Pearson M'modzi is a senior community research officer at UNC Project Lilongwe in Malawi. He has been a lead community educator for the AMP studies (HVTN 703/HPTN 081 and HVTN 704/HPTN 085) and HPTN 084 (LIFE). Pearson also serves as a community working group representative for HPTN 084 and a member of the HPTN Community Working Group Steering Committee.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy explaining study protocols to stakeholders, discussing science, and packaging it so communities can understand the science. Working with the global community and learning how other countries implement studies has been a great experience; I now have friends from all corners of the world, a phone call away, whom I call on and share experiences.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
Seeing new products moving through the research process and finally being approved by the FDA gives me a sense of fulfillment. I play a role in this process, and the efforts we implement that lead to such achievements with global impact motivate me to be part of more research.
What has surprised you most about working in HIV prevention research?
What surprised me most about HIV prevention research is how much communities want to be part of the research studies—going out into the communities and talking about studies that I anticipated would be challenging for people to comprehend and support.
What has been one of your proudest moments as a member of the HPTN?
Being involved with HPTN 084 study from day one to finally having such successful results lead to cabotegravir's approval by the FDA. It was gratifying. I was proud to have been part of the team.
What inspires you?
Being part of a global community of researchers working on studies with a common goal of finding new products and methods of preventing HIV infections. When I retire, I will go and rest knowing that I played a part in finding solutions to public health problems; I will be able to say, “nkhondo yolimbana ndi HIV ndinamenya nawo” (I fought in the war against HIV).
What advice do you have for new HPTN members?
We come together from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds and cultures; what unites us is our quest to contribute science to make better methods and products for preventing new HIV infections. Do your best, and always know that your contributions to research count!