Dr. Nyaradzo Mavis Mgodi is often asked about an antibody now being tested in clinical trials to see if it can protect women from HIV.
She begins by talking about Mary Moyo.
Mary was 18 when she married 27-year-old Mike in Harare, Zimbabwe. When Mary became pregnant, she and Mike were tested for HIV. Mary tested negative, but Mike was found to have HIV.
Their doctor recommended that Mike use condoms to protect his wife from infection. Mike refused, saying he had paid lobola, or bride price, to Mary’s parents and could do whatever he wanted. He beat her if she refused to have unprotected sex.
“All over southern Africa, women like Mary suffer silently,” Mgodi said, after recounting Mary’s story most recently at the international AIDS 2016 conference in Durban, South Africa. “There are millions of women who need empowerment. That is why we are embarking on the AMP study.”
A researcher at the University of Zimbabwe-University of California San Francisco Collaborative Research Program in Harare, Mgodi will discuss what AMP — antibody-mediated prevention — could mean for women like Mary today at a meeting of the 2016 HIV Research for Prevention, or HIVR4P, conference in Chicago. The international gathering of researchers and activists focuses on all methods of preventing HIV infections.
Mary’s story had a happier ending than many, Mgodi said. She fled the beatings — and the marriage — before becoming infected with HIV. Now she is trying to start her life over.
Mgodi is determined to help her and other sub-Saharan African women by finding a way they can protect themselves from HIV infection without their partners' help.