Community Advisory Board recommendations, implementation of new strategies on recruitment of participants, as well as educational materials customization. Now, we continue contributing to the generation of science evidence in health and “the force is with us” (Yes! I am a Star Wars groupie. Alias: MaR Leia or Vader J).


Pearson M’modzi
Pearson M’modzi

Pearson M’modzi

Community Educator/Recruiter, Lilongwe CRS, Lilongwe, Malawi

For any recruitment process to be successful, instilling the spirit of community ownership amongst the participants is an integral element”, says M’modzi as he prepares for one of his daily errands of engaging potential participants and communities in general. Pearson M’modzi, himself a recruiter, believes community engagement is central to any study. M’modzi has been working with the Lilongwe, Malawi CRS for the past 12 years, primarily focusing on engaging communities and stakeholders, and notes that increasing research literacy in the communities he works with is a passion of his. M’modzi notes that engaging communities should not only be during the time of recruitment – it should be in preparation, throughout the period of study and after. HVTN is very helpful whenever there is a study; the educational and giveaway materials make his work easier and exciting, especially with so many youth interested in HIV vaccine research in the region.

M’modzi holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health as well as a Diploma in Community Development, and looks forward to pursuing a Master’s degree. M’modzi first started working with HVTN in 2014 as the site was beginning HVTN 111, and is now involved in the AMP Study and HVTN 705/HPX2008. M’modzi states, “I enjoys doing this work with HVTN, learning so much from the team and my colleagues from the sites all over the world, especially knowing that we are doing all this for a common cause.


Annet Davis
Annet Davis

Annet Davis

Project Director, Philadelphia CRS, Philadelphia, PA, USA

I entered the field of HIV prevention research though a non-conventional route.  As Vice President of a for-profit Employees Assistant Program (EAP) and managed care company, I had the unique opportunity to consult with senior executives and Human Resource staff to develop policies and procedures regarding employees infected with HIV. Beginning in 1994, I joined the University of Pennsylvania HIV Prevention Research Division and served as Project Director for HIVNET (HIV Network).  I was tasked to focus on injection drug users and women at risk for HIV due to their drug use and sexual practices.  We soon became a HPTN site, and as Project Director I oversaw a High Risk Injection Drug User trial, Women Fighting HIV Intervention trial and the HPTN 037 Injection Drug Users Network trial conducted in Philadelphia and Chiang Mai, Thailand.  We subsequently became an HVTN site.

Since 2007, it has been my privilege to serve as the Coordinator for Community Engagement: Recruitment & Community Education for the UPenn HIV Clinical Trials Unit.  I have worked with our computer programmer to design databases to track recruitment and enrollment, resulting in the development of innovative tools to match recruitment venues to enrollment success in trials (Phase I and efficacy trials).

As a member of the HANC Legacy Project and the Women’s HIV Research Collaborative, the HVTN Efficacy Trials Working Group and the HVTN Social Behavioral Working Group, I am an innovative voice and bridge between the Community Educator and Recruiter Working Group and these committees. 


Gail Broder
Gail Broder

Gail Broder

Senior Community Engagement Project Manager, HVTN Core, Seattle, WA, USA

Gail Broder was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, receiving her Bachelors Degree in Music Therapy at Eastern Michigan University. She subsequently moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she worked in long-term care settings as a music therapist specializing in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. In the 1990’s, Gail began losing friends and a mentor to AIDS, and she made the decision to redirect her career to HIV prevention in order to tackle the epidemic proactively. She received her Master's Degree in Health Science with emphasis in Health Education in 1999 from Washington University in St. Louis. Her thesis work formed the basis for a curriculum in HIV prevention education. Following graduate school, one of Gail's volunteer affiliations was with the Community Advisory Board (CAB) of the HIV Vaccine Trials Unit which was then located at St. Louis University.  After serving for 2½ years as a CAB member, Gail moved to Seattle in 2003 to join the staff of the HVTN’s Community Engagement Unit.  

Away from the office, Gail has maintained a semi-professional music career. She sang with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Chorus for two seasons, then with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Chorus for 16 seasons, including four performances in New York's Carnegie Hall and three CD recordings. In Seattle, she performs with Seattle Pro Musica and sings in her synagogue’s choir.


Mark Hubbard
Mark Hubbard

Mark Hubbard

CAB Member, Vanderbilt CRS, Nashville, TN, USA

Mark Hubbard has lived with HIV/AIDS for over 30 years and has served on Vanderbilt community advisory boards since 2001. He is currently an alternate Global Community Advisory Board representative for Vanderbilt for both the HVTN and the ACTG networks.

Mark works with local and regional groups as well as international organizations, including the AIDS Treatment Advocacy Coalition Drug Development Committee, the biomedical HIV prevention research advocacy agency AVAC, and the International Rectal Microbicides Advocates.

Mark has participated in community consultations with the Tennessee Department of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the NIH's National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID), and the Microbicides Trials Network. He currently serves on the State of Tennessee Department of Health’s HIV Center of Excellence (Ryan White Clinic Oversight), and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) formulary and medical fee schedule committees.

Mark was awarded 6 consecutive community educator scholarships to the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections and is serving in his third year on the CROI Planning Committee Community Liaison Subcommittee.

Mark is a community representative to the HIV Vaccine Trial Network’s Efficacy Trial Working Group and the Scientific Governance Committee. He is a member of the HVTN/HPTN AMP protocol teams (HVTN 704/HPTN 085 and HVTN 703/HPTN 081). In May of 2016, the HVTN honored him with the Octavio Valente Junior Volunteer Service Award.

One thing Mark loves about working with the HVTN is the commitment to excellence in every aspect of what the HVTN does – from start to finish, from top to bottom, and across disciplines.


Likhapha Monica Pule
Likhapha Monica Pule

Likhapha Monica Pule

CAB Member, Klerksdorp CRS, Klerksdorp, South Africa

I first started in HIV work in 2012 when I was volunteering at the Centre for Youth Institute, where I was teaching youth about HIV and other activities. It is in the same year I started my journey with HVTN as a CAB Member and also as a study participant of the Klerksdorp Research Site. HVTN has broadened my knowledge about HIV and vaccines. It is an amazing experience to work with the HVTN. I have learned a lot since I started working with HVTN, and I still am because there are new things coming up every day. I am grateful to be part of HVTN.

I am a South African woman, born in 1989, a Christian, married, and a mother of one daughter. I can speak several of the languages in South Africa. My hobbies are to play tennis, singing and reading. I have a Diploma in Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a Higher Certificate in Management, and am busy finishing off my Bachelor`s Degree. I have worked in the health sector since 2012. I strive for nothing but success in whatever I do, and do not settle for less. In 2015, I received the HVTN Octavio Valente Junior Volunteer Service award for my contributions in HIV vaccine prevention research, and in 2017 I was elected to serve as the HVTN Global CAB Co-chair. What people do not know about me is that I have a desire to write a book and I am preparing to fulfil that dream.


Linda Oseso
Linda Oseso

Linda Oseso, MPH

HVTN Social and Behavioral Sciences Project Manager, HVTN Core, Seattle, WA, USA

I immigrated to the United States from Kenya with my family in 2001 and did my undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2016, I earned a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology from the University of Washington.

As an undergraduate, I was a Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training fellow, working in South Africa to examine the potential effects of diseases spreading between wildlife, livestock and people. I also worked as a volunteer for the sex worker outreach program in Nairobi, Kenya, providing health education and medical services to sex workers. As a graduate student, I worked with Dr. Anna Wald at the University of Washington Virology Research Clinic where we designed and conducted a mixed methods study to assess the interest of persons with genital herpes in finding a herpes cure and their willingness to take on the risks associated with experimental therapy to completely clear or inactivate their infection. I also worked with Dr. Michele Andrasik at the HVTN, where I coordinated the development of animated educational videos for the AMP study.

I was a collegiate and post-collegiate track and field athlete (Hammer Throw). I was encouraged to do track and field by a friend I played basketball with in high school. As a post-collegiate athlete, I competed for Kenya at two Commonwealth Games (India and Scotland), 3 African Championships (Kenya, Benin and Morocco), and the World University Games (China). I was voted co-captain of four of these teams. I am currently the Kenyan record holder in the Women’s Hammer.

As a young child in Kenya, my dream was to find the cure for HIV. I imagined myself as a lead scientist of a lab that would discover a cure. Every paper I wrote in middle school, high school and university was in one way or another linked to HIV. Working at the HVTN is a dream come true! I am proud to be a member of an organization that is conducting cutting edge research to fully characterize the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of HIV vaccine candidates. I appreciate working in an environment with like-minded people who are collaborative, passionate and committed to working toward an HIV/AIDS-free generation. Thank you for the opportunity to make my small contribution to our mission of finding a safe and effective vaccine for HIV prevention globally.


Khanyisile Khumalo
Khanyisile Khumalo

Khanyisile Khumalo

Recruiter/Counsellor- PHRU, Soweto-Bara CRS, Johannesburg, South Africa

After matriculation at age 18, I joined a community policing forum we call a “youth desk” at the local Moroka Police station. Then we were invited to attend a workshop by PHRU on education about HIV Research. It was in 2007 when we established the first Adolescent CAB for PHRU and that was the start of my passion for HIV research. From then on, we were educated on vaccines and a whole lot of other things about HIV research. That is how I learned about the HVTN and the work that it does and funds. Since then we have been going into our local communities and educating them about the HIV research, and I work as a recruiter for the pre-teen study introducing adolescents and teens to HIV research.

Though I studied for a diploma in journalism, I continued to work with PHRU and was later hired full time as a recruiter for HVTN vaccine studies in 2016. I have been working directly with HVTN since then, and I have to say I have learned a lot.  I totally look forward to many more years with HVTN for the work that we do is incredible and very important. Meeting so many different people who teach you new and interesting things has been amazing, and the participants we recruit and build research relationships with has been bliss. Something personal that people may not know about me, is that I am strict and disciplined, and I was raised that way.


Erick Murayari

CAB Member ACSA Iquitos CRS, Iquitos, Peru

Activist and founder of the Homosexual Community Esperanza Loreto Region (CHERL)


 “WE CAME OUT OF CLANDESTINITY TO DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY"

"When I began in 1998, discrimination was very high, and in addition to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that had a great impact on our community, many friends and acquaintances died, abandoned, without treatment. Many of them went to the shelter "Something Beautiful for God" for medical and human service attention, but the needs could not be covered, so this was motivation to help friends and get involved. Erick, affectionately known as “Guada” (Erick goes by he/him or she/her) began to work in different aspects, as a small and visible group within the community.

In 2003, Erick along with others decided to form an alternate organization called, "Homosexual Community Esperanza Region Loreto" (CHERL), and, “…during these times, you could not dress as a woman because of discrimination and hatred, including thrown stones and homophobia and stigmatization. It was believed that we (LGBT people) were all carriers of AIDS, before we armed ourselves with courage to defend our rights, defend human rights, and have a political and social impact on our community, says Erick. This commitment led her to volunteer for the research work carried out in Iquitos by the Asociación Civil Selva Amazónica y HVTN. Erick adds, "We won spaces at the cost of effort and courage; some media even invited us to introduce ourselves as weird beings or mock us, but with perseverance and good arguments we won little by little the respect of the community". The work and perseverance has resulted in progress however, "…now we are invited to universities, we are interviewed, including the Technical School of Police, those who chased us before now invite us to give conferences with the police students. Erick Murayari, with his experience and perseverance, is now a member of the Community Advisory Committee of the ACSA CRS, where his contributions are valued and appreciated, "We follow the efforts into a vaccine for HIV prevention, this is very important. Unfortunately the pandemic is maintained and the face of HIV is getting younger, now the population in general is involved and we will continue in the effort because I am convinced that with the organization and work we will overcome barriers, overcome difficulties and work for a better world and future for all."