In 1985, we provided the first evidence of a retrovirus in West African people more closely related to Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) than to HIV-1 the prototype AIDS virus. Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 2 (HIV-2) as this virus is now called, shares many virologic properties with HIV-1, including cell tropism, antigenic and genetic similarities and genome organization. Based on a long-term research collaboration in Dakar, Senegal, research demonstrated reduced transmission and pathogenicity of HIV-2, cross protection between HIV-2 and HIV-1, and distinct genetics and epidemiology of different HIV-1 genotypes.
From 2000-2005, we created the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN) supported by a grant from the Gates Foundation. Since 2004, I served as the principal investigator for the USG funded Harvard PEPFAR program, which provided training, capacity building and targeted evaluation in three partner countries (Nigeria, Tanzania, Botswana), with the goal of scaling up access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). The program has now provided ART to over 155,000 patients in the three countries with significant operational research that contributes to the success of the program.
Dr. Kanki directs HSPH’s partnership with five universities in the Medical Education Partnership in Nigeria. She has provided mentoring for more than 30 doctoral students and fellows from the USA and African countries.