Brenda Gati Mirembe

Dr. Brenda Gati Mirembe, HPTN 111 co-chair, is a senior Investigator for MU-JHU CARE LTD in Kampala, Uganda. She has more than 14 years of experience in primary HIV prevention among adolescent girls and women. Dr. Mirembe has supported several studies, including the safety of long-acting cabotegravir injection among adolescent girls (HPTN 084-01). HPTN 111 (TRIM) will assess the feasibility and acceptability of barber-led interventions for HIV prevention among heterosexual men in Uganda.

What attracted you to a career in HIV prevention research?

In 2005, I worked on my first HIV prevention trial under the Makerere University CONRAD Microbicide Center, looking at the safety and efficacy of a cellulose sulfate gel for HIV prevention among women at high risk for HIV acquisition. My experience with the trial participants brought into stark relief the several challenges women faced in their efforts to find ways of protecting themselves from HIV acquisition, which stemmed from a myriad of social, economic, and cultural issues. While the study product was not efficacious, the study experience lit a fire under me, and I proposed to continue looking for opportunities to work on research studies of a similar nature that were looking at HIV prevention options for women. I was privileged to join MU-JHU under the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), and the rest, as they say, is history.

What has been one of your proudest moments as a member of the HPTN?

One of my proudest moments as a member of the HPTN is becoming co-chair for HPTN 111. Although it’s a single-site study, the experience gained differs from the investigator of record experiences I have gained over the years. It will set me up for more opportunities to chair even bigger protocols. MU-JHU rejoined the Network under HPTN 084, and I must say I have learned a lot. Also, being part of some of the Network committees, like the Adolescent Scientific Committee, has given me more exposure to adolescent HIV prevention research.

What has been the biggest challenge working in HIV prevention research?

Adherence to study products, especially those not provider-dependent, has been a challenge in most of the HIV prevention trials I have worked on. Sexually transmitted infections management is also still a challenge that needs to be addressed, given that in most trials, we work with women or adolescents at high risk for HIV acquisition.

Who has been the biggest influence in your career? Why?

There are several. First and foremost, Dr. Florence Mirembe brought me on board the cellulose sulphate study. I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Lut Van Damme, where I developed my skills in conducting clinical trials. I later joined MU-JHU Research Collaboration, and I have since worked with Dr. Clemensia Nakabiito on MTN, IMPAACT, and HPTN prevention studies, a hallmark of my career. At MU-JHU, I started as a research medical officer and rose to become the investigator I am today. I would be remiss not to recognize Dr. Philippa Musoke, the executive director of MU-JHU, who has allowed me to work and develop my career within MU-JHU, a great institution I am proud to be part of.

What advice do you have for new HPTN members?

Stay curious and interested.

What volunteering or passion projects do you do outside of work?

I love fashion and design, so when I get a family member or friend with a function like a wedding, I am always happy to be part of the dress design color choice. I also love interior designing, changing the appearance of spaces, etc.