Meet Dr. Mampedi Bogoshi, IPM's new Vice President of Medical Affairs

Dr. Mampedi Bogoshi, MBChB, joined IPM in December 2020 as vice president of medical affairs. We sat down with her to find out more about her and her thoughts on HIV prevention and public health. Read on to meet Dr. Bogoshi! 

Tell us about your work at IPM.

What really attracted me to IPM is the focus on women. It’s so important to support women, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and definitely in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is still a great need for more HIV prevention tools. 

Part of IPM’s work is developing the dapivirine ring, which contains an antiretroviral drug to help prevent HIV among women. My job as the vice president for medical affairs, based here in South Africa, is to ensure that as we take the dapivirine ring from the laboratory to get it to people in a real-world setting, that health care providers are educated on use of the ring if it is approved, that we support end-users and that we are compliant with regulations and laws in countries where it may be approved. 

I work with Ministries of Health in those countries, HIV treatment and prevention working groups, and health providers to give them the information they need to make decisions. Ministries of Health are the ones who make the decisions to say, "We need to include this in our HIV prevention and treatment guidelines." And it’s the health providers that need data so that they can say, "Yes, our population and our public need this." 

When IPM’s dapivirine ring received a recommendation from the World Health Organization for women at substantial HIV risk, what did this news mean to you and what impact could it have for women in Africa?

That was great news and is such an important step in helping reach the UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections by 2030—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when we are at risk of losing the gains we’ve made against HIV/AIDS. It’s exciting to be bringing the ring closer to being part of a prevention strategy and as part of the toolbox to get to the zero target. 

Also, gender-based violence is a big public health concern, including in South Africa, where I live. Some men do not want to use protection and it can leave women at risk for HIV. Women often do not have a choice because of cultural and social power dynamics, so it is beyond their control. 

A professor of mine once said, "A woman in the home is at risk." Because for women, they are at home while their partner might not be using protection out there. For women to protect themselves, they need approaches where they can be in control and be the ones who choose how and when to protect themselves. The ring is a discreet option a woman could use to protect herself, without having to rely on the partner. 

The WHO recommendation was great news indeed for HIV prevention for women, and especially for those at risk in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the ring and other promising methods are moving out of the lab and closer to reaching women, what do you see as the top priorities for product introduction, and for women’s HIV prevention in general?  

Firstly, that HIV prevention is a priority in and of itself. And it should be an even higher priority. 

We need to have the products available where women can easily access them—a daily pill, the monthly ring, if it is approved, or a condom—when they need to. New choices are also needed, ones where women can have control of their own safety and sexual health. That includes having even longer-acting products and combination methods that could address both unintended pregnancy and HIV.

Additionally, improving availability at a convenient and, if possible, integrated point of service, would greatly simplify the healthcare experience, so women have a one-stop shop. We have seen that when people need to go to one clinic for HIV prevention and then go to another for contraception, it's time-consuming, there are transportation costs, and it prevents women from going to work. Being unemployed is a risk factor for HIV, too.  

IPM is working with partners to ensure that the dapivirine ring will get into the hands of the women who need it, if it is approved. Every day, women are infected. We need to get to that day when all women can have something in hand to protect themselves.

What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine and public health? What keeps you inspired?

I grew up in a very big family in South Africa and have sisters who became nurses. I always wanted to be a doctor from a young age. At the time, I thought being a doctor meant seeing patients. When I went to medical school, I thought, ‘I will have a stethoscope around my neck, standing next to a patient in a ward and be at their bedside.’

Yet, for me, I wanted to do more than treat one person at a time. I learned that public health focuses not only on one patient but on the public in general. It is a comprehensive approach to health.  It is also influenced by social norms, financial and socioeconomic factors and includes mental health—all of them together. That really influenced me. As I learned about it, it opened a door I didn't know existed. 

At the same time, HIV was a key public health priority and an emergency in South Africa and globally. An opportunity came up for me to join an HIV research site in Johannesburg, where they were investigating HIV vaccines. That's how I came to be in the public health space. As I continued that work, I could see that women were disproportionately affected. Now, working at IPM, I’m combining my two loves—there is the research aspect but also implementation of an intervention that benefits the public health.  

What would you tell other young girls and women who are interested in pursuing careers in public health?

I would absolutely encourage them! There is much that remains to be done and there will always be a need for this work. COVID-19 has shown us that even as we’re making progress in some areas of public health, a new threat or virus can quickly turn into a global health emergency. It's not only infectious diseases—chronic noncommunicable diseases are becoming a big concern as well. All are part of public health. 

During my time at medical school, there were probably more men than women, but that is being addressed and there is a dynamic change in previously accepted traditional gender roles.  We are talking more openly about gender equality, but more efforts are needed. Public health is a fulfilling career choice for women—or anyone—who wants to effect positive change in the world. It is an exciting and worthwhile career. And in my experience, when women have to fight for something, they will fight for it.  

For me, joining IPM and seeing a women-focused approach to health is fulfilling. I wake up grateful every day that HIV prevention is at an exciting turning point and that I’m contributing to innovations that will help improve women’s health and lives.