Josephine Ayankoya, MPH, is the Community Programs Manager for Bridge HIV, a research unit of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. In this role, she leads the organization's recruitment, education, and engagement efforts for NIH-funded research studies.
How did you first become involved with the HPTN?
I first got involved with the HPTN in 2012, as a Training and Capacity Building Coordinator for the Black AIDS Institute. I led the organization’s participation in the Be the Generation Bridge project, an initiative to promote awareness and understanding of biomedical research in communities disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. One of my first projects was managing a delegation of African American health educators and advocates attending the HPTN Annual Meeting, who were tasked with disseminating the information learned to their local communities. Since December 2015, I have had the pleasure of working with the HPTN as a member of Bridge HIV Clinical Research Site (CRS).
What do you find most challenging about the work you do in support of the HPTN?
The most challenging part of my work is also one of the most exciting: HIV prevention research is ever-evolving. The difficulty of this rapid evolution is that my community (as well as other communities that I serve) is often unaware of advances in biomedical prevention modalities. Whether hosting forums, talking to people at street fairs, or conversing with friends, I still find that a lot of people have never heard of PrEP. This challenge is a source of inspiration, as I am constantly reminded of how important it is to share information with underserved and marginalized communities.
What do you think will change about HIV prevention over the next five years?
Over the next five years, I believe HIV prevention will become more interdisciplinary. As we continue to find effective medicines and methods of administering them, it will be critical to ensure that people in other disciplines (such as education, social work, medicine, nursing, and public policy) are informed and invested in this progress. The more people know about biomedical prevention methods, the more equipped they will be to incorporate them into their lives, personally and professionally.
I also hope that in the next five years, the biomedical HIV prevention community will continue its push to increase collaboration with social and behavioral researchers. By demonstrating that we are equally invested in understanding and responding to lessons learned from socio-contextual research, we will increase the uptake and acceptability of biomedical prevention modalities.
What do you wish other people knew about your work?
I am honored to be a part of a global community of educators, advocates, investigators, and clinicians that work collectively. I wish people knew that the advent of new medicine requires international collaboration. From Africa to the Americas to Asia, HIV prevention research is possible because of stakeholders across the world. This global connection is one of the most rewarding components of my work.
What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
For several years, as a pre-teen and teenager, I attended performing arts camp! (Yes, band camp.) I started playing trombone and piano in the 5th grade, and continued with trombone until my junior year of high school. I loved playing music, and I have dabbled in many performing arts from childhood to college.
What do you do when you aren't working?
I am currently working on launching a fashion company that uses African textiles. I have desired to start a clothing line for years, so I am really excited about this endeavor. I also love to attend concerts and museums any chance I get. Overall, I spend my free time enjoying life and strategizing ways to change the world for the better.