Blia Yang is currently the project manager for the intervention component of HPTN 071 in South Africa at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis (TB) Centre, Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa. HPTN 071 is a three-arm community randomized trial in 12 communities in Zambia and nine communities in South Africa, with an estimated total study population of about 1 million people. Blia moved to South Africa in 2009 and has been working on HIV prevention and TB studies for more than nine years.
How did you first get involved with the HPTN?
I was working on a Zambia and South Africa TB and HIV reduction study when Professor Nulda Beyers, at that time, the director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, and currently one of the site principal investigators of HPTN 071, mentioned one of the trial countries would be South Africa.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do in support of the HPTN?
One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of a large trial such as HPTN 071 is the numerous stakeholders that are involved, such as government, community, academic, and funding partners. Everyone has different priorities and it has been very rewarding to see how the different stakeholders have come together to be able to implement such a large HIV trial on the ground.
What do you think will change about HIV prevention over the next five years?
An important aspect of HPTN 071 is HIV prevention services door-to-door in the communities through the HIV counsellors, known as community HIV-care providers, or CHiPs. With universal testing and treatment, a movement towards the decentralization of HIV care and treatment services into the communities of townships and villages, may be able to access populations that wouldn’t have otherwise been reached. As interventions such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) become more readily available in high burden countries, it is hopeful that adolescent females and young women will have access to these services, and the HIV incidence among them will decline.
What do you wish other people knew about your work?
There are times we encounter clients who are living with HIV in addition to numerous social and economic challenges including substance abuse, lack of food, and intimate partner violence. These challenges affect linkages to HIV care, so it is important to address HIV through a holistic care approach, and I believe this is something that needs more work.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I am the middle child of nine siblings and to date I have over 19 nieces and nephews! And we also have great-nieces and great-nephews as well!
What do you do when you aren't working?
I practice yoga and enjoy hiking in beautiful Cape Town!