A member of the Malkia Klabu program in Tanzania, which provides HIV self-tests and contraceptives for adolescent girls and young women, shows off her loyalty card.

UCSF, Mzumbe University and UC Berkeley unite in groundbreaking HIV research in Tanzania

UC San Francisco is partnering in a landmark collaboration with Mzumbe University, the Ministry of Health in Tanzania, and UC Berkeley on a research initiative focused on HIV interventions among adolescent girls and young women in Tanzania with a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will support a five-year project establishing the Mwotaji Clinical Research Center in Tanzania (mwotaji means “dreamer” in Kiswahili). This center is one of eight funded clinical research centers dedicated to adolescent health in Africa. The primary aim of Mwotaji is to explore effective methods of delivering HIV prevention services to adolescent girls, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), through community pharmacies. This innovative approach is designed to increase health care access and reduce the stigma associated with HIV prevention, especially among young women. It builds on the NIH-funded work of UCSF principal investigator Jenny Liu, PhD, MPP.

“The Mwotaji Clinical Research Center will allow us to build out the successful elements of our Malkia Klabu (“Queen Club”) program, which is already expanding access to HIV self-testing and contraceptives for adolescent girls and young women in Tanzania, so we can better protect a generation of young women from HIV,” stated Liu.

This research is particularly crucial and timely given the disproportionately high risk of HIV among girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa. Factors such as limited sex education, stigma around reproductive health, and barriers to accessing preventive medication like PrEP contribute to this disparity. The Mwotaji Clinical Research Center aims to address these challenges through its focused studies and community-based interventions.

This grant award will help establish a certificate program in implementation science at the Centre of Excellence in Health Monitoring and Evaluation at Mzumbe University. This program will cultivate a sustainable network of researchers, implementers and government officials trained in implementation science and serve the ongoing needs for health research in the region, ensuring a lasting impact.

UCSF’s Institute for Global Health Sciences and Mzumbe University have a 12-year history of developing training programs for Health Monitoring and Evaluation in Tanzania, starting with developing a master’s degree in Health Monitoring and Evaluation with funding from CDC and later developing several certificate programs, the East African Journal of Health Monitoring and Evaluation, and the Centre of Excellence in Health Monitoring and Evaluation at Mzumbe University.

This NIH grant is an essential evolution of the partnership with Mzumbe University that puts it in the lead to address local capacity-building and research needs in Tanzania with multiple principal investigators, Mackfallen Anasel (Mzumbe University), Prosper Njau, MD (Tanzania Ministry of Health), and Sandi McCoy, PhD, MPH (UC Berkeley). This work also unites three units at the University of California – the Institute for Global Health Sciences, the Institute for Health and Aging, and UC Berkeley.