Sarah Fidler, MBBS, PhD, FRCP, is currently working in the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London as a clinical academic; she is a Professor and Consultant Physician in HIV Medicine. Sarah has been involved in designing and leading HIV international clinical studies for participants identified in acute HIV infection, and small proof of concept studies in HIV cure. She is co-Principal Investigator of HPTN 071 (PopART), a community-based, randomized study evaluating the impact of a combination HIV prevention package on HIV incidence. This study is the largest community-randomized trial – total estimated population 1 million – testing the impact of a combination HIV prevention package that includes a universal HIV test and treat strategy that is being conducted across 21 high HIV burden, resource-limited urban settings in the Western Cape of South Africa and Zambia.
How did you first get involved with the HPTN?
I had of course been very aware of all the amazing wealth and breadth of HIV prevention work of HPTN well in advance of becoming personally involved. I first began working with HPTN in the summer of 2011. This was when we had just been awarded the initial NIH grant to support the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial application that Richard (Hayes), myself and the team submitted in response to a specific call for a combination HIV prevention trial. The HPTN, led then by Sten Vermond, Quarraisha Karim, along with Mike Cohen and Wafaa El Sadr spoke with us at the International AIDS Society (IAS) meeting in Rome explaining that HPTN would adopt the PopART trial as an HPTN study.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do in support of the HPTN?
The greatest challenge initially was remembering all the HPTN acronyms, and study numbers! The HPTN 071 (PopART) trial has been a fantastic experience but as with any large international study, with multiple partners, implementers and political and financial complexities has had multiple challenges. In fact, the HPTN and all its core partners have helped us negotiate many of these challenges as a team.
What do you think will change about HIV prevention over the next five years?
I am very hopeful that as approaches to encouraging HIV testing and universal treatment for all people living with HIV with additional prevention components including targeted pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and vaccination HIV incidence will dramatically fall. The more these interventions can become self-motivated and self-accessed, through for example self-testing kits, non-facility based ART dispensing, the more individual confidence might grow and hopefully limit HIV related stigma. In a perfect world a preventative vaccine will be the next opportunity perhaps used alongside PrEP for those at risk communities.
What do you wish other people knew about your work?
I wish that international funders, global policy makers and national and international agencies can see the work of our Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs) teams in country and so can truly understand the differences they have been able to achieve not only in testing and ART coverage but also in being welcomed, accepted and reducing stigma within communities most affected by HIV. They truly represent the face of modern HIV intervention and innovations in communities most affected by HIV.
What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
I grew upon a small fishing town in the North of England (Hull). Through the past 20 years of my career I have worked part-time to give me the opportunity to spend time with my family.
What do you do when you aren't working?
I run, read, love music, to travel and spend time with my family (three very patient and supportive grown-up children and my husband).