The Botswana Harvard Health Partnership was established in 1996 as a collaborative research and training partnership between the Government of Botswana’s Ministry of Health and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative. In 2007, the BHP became an independent corporation, registered in Botswana as a not-for-profit Limited Liability Company (LLC). 

Timeline of BHP’s Milestones and Accomplishments

Year Historical Events
1996 Former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire met with Professor Max Essex in the United States at the urging of Maurice Tempelsman, a long-time friend of Botswana and the then-Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI). A renewable memorandum of understanding was signed in October establishing a collaboration between Botswana’s Ministry of Health and HAI for the implementation of HIV/AIDS research and training initiatives. This collaborative programme would become the Botswana Harvard Health Partnership (BHP) and has been renewed every 5years since.
1997 BHP and the Ministry of Health co-hosted the National Conference on HIV/AIDS in Botswana in August. BHP’s first study began at Harvard to characterize the molecular and biologic traits of HIV in Botswana.
1998 Dr Ibou Thior arrived in Botswana from Senegal via Boston to establish the Botswana Harvard Partnership for HIV Research and Education.
1999 The first Botswana-Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory was officially opened by former Minister of Health Joy Phumaphi.
2000 Preparation of the land and construction of a 25,000 sq feet new Botswana-Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory (BHHRL) commenced. At the time this was the largest such laboratory dedicated to HIV/AIDS research and diagnosis in Africa.
2001 His Excellency President Festus Mogae received the HAI Leadership Award for his contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS. On World AIDS Day 1st December, President Mogae officially opened the BHHRL. 
2004 BHP hosted 30 “Friends of Harvard” for an educational tour of Botswana and the contributions of BHP to the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Dr Ibou Thior stepped down as Project Director after over 8 years with BHP. Dr Joseph Makhema was named the new Project Director. 

BHP was selected to be a NIH-funded Clinical Trials Unit (CTU), conducting multi-center trials with the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) Group, and the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN).

2007 BHP was incorporated as a Limited Liability Corporation under Botswana law in order to become an autonomous legal, administrative and financial institution.


Selected Sentinel BHP Studies and Training

Year Historical Events
2000 The KITSO AIDS Training Program (“KITSO” means “knowledge” in Setswana) was founded to provide the continuing medical education for health professionals needed to address the HIV epidemic. By November 2003  the KITSO AIDS Training Program had trained 1,000 Health Care Workers in AIDS Clinical Care Fundamentals, a course developed to support the National ART Program (Masa) rollout to 32 ARV sites and over 100 satellite clinics throughout Botswana. Local researchers successfully isolated HIV from patient specimens for the first time in Botswana at the BHHRL.
2001 The Mashi Study: Prevention of Mother-to Child-Transmission (PMTCT) as BHP’s first clinical trial to be conducted in Botswana was officially opened in March at three research sites (Molepolole, Mochudi and Ramotswa) led by Drs Essex, Thior, Lockman, and Shapiro. 
2002 The first large-scale clinical trial to investigate antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in adults, known as the Tshepo Study, opened, and BHP assisted with initiation of the national ARV therapy (ART) program, the first free, public ART program on the continent. 

The Ministry of Health and the Maiteko a Tshireletso HIV Vaccine Initiative officially launched the first Phase I HIV vaccine trial in Botswana in June, with the injection of the first volunteer. The trial was the first of its kind in southern Africa. 

The Dikotlana Micronutrient Therapy Study opened for enrolment. 


The first results from the Mashi Study were presented at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). 

The Botswana Harvard PEPFAR Program was fully established to provide training, mentoring and technical support for Botswana’s national ARV treatment and HIV testing and monitoring programs. 

Enrolment opened for the “Netefatso” HIV Discordant Couples Study, the “Botsogo” Study of the natural history of HIV-1C disease progression, the “Basadi” Study of HIV genital shedding, and the “Thari” (OCTANE) Study on optimal combination therapy following use of nevirapine. 

2006 Mma Bana Study A Randomized Trial of Lopinavir/Ritonavir/Combivir vs. Abacavir/Zidovudine/Lamivudine for Virologic Efficacy and the Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission among Breastfeeding Women in Botswana was initiated. 
2007 Thibelo Study  HPTN 052  A Randomized Trial to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Antiretroviral Therapy plus HIV Primary Care versus HIV Primary Care Alone to Prevent the Sexual Transmission of HIV-1 In Serodiscordant Couples,  Final outcomes informed  anti retroviral treatment as prevention(TasP)
2013 The Ya Tsie Study (Botswana Combination Prevention Project, BCPP) was launched to evaluate whether it is feasible and acceptable to scale up a combination of prevention interventions and whether the interventions would lower the rate of new HIV infections in adults within a community. This was the largest community-based HIV/AIDS prevention study ever conducted in Botswana, conducted in 30 communities over a period of five years.
2014 The Tsepamo Study launched, establishing nationwide birth outcomes surveillance in Botswana. 
2015 The EIT Study was initiated, marking the beginning of the pediatric HIV cure initiatives at BHP.
2020 To respond to the global pandemic of COVID-19, BHP rapidly began conducting COVID-19 research, and supported SARS-CoV-2 testing and genomic surveillance to augment government efforts to fight the disease. BHP also began conducting COVID-19 clinical studies and vaccine trials.
2021 BHP Laboratory Director Prof. Sikhulile Moyo and his team discovered the highly transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.