Pamela Thandeka Tshandu, an HPTN 083-01 and HPTN 084-01 protocol team member, is a community liaison officer at Wits RHI in Johannesburg. Her work focuses on promoting the inclusion of all populations in HIV/AIDS prevention research, ensuring clinical trials are innovative, efficient, and timely. The merging of her research experience and advocacy expertise comes into play when she brings forth community concerns to the researchers, making sure their voices are heard. As a community liaison officer, she oversees community and stakeholder engagement, maintaining good retention in studies. Tshandu is particularly passionate about stakeholder engagement; it offers her the platform to educate communities on the latest research developments. She recently co-authored the HPTN-084-01 abstract entitled "In the Face of a Global Pandemic and Social Barriers, Cisgender Female Adolescents Enrolled in HIV Prevention Trial HPTN 084-1 in Sub-Saharan Africa." The abstract was recently accepted as an oral presentation at the 2021 International Workshop on HIV & Adolescence.
What attracted you to a career in HIV prevention research?
I am passionate about women's issues and believe their voices get silenced. Plus, more women than men acquire HIV. Women must be educated and empowered in sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV prevention.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy community and stakeholder engagement as it affords me the platform to engage with community members, civil society, and community gatekeepers. These key opinion leaders have a thirst for knowledge, ask probing questions, and show a deep love and concern for their immediate groups and communities.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
I believe in the ideology that an HIV-free generation is possible, and I want to ensure I become a crucial part of that process that sees to the fruition of this vision.
What has surprised you most about working in HIV prevention research?
What has surprised me and touched me is the severity and intensity of how vulnerable women continue to be in contracting this virus. The circumstances in which many women find themselves, leaving them without a voice in the matter, is saddening.
What inspires you?
Ordinary women inspire me. The ones who hurry to catch the morning bus on their way to work, the ones who sell fruits and vegetables on the side of the road, the women who stay at home all day attending to the household care work of which they are unpaid, the ones who attain academic success against all odds. These women’s resilience, enthusiasm for life, and faith they have in a better tomorrow are genuinely remarkable. I want to empower these women with the knowledge they need to protect themselves from getting HIV.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I am a dedicated and self-proclaimed bookworm. I find pleasure in the escape that reading offers, and most importantly, I find joy in the education that books provide. My latest read was ‘’Beyond Belief’’ by the phenomenal author, David Yallop. This book talks about the Catholic church and the child abuse scandal.