Miria Chitukuta

Miria Chitukuta, a member of the HPTN 084 and HPTN 084-01 study protocol teams, is a social and behavioral scientist at the University of Zimbabwe Clinical Trials Research Centre (UZCTRC) in Harare, Zimbabwe. She has extensive experience coordinating and implementing qualitative research programs and has supported several Phase III HIV prevention clinical trials focusing on adolescent girls and women. 

What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?

As a behavioral scientist, I enjoy being at the interface between HIV clinical trial research and the delivery of HIV prevention products. I enjoy interacting directly with individuals who may benefit from HIV prevention research, particularly adolescent girls and women. This privilege allows me to learn about their hopes, fears, and aspirations during study participation and their needs and preferences regarding HIV prevention technologies. Eliciting participant feedback strengthens the implementation of HIV prevention trials by ensuring high participant satisfaction, retention, and product adherence. Furthermore, my career allows me to network, collaborate with other researchers, and publish findings from my work. An example is an abstract entitled “Location of Adolescent CAB-LA Delivery: Insights from HPTN 084-01 Study Participants and Parents in 3 African Nations,” which I co-authored and was accepted as a poster presentation at the 2023 International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) conference.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?

I recall an advertisement on ZBC-TV in 2004 where a man living with HIV said, “Handisi muDepature lounge, ndiri kurarama neHIV,” which translates to “I am not to dying yet but, I am just living with HIV.” Those days, there were no antiretroviral drugs, having HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, and many relatives of mine died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since then, the desire for an HIV-free world has been my greatest motivation.

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

I am proud to be part of the HPTN 084 study team researching the long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA), which was recently approved for use as PrEP. I am pleased that the inclusion of CAB-LA in the catalog of HIV prevention products provides more choice to vulnerable individuals who need PrEP most, particularly adolescent girls and young women who continue to be disproportionally affected by HIV.

Who has been the most significant influence in your career? Why?

Vulnerable adolescent girls and women have been the most significant influence in my career in HIV prevention research. Empowering them with HIV prevention technologies may translate to a healthy nation as the empowerment cascades to the grassroots.

What inspires you?

My greatest inspiration is making a difference in people’s lives. My involvement in HIV prevention work allows me to apply socio-behavioral science methodologies to inform the development of acceptable HIV prevention products that people are willing to use.

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

I have a passion for gardening. During my spare time, I like to get my hands dirty in the garden, where I grow organic vegetables.