Steering Group is a user-driven virtual network. Its activities are coordinated by a Steering Group nominated by users, and implemented by rotating Working Groups, whose membership is open to all.

The Steering Group sets direction and provides leadership to the virtual network and to the Working Groups that make it run. The Steering Group:

  1. Defines overall strategy and priority areas for and appoints working groups to address each priority.
  2. Cultivates networking opportunities and identifies opportunities to extend the reach of the network.
  3. Increases the visibility of HIV vaccine research and development work done in Africa, and of

Members of the inaugural Steering Group were selected from among a large number of highly qualified candidates, nominated by the community, to represent different specialties in HIV vaccine R&D and to ensure diversity in geographic, gender and career-stage representation.  The members of the inaugural Steering Group are:

Prince Ngongo Bahati is the executive director, managing global policy and advocacy at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in Africa.  Prince coordinates IAVI’s efforts to increase sustainable capacity for HIV research in the developing world, accelerate the translation of research findings into policies and practices and ensure country and civil society ownership of HIV R&D, including public-private-partnerships for product development.  He is currently the chair of Research and Innovation Task Team developing the Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework, and a member of the EAC Working Group on HIV, TB and STI Research Priorities and Strategic Plans.  Prior to joining IAVI, Prince worked as the Africa consultancy services manager for Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health, where he managed consultancies and technical assistance projects to establish national guidelines and build capacity for HIV counseling, care and treatment in Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia.  He also served as the data quality audit team leader for the GAVI Alliance/UNICEF-funded Expanded Programs for Immunization in Central African Republic, Guinea-Conakry and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sheila Balinda is a postdoctoral fellow in an IAVI-VISTA project.  Her research interests include understanding further HIV-1 transmitter/founder viruses (A,D & A/D), including elucidation of their genetic identity and biological properties, which is crucial for setting a scientific rational for both vaccine and other therapeutic interventions.  Sheila is committed to promoting cutting-edge science, with the aim of improving the lives of people, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, through research, education, student supervision, mentorship and service.

Fatim Cham-Jallow has more than more than 21 years experience in public health laboratory systems strengthening, infectious disease immunology and HIV vaccine research and development.  A passionate advocate for strengthening public health laboratory systems, especially in the African region, she has worked to implement quality laboratory systems to support HIV/Ebola clinical trials, HIV testing and monitoring, HIV drug resistance surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) for STIs and laboratory preparedness for outbreak responses.  Fatim has held several posts with The Medical Research Council (MRC), The Gambia and The Henry F Jackson Foundation (HJF) for the Advancement of Military Medicine.  At HJF, she was assigned to the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP) where she helped to lead the development, implementation and evaluation of laboratory services in support of HIV/Ebola vaccine and clinical trials.  In her current position as WHO technical adviser for HIV laboratory at the WHO AFRO, Fatima is responsible for supporting the strengthening of public health laboratories and identifying best practices to assure quality of HIV diagnosis and monitoring in the Africa region, towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment targets.

Tian Johnson is a human rights advocate whose career has spanned the development sector in South Africa, with a particular focus on women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Tian documented the history and evolution of the Thutuzela Care Centers in the Western Cape and co facilitated the production of several in-country UNGASS Shadow Reports.  As consultant programme director for Just Detention International, he worked on the conceptual integration of HIV prevention in the context of detention in South Africa. He is a founding member of Project ARM (the African Rectal Microbicide Movement), GLAM (Global Lube Access Movement), the International Universal Access to Female Condoms Advocacy Platform, convener of the 2014 HIV Prevention Research Advocacy Expert Group and a member of the Global Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group.

The Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group (VARG) is a global team of AIDS prevention research advocates that play a critical liaison role in a highly complex scientific field.  Since 2013, the VARG has convened virtually to receive research updates, discuss advocates’ perspectives and priorities and move forward key actions.  These efforts have coalesced a team of vaccine-specific advocates, built VARG members’ skills and understanding and prepared them to more effectively engage within traditionally scientific spaces. VARG members use those skills and capacity to understand vaccine research, engage with communities and hold networks, civil society and trial sites accountable.  As part of the Steering Group, the VARG hopes to accelerate and amplify the aspirations of communities across the globe, in all of their diversity, to realize a world where advocates are passionate about and able to defend science, and have realistic, accessible and usable products to manage and end diseases.

Pontiano Kaleebu is the director of the Medical Research Council / Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) Research Unit on AIDS and deputy director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).  He also heads the Basic Sciences Programme and is a founder and former director (2001-2010) of the UVRI-IAVI HIV Vaccine Program.  He is honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Makerere University, College of Health Sciences.  Kaleebu has served on many committees including the WHO HIV Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Coordinating Committee, the UNAIDS Science Panel, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition Board, the NIAID HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Strategic Working Group and CHAVI-Immune Discovery Scientific Advisory Board and was chair of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP).  He is Uganda’s representative at the EDCTP General Assembly and chairs the National HIV Drug Resistance Working Group. Kaleebu’s main research interests include understanding protective immune responses, HIV diversity and resistance to ARVs.

Hannah Kibuuka is executive director of Makerere University Walter Reed Project, where she oversees administration and managerial activities of the project and provides scientific leadership for the implementation of its clinical trials and clinical operations.  Hannah has been a PI on both phase I and II HIV vaccine trials and phase I Ebola/Marburg vaccine trial.  She is a site PI for a Most at Risk Population (MARPs) cohort study, which is determining HIV prevalence, incidence, cohort retention and host genetics and viral diversity in East Africa and Thailand, and testing interventions in very early acute HIV infections arising out of the cohort study.  Hannah has thirty years of clinical experience in HIV, TB and STI management, dating from 1987, and more than 13 years experience in HIV vaccine research.

William Kilembe leads public health programs and infectious disease research in parts of Zambia that are supported by Zambia Emory HIV Research Project (ZEHRP).  He has also been instrumental in International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)-sponsored AIDS vaccine trials conducted in Zambia and has served as Principal Investigator or co-PI on various studies that have contributed to AIDS vaccine design.  These include studies to characterize transmitted viruses; identify, isolate, and characterize broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to HIV; long term follow up of previous AIDS vaccine trial participants; and studies to determine markers of disease progression in recent HIV seroconverters from cohort studies and AIDS vaccine trials.

Amapola Manrique manages the African AIDS Vaccine Virtual Network ( and supports program development and operations of the HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) conference on behalf of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise.  In her previous position as Enterprise associate director, she oversaw planning and delivery of the Enterprise’s programs, workplans and budgets.  At the Enterprise she has organized many meetings, webinars and trainings designed to achieve consensus and share information amongst a variety of stakeholders or provide capacity-building to early-career investigators or those from low- and middle-income countries.  Prior to joining the Enterprise secretariat, Amapola was the science officer of the AIDS Vaccine 2008 conference in South Africa, which brought together approximately 1,000 scientists, community advocates, funders, and policy makers from around the world.

Penny Moore is a reader and DST/NRF South African research chair of virus-host dynamics at the University of the Witwatersrand and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.  She holds a joint post as a research associate at CAPRISA, University of KwaZulu-Natal.  Penny’s research focuses on HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies, and their interplay with the evolving virus.  Recent studies have highlighted the role of viral escape in creating new epitopes and immunotypes, thereby driving the development of neutralization breadth, with direct implications for HIV vaccine design.  Penny has published more than 65 papers in journals including PLoS Pathogens, PNAS, Nature Medicine and Nature.  She has a strong commitment to capacity building, and currently supervises ten graduate students.  Her work is funded through the South African MRC, the SA Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation, and the US National Institutes of Health.

Francine Ntoumi is senior lecturer in immunology at the University Marien Ngouabi (Republic of Congo), privat dozentin (associate professor) in human parasitology at University of Tübingen (Germany) and a member of the board of directors of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).  During her career, she has trained many African scientists of different nationalities in immunology and molecular epidemiology.  She has worked in Gabon, Germany and Republic of Congo as a researcher, and also held managerial positions in international organizations in the Netherlands and Tanzania from 2005 to 2010, where she was the first African leader of the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM).  Since 2009, Francine has been highly involved in developing health research capacities in Central Africa through the Central Africa Network on Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Malaria (CANTAM), and specifically in Republic of Congo through the Fondation Congolaise pour la Recherche Médicale.  For her engagement in building research capacities in the Republic of Congo, she has received many local and international awards including the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Regional Scientific Award for Women, Georg Forster Prize (Germany) and Christophe Merieux Prize (France).

Patricia Ramgi is a young investigator working at the National Institute of Health of Mozambique since 2013.  She is a medical doctor graduated from Eduardo Mondlane University in 2013, and is currently a PhD student at Duisburg-Essen University.  Patricia has three years experience in conducting HIV clinical trials. Currently, she is the sub-investigator of HVTN 703 and HVTN 107 clinical trials, promoted by the HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials Network.  She is also involved in implementation research and is part of the technical group of the Mozambique’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).

Gabriella Scarlatti leads scientific programming at the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, conducts evaluations and impact assessments and guides strategic direction for the organization to support funders, researchers and other stakeholders engaged in HIV vaccine research and development.  As a researcher, Gabriella has made seminal contributions to the field of HIV in the areas of mother-to-child transmission and pediatric disease.  As head of the Viral Evolution and Transmission Unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, she researched HIV transmission at mucosal sites and humoral immune responses to infection and vaccines, and established and coordinated international partnerships across Europe, Africa and USA.  As director of the Division of B cell and Mucosal Immunity at the Vaccine Research Institute in France, Gabriella coordinated research to understand mucosal immune responses to different immunisation strategies.  She has taught virology, immunology and vaccinology and directed the research of doctoral candidates and undergraduates.

Lynda Stranix-Chibanda is a Zimbabwean researcher with 18 years of clinical trial experience and advocacy for HIV prevention.  A paediatrician by training, Lynda lectures at the UZ College of Health Sciences and mentors postgraduate students.  She is the site leader for Seke North Clinical Research Site in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe and an investigator for the NIH-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network at Seke South Clinical Research Site.  Lynda’s passion for HIV prevention began during her medical training at Harare Central Hospital and evolved through her early involvement with PMTCT programmes in Chitungwiza and while contributing to policy for pre-exposure prophylaxis use.  She has an interest in passive and active immunisation strategies and is eagerly following developments in Africa for adolescents, infants and children.


Ntando Yola has worked over a decade in HIV prevention research’s social mobilization and advocacy in South Africa, through the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and the University of Cape Town’s Clinical Trials Unit. His work is motivated by an interest to find new and improved approaches for HIV and TB prevention and treatment through clinical research, effective roll out of these products when found to be effective in public health settings. He believes that central to achieving this, affected communities need to be at the center as early as possible, to make sure they voice their lived experiences and influence the research and development agenda.

His work has therefore involved, developing and implementing community education programs and involvement of multiple community groups in HIV and TB prevention trials.

In 2013 he became a Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention (AVAC) HIV Prevention Research Fellow, exploring opportunities to develop strategies for broad stakeholder engagement in clinical trials across South Africa (SA), which operationalized the Good Participatory Practice (GPP) guidelines. His fellowship has resulted in an initiative that looked at the development of a National Stakeholder Engagement Framework in Biomedical HIV prevention trials.

He serves on and works with a number of local, regional and global entities which promote, facilitate and advocate for involvement of relevant community or civil society groups in the advancement of biomedical HIV prevention research agenda. Some of these include being a member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group (VARG) as well as Community Working Group Co-Chair of the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN). He is also a co-convenor of an advocacy group, Advocacy for Prevention of HIV & AIDS in South Africa.