Botswana Harvard Health Partnership (BHP) investigators continue to highlight Botswana's growing influence in global health research, as five of its investigators have been elected to key committees within the Advancing Clinical Therapeutics Globally for HIV/AIDS and Other Infections (ACTG) network.  The ACTG is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Division of AIDS (NIAID) and is the oldest and largest funded such clinical trials network with 65 sites in over 15 countries focused on HIV and other infectious diseases. The election of the BHP staff enhances a fundamental move towards diversity, equity, inclusivity and the representation of African researchers in shaping global research on HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The ACTG recently changed its name from AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) to Advancing Clinical Therapeutics Globally for HIV/AIDS and Other Infections in recognition of its research portfolio expanding beyond HIV/AIDS, however the acronym ACTG remaining unchanged.


The five BHP staff members have been elected to serve in the General Committee membership positions on the ACTG leadership, science, laboratory and resource committees and are Dr Unoda Chakalisa, Dr Ponego Ponatshego, Bonolo Phinius, Natasha Moraka and Otwell Elias. They will each serve a one-year term from December 2023 through November 30, 2025. The results of the committee membership elections were announced on January 29, 2024 by the ACTG Network’s Principal Investigator and Chair of the Executive Committee, Judith S. Currier, MD.


Announcing the results of the membership elections to ACTG membership, Dr Currier explained that “the nominations were received from several highly experienced and qualified US and non-US international investigators and staff, both internal and external to the ACTG.”


Dr Unoda Chakalisa who is the Gaborone Clinical Research Site Coordinator and Study Coordinator for ACTG studies at the BHP Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) has been elected to serve as an Investigator in the Reservoirs Remission and Cure Transformative Science Group (Cure TSG). Her CTU colleague, Dr Ponego Ponatshego PhD Research Fellow, also Molepolole Clinical Research Site Leader, and Natasha Moraka have also been elected into the same committee as investigators.


Another PhD Research Fellow, Bonolo Phinius is serving in the Hepatitis Transformative Science Group (Hep TSG) as an investigator while Laboratory Coordinator, Otwell Elias has been elected as an ACTG Non-Voting Member in the Laboratory Technologist Committee (LTC). Previously in the term that ended in November 2024, BHP Laboratory Director, Prof. Sikhulile Moyo served in the Laboratory Technologist committee as a non-voting member while Dr Motswedi Anderson was an investigator in the Hepatitis Transformative Science Group.


The election of BHP investigators to ACTG committees underscores the growing global recognition of the expertise and contributions of BHP researchers in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other public health challenges. By actively participating in these committees, the BHP investigators will have the opportunity to influence research priorities, study designs, and clinical trial protocols, bringing the African setting into consideration.