Francis Kiweewa

Francis Kiweewa

My Name is Francis Kiweewa, a Ugandan physician (MBChB, MMED, and MPH). I received my Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery (2000) and a Master of Medicine in Internal Medicine (2007) from Makerere University. I also hold a Master of Public Health (2009) from Harvard University. I am currently working with the Makerere University Walter Reed Project in Kampala as the Head of Research and Scientific Affairs.

In this capacity I am responsible for providing technical and scientific oversight, and leadership to the institutional research program. Specifically, I am developing research idea/proposal writing and capacity building activities that include mentorship in scientific writing skills, fostering collaborative research activities, establishing research policies and guidelines, and engaging in other activities that boost the scientific research agenda.

I also serve as an IRB member of the Joint Clinical Research Centre Institutional Review Board as well as an honorary lecturer at the Makerere University School of Public Health in the department of Health Policy Management and Planning. I am currently implementing a 5-year NIH capacity building grant; one of the aims is to expand a pool of well-trained investigators that are able to design, implement, and publish research findings. I currently provide significant research support, which includes serving as PI on multiple clinical trials and epidemiological studies.

I got involved in HIV vaccine-related research as recent as 2013, and I am currently involved with clinical studies that directly or indirectly support the HIV vaccine research agenda. I am the site PI for RV 398, a multi-country clinical trial to evaluate the safety and virologic effect of a human monoclonal antibody, VRC-HIVMAB060-00-AB (VRC01), with broad HIV-1 neutralizing activity, administered intravenously to adults during early acute HIV infection. The broad aim of this proof of concept study is to evaluate the impact of administering a broadly neutralizing antibody on viremia in acute HIV infection and to explore its impact on the establishment of the latent reservoir. This trial will inform considerations for the development of the mAb for use in therapeutic settings, including administration in early and chronic HIV infection. The RV 398 trial is a sub-study of RV 217, a multi-country, non-randomized cohort that follows a group of high-risk volunteers in Africa and Southeast Asia, tracking their HIV status and characterizing their progression through the acute stages of HIV infection.

I also provide leadership for the RV 419 study, which is designed to characterize HIV-specific immunity by immunophenotyping and immunochemistry in peripheral blood, CSF, rectal mucosa, genital mucosa, and lymph node samples; and for the RV 432 study, which is designed to improve retention in HIV Care and treatment services through the development of a Network of ART Clinics within the fishing communities on Koome Island, Uganda.

The central theme in all these studies is the focus on high risk populations for HIV infection and studying events that occur shortly after one has acquired HIV (acute and early HIV infection). It is postulated that the early interplay between transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses and host innate and adaptive immunity may shape the ultimate disease burden and outcome within an individual. These host-viral dynamics have implications for vaccine and HIV cure research design as events that occur early in HIV infection and may determine how well the virus is neutralized or how quickly and the extent to which viral reservoirs grow.

I started medical school with intentions of a career in surgery. While in school, I took an elective (volunteering) at Rakai District Hospital (Rakai District) in 1998 for additional practical training. Rakai district turned out to be  an epicenter for the HIV epidemic in Uganda at the time, with very high prevalence of late stage AIDS. Patient after patient that came to the hospital was HIV-infected, many presenting late. With no ARVs at the time (this was 1998/1999 in my 3rd year of medical school) many died. After graduation, I decided to go back and work in the hospital. This decision marked a turning point in my career. Motivated to change a seemingly hopeless situation, I became deeply involved in caring for patients living with HIV and later became actively involved in efforts to prevent new HIV infections. My research interests focus on preventing new HIV infections, and promoting wellbeing for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Being able to make a humble yet significant contribution to the local and international effort to roll back HIV/AIDS.

  1. The more you stay engaged as a scientist the more you discover how much there is for one to still learn in your field. It is thus important to remain humble and open to learning more.
  2. Your relevance to your chosen field is driven by your contributions to the field.
  3. You learn more by mentoring others. Make mentoring the upcoming scientists one of your primary priorities as a scientist!

Pay attention to the lessons I have learned (listed above).

Key Papers

  1. F Matovu Kiweewa, KK Mugwanya and F Kiweewa. Anti-Retroviral–Based HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for Women: Recent Advances and Next Steps. Book Chapter; InTechopen. February 22, 2017 ISBN 978-953-51-2962-2, Print ISBN 978-953-51-2961-5
  2. K Church, F Kiweewa, A Dasgupta, M Mwangome, E Mpandaguta, FX Gómez-Olivé, S Oti,  J Todd, A Wringe, E Geubbels, A Crampin, J Nakiyingi-Miiro, C Hayashi, M Njage, RG Wagner, A Ario, SD Makombe, O Mugurungi, B Zaba. A comparative analysis of national HIV policies in six African countries with generalised epidemics: Influences on access to testing, access to treatment and retention in care. WHO Bulletin
  3. E McRobie, A Wringe, J Nakiyingi-Miiro, F Kiweewa, T Lutalo, G Nakigozi, J Todd, JW Eaton, B Zaba and K Church. HIV policy implementation in two health and demographic surveillance sites in Uganda: findings from a national policy review, health facility surveys and key informant interviews. Implementation Science 201712:47.DOI: 1186/s13012-017-0574-z

This section showcases early career and senior scientists, advocates and clinicians working in HIV vaccine research and development, who will be sharing their career paths, stories and motivations. If you would like to share your journey, please contact us at