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Welcome to Wits RHI

Tackling Africa’s
Health Challenges
through science and innovation
Tackling Africa’s
Health Challenges
through science and innovation
Tackling Africa’s
Health Challenges
through science and innovation
Tackling Africa’s
Health Challenges
through science and innovation
Tackling Africa’s
Health Challenges
through science and innovation
 

 Our Leadership

 

Professor Helen Rees, Executive Director

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Professor 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 School.
Professor 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.
Professor 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, IAVI.​

 

Pro​f Francois Venter, Deputy Executive Director

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Professor 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.
Prof Venter 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 policy-making fora.
Prof Venter was the Chairperson of the 5th SA Aids Conference in 2011. 

 

Dr Eugene Sickle, Deputy Executive Director: Strategy and Development

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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.


 

Dr Sinéad Delany-Moretlwe, Director: Research

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Dr Sinéad 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).
Dr 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

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As the 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 frameworks.
Dr Palanee 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 S​​cientist 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 2011.

Dr Vivian Black, Director: Clinical Programmes

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​Dr Vivian Black, Director of Clinical Programmes, is responsible for leading the clinical technical teams in providing technical support to the organisation and to the Department of Health and Social Development.
Dr Black joined Wits RHI in March 2003 and worked in HIV prevention. She has been involved in initiating an integrated antenatal antiretroviral clinic at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and in the development of the Institute’s maternal health team. Prior to joining Wits RHI, Dr Black worked in internal medicine and microbiology.
Dr Black is a member of the South African National AIDS Council, where she is the Civil Society Chair of the Treatment Care and Support Technical Team.
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Where we work