Announcing the Recipients for the 2018 International Pilot Awards

The UW/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) is delighted to announce this year's International Pilot Awards. The International Pilot Awards are for development and implementation of innovative and collaborative HIV-related research projects in developing countries by junior faculty. 

We are excited to announce that we have chosen the following awardees:

Zaynab Essack, PhD
Senior Research Specialist, Human and Social Development, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

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Title of Project: Acceptability and preference of community-based approaches for PrEP delivery among young men and women in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

How will the award further your project? This study aims to conduct formative research to understand young peoples’ acceptance and preferences for different pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) delivery approaches. The underpinning hypothesis is that incorporating user-preferences on approaches for PrEP delivery will strengthen PrEP scale-up, uptake and adherence. PrEP is efficacious and licensed in South Africa, but uptake remains low. PrEP needs to be accelerated to simpler, decentralized systems especially given the already overburdened healthcare system in South Africa. ‘Ultimately, this formative data will be used in the design of a randomized study on Community-based PrEP that aims to increase coverage, uptake, and retention on PrEP in South Africa.

Alexander Lankowski, MD
Senior Infectious Diseases Fellow, UW Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases

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Title of Project: Using sexual affiliation network analysis to identify sites for HIV testing and linkage outreach to high-risk MSM and transgender women in Lima, Peru.

How will the award further your project? This award enables us to conduct important preliminary work that will directly inform the development of novel interventions aimed at increasing HIV testing and linkage to care among high-risk populations in Lima, Peru; in so doing, the award will also serve to foster ongoing partnership with our collaborating organizations and colleagues in Peru.

Alastair Van Heerden, PhD
Research Director, Human and Social Development, Human Science Research Council


Title of Project: Pilot testing a conversational agent trained to provide a rapid HIV counseling and testing service.

How will the award further your project? This funding will allow me to take my initial proof of concept and test the idea in the real world. This information will help me improve and fine tune the HIV counselling conversational agent.

Anjuli Wagner, MPH, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Washington, Department of Epidemiology

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Co-PI: Irene Njuguna
PhD Student, University of Washington, Department of Epidemiology

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Title of Project: WhatsApp focus groups and respondent-driven sampling: novel approaches to engage diverse adolescents.

How will the award further your project? This CFAR international pilot award will allow Drs. Wagner and Njuguna to begin a new methods project that leverages a popular mobile-based communication application, WhatsApp, to engage with adolescents outside of a clinical setting in Kenya. This represents a new direction for this junior team of researchers, who have worked together for 6 years on pediatric and adolescent HIV testing studies. They are joined by a group of several junior researchers who have diverse experience in qualitative methods, virtual focus groups, respondent-driven sampling for hard to reach populations, WhatsApp-based interventions for adolescents, and costing expertise.