Elizabeth Shambadza (ES) Magada, MA, is a community liaison officer (CLO) for the Parirenyatwa and Spilhaus clinical research sites in Zimbabwe. She has spent more than 19 years working in large and complex HIV treatment, care, and behavior change projects under the University of Zimbabwe in collaboration with the University of California San-Francisco (UZ-UCSF).
How did you first get involved with the HPTN?
Having worked as a counsellor for UZ-UCSF for four years under the hormonal contraceptive study and its ancillary study on genital shedding, I was hired by the HPTN in 2003 as a senior counsellor for HPTN 052 at the Parirenyatwa CRS. During this time, HIV sero-discordant couples were considered a unique, hidden and vulnerable population which encountered many peculiar challenges. Therefore, recruitment efforts required functional strategies involving intensive and appropriate networking in order to obtain the cohort within required timelines. This led to intensive partnership with HIV service organizations, establishment of a voluntary couples counselling program on site, use of relevant media services, and the establishment of the HIV discordant support group, which was the first HIV discordant support group in Zimbabwe. Besides the support group offering psychosocial support and education to couples, it proved to be a useful recruitment strategy as well. Due to all these efforts, the Harare site received an award for recruitment efforts in 2009.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do in support of HPTN?
The most challenging task is educating the community on a new protocol with a new study design and investigational product because you are dealing with different people from different backgrounds who have different learning abilities, multifaceted perceptions, beliefs and attitudes.
What do you think will change about HIV prevention over the next five years?
I foresee combined HIV prevention playing a pivotal role, with the use of PrEP as it becomes available in resource limited settings like Zimbabwe. There will be more choices in biomedical prevention given ongoing antibody mediated prevention and vaccine research.
What do you wish other people knew about you?
I pride myself on my customer service skills and the ability to multi-task. When I am working on a project, I do not want just to meet deadlines, rather I prefer to complete the given project well ahead of schedule. This is evidenced by the recruitment in HPTN 076, which was achieved two months before the deadline.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
Though I am trained as a social scientist, I have been able to support community education, study participant recruitment and retention, counselling, data collection, translations, and even scientific writing.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
It is absolutely healthy for me to take a break from my busy schedule for a while. I usually attend Bible school fellowship, visit the gym, and plan and prepare delicious meals for my family.