Helen Rees, Executive Director
Rees is the founder and Executive Director of Wits RHI and Ad Hominem Professor in
the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is an Honorary Professor in
the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases of the Clinical Research
Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Professor Rees
received her Medical Degree and a Master’s in Social and Political Sciences
from Cambridge University and in 2002 became an alumnus of Harvard Business
Rees is one of South Africa’s most well-known women scientists. Her research
interests include HIV/AIDS prevention, STIs, microbicides, HIV and HPV
vaccines, and broader issues relating to women’s health. She is the Co-Chair of
South Africa’s National AIDS Council’s Programme Implementing Committee and a
member of the National Advisory Group on Immunisations. Previously, she served
as the Chair of South Africa’s Medicines Control Council and was a member of
the National Research Ethics Committee.
Rees serves as a technical expert to many international organisations including
the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation, the HIV Vaccine Advisory
Committee and the HPV Vaccine expert committee of the World Health Organization,
the Population Council and the US National Institutes of Health. She is
currently member of the Board of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative,
Venter, Deputy Executive Director
Francois Venter is Wits RHI's Deputy Executive Director and lecturer in the
Department of Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand. He is the Head of
Infectious Diseases at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.
Prof Venter is on the board of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society,
which has over 12 000 members in the region.
has expertise in programmatic HIV implementation, especially provision of
anti-retroviral therapy, opportunistic infection prophylaxis, human resource
allocation, data systems and service integration. He has extensive training
experience in these areas and an interest in monitoring and evaluation of
clinical interventions, as well as a human rights interest in access to quality
care. He has published several operational research studies. He has been part
of and continues to participate in several important South African and regional
was the Chairperson of the 5th SA Aids Conference in 2011.
Sickle, Deputy Executive Director: Strategy and Development
Dr. Eugene Sickle is the Deputy Executive Director focussing on Strategy and Development for Wits RHI. He has a doctoral degree in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the University of Cape Town and considerable post-doctoral experience in the area of Medicinal Chemistry. After several years in academia he moved to Wits RHI, initially to lead the Institute’s USAID-PEPFAR programme. Dr Sickle is an expert in strategic financial and programme management and the functions of the Strategy and Development Department that he oversees provide an operational foundation that supports the technical work that Wits RHI undertakes. The Department includes teams dealing with Training, Strategy and Communications, Operations, and Grants Management and Development.
Delany-Moretlwe, Director: Research
Delany-Moretlwe is Director of Research at Wits RHI. She trained as a medical
doctor at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and obtained
both an MSc in International Health and Tropical Medicine and a PhD in Clinical
Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
Delany-Moretlwe has an active interest in the prevention and control of
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. She has been an
investigator on several international multi-centre trials evaluating new
technologies for HIV prevention, including genital herpes treatment and novel
microbicides. She is currently an investigator on the FACTS 001 multi-centred
South African trial of tenofovir 1% gel; and is also involved in research on
the prevention of human papilloma virus (HPV) in high HIV-prevalence settings.Dr
Delany-Moretlwe is an active post-graduate lecturer, supervisor and examiner in
sexual and reproductive health and epidemiology. She has served on national
advisory committees and as a technical adviser for WHO. Dr Delany-Moretlwe has
received several awards including the Best Emerging Woman Scientist from the
South African Department of Science and Technology (2006), and a South African
National Research Foundation Thuthuka Award (2006).
Dr Thesla Palanee, Director: Clinical Trials
Director of Clinical Trials, Dr Thesla Palanee provides strategic and technical
leadership and support in the planning, implementation and management of
clinical research within Wits RHI. She participates in the development and
planning of new research protocols, writing funding proposals and providing
guidance on the requirements of local and international regulatory bodies and
holds a BSc Honours degree from the University of Natal and has obtained a
Master’s in Medical Science degree cum laude from the University of Natal
Medical School, as well as a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of KwaZulu
Natal, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. She obtained post-doctoral
experience in the Department of Molecular Virology and Bioinformatics at the
Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies based at the University of
KwaZulu Natal. She also worked at the HIV Prevention Research Unit of the
Medical Research Council in Durban as a Scientist and a Specialist Scientist
before joining Wits RHI in May 2009 as Technical Adviser, Clinical Research
Management. She then became the Technical Head of Network Trials, Research
Centre Programmes until her appointment as the Director of Clinical Trials in
Fairlie, Director: Child & Adolescent Health
Lee Fairlie is the Director of Child and Adolescent Health at Wits RHI. She qualified as a paediatrician in 2005 and completed her MMED Paediatrics in 2014. She has significant experience in managing paediatric and adolescent HIV and co-morbidities, including TB.
She has worked as a clinician in paediatric HIV since 2006 and as a specialist at Harriet Shezi Children’s Clinic, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital since 2007. Since 2013 she has led the Shandukani Clinical Research Site which runs NIAID trial through the International Maternal and Paediatric AIDS Clinical Trials group (IMPAACT) Network and non-NIAID clinical trials related to paediatric and adolescent HIV, women’s health and paediatric infectious diseases and prevention, including vaccine studies. Lee serves as a committee member of the IMPAACT Treatment Scientific Committee and is a member of the IMPAACT P1090 protocol team. She also leads a USAID-PEPFAR funded Paediatric Technical Team which strengthens district and sub-district level care for HIV infected and affected women, children and adolescents and serves on national HIV guideline committees for children and adolescents.
Mariette Slabbert, Director: Communications, Operations & Sex Worker Project
Mariette Slabbert joined Wits RHI in August 2014 to oversee the sex worker project, the communications department, operations and to assist with new business. These focus areas include involvement in a variety of research projects, including, the TAPS PrEP Demonstration Project in Sex Workers, implementation research on the sex worker population and evaluation of effective communication campaigns. One of her main responsibilities is to manage the logistical and research aspects of operational research on programmes reporting to her.
Mariette has extensive experience in the healthcare industry in various capacities. She was previously Marketing Manager for Afrox Healthcare (now Life Health) and then ART rollout Project Manager at the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD).While at FPD she also lectured to healthcare professionals on practice management, business and operations management, general management and developing academic training programmes. She earlier held the position of Managing Director of Bougainville Private Hospital.
Prior to joining Wits RHI Mariette was Chief Operations Officer at Ndlovu Care Group.Mariette was Principal Investigator on the CHAMP adolescent behaviour change programme, which examines the motivations and barriers to uptake and use of condoms and communication to adopt less risky behaviour.
She was also programme manager of the IPM027 microbicide trial, which tests the efficacy of the Dapivirine vaginal ring in HIV negative women. She is co-investigator on the ITREMA trial. Since 2008 she has acted as co-promotor of four to six Master students annually, from the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University, and supervised numerous Dutch medical students from the Netherlands in their practical experience modules. Mariette is a registered pharmacist and holds an MBA from the Herriott Watt Business School, University of Edinburgh.
She is currently enrolled for a PhD at Utrecht University, Netherlands. She has published two articles as first author in international peer reviewed journals and authored three books. Mariette’s multi-disciplinary background positions her to develop creative research agendas which will translate into increased research outputs and publications for Wits RHI.