Greetings from the DC CTU

Whitman-Walker Institute, an ACTG Clinical Research Site, and George Washington University, an HPTN Site, make up the DC Clinical Trials Unit

Greetings Community,

As you know, the George Washington University (GW) HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) Clinical Research Site (CRS) and the Whitman-Walker AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) CRS continue to work vigorously to advance HIV prevention and treatment science in the District of Columbia. 

Below are several updates from the DC CTU and highlights from a few team members who make this work possible. 

DC CTU Founding Principal Investigator Dr. Gary Simon Retiring

As we enter Year 3 of the DC CTU, we want to take a moment and thank Dr. Gary Simon for his enormous support and leadership of the DC CTU. Dr. Simon has been a key collaborator since the GW HPTN CRS’s early days in 2008, always supportive of the GW HPTN CRS clinical trials, faculty, staff, students, and participants. With the new CTU cycle, Dr. Simon has served as a Principal Investigator for the DC CTU starting in 2020 with Dr. Manya Magnus and Dr. Sarah Henn. Dr. Simon has made countless contributions to HIV research as well as to our DC Community, and we are enormously grateful to him. You can learn more about Dr. Simon’s contributions here. The DC CTU will continue to be in good hands, however, with Dr. Marc Siegel. Dr. Siegel is the Division Director and an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the George Washington (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences. As of December 2022, Dr. Siegel will help lead the DC CTU with Dr. Magnus and Dr. Henn. He has been with the HPTN CRS since 2012 and the HPTN CRS Leader since 2020. Congratulations and welcome to this new role Dr. Siegel and deepest thanks for everything Dr. Simon!

Study-Specific Research Updates

We are excited to let you know that the GW HPTN CRS was selected as a site for a new pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) study for cisgender women. This Phase 2 study (called PURPOSE 3/HPTN 102, A Phase 2, Open-label, Multicenter, Randomized Study to Evaluate the Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Acceptability of Twice Yearly Long-acting Subcutaneous Lenacapavir for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis in Cisgender Women in the United States), will enroll cisgender women at risk for HIV in a study of a new long-acting injection. Eligible participants will be randomly assigned to receive either Lenacapavir injections subcutaneously or oral TDF/FTC (also known as Truvada) as PrEP. Eligibility criteria include being a cisgender woman 18 or over at risk of HIV. To learn more about this study, please write to We will have a CAB meeting to discuss this new study soon! 

We would like to cordially invite you to join our DC CTU Newsletter! Through this publication, we look forward to updating you on exciting news for Washington, DC's HIV research communities. Join here.

Launching the DC CTU Website


With input from community members, the DC CTU is launching a website! This website will host background information about the CTU including its founding and structure, as well as updated information on current studies underway and associated publications. Please check it out here.

Join us for our next HPTN CAB Meeting

We are hosting a virtual CAB meeting on March 9th, 2023 at 3pm. All are welcome! We will discuss progress on 3 ongoing studies and the exciting launch of HPTN 102. To register for this free event, please follow this link.

Reflections on the Annual Conference 2022

The 2022 ACTG Annual Meeting was held June 14-17 at the OMNI Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Community activism at the annual ACTG conference stirred conversations on the inclusion/exclusion of people living with HIV who are aging. Passionate input from ACTG's Global Community Advisory Board continued meaningful conversations around the scientific validity of age "cut-offs," as well as the importance of wellness and aging studies for people living with HIV.

Other topics of note were de-stigmatizing language for research participants and those living with HIV, the need for more representation of women in HIV research, and the emerging field of HIV cure research.

Our very own colleague, Christian Morris helped present on recruitment and retention efforts taking place across the ACTG network on behalf of the Protocol Development and Implementation Subcommittee's Outreach and Retention Working Group. Additionally, Avery Wimpelberg, the Whitman-Walker ACTG Clinical Research Site and DC Clinical Trials Unit Coordinator co-moderated a panel for Coordinators and Site Staff titled "Intro to the ACTG Roundtable." Avery also serves as the chair for the Site Operations Subcommittee (SOS) for the ACTG, and sat on the panel for the Site Management and Clinical Care Committee (SMCCC) as each of its three working groups were introduced.

If you'd like to hear more about any of this topics, share some feedback with us here.

Reflections on the Annual Conference 2022

The 2022 HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) Annual Meeting was held June 5-8, 2022 in-person and virtually with over 700 attendees participating. Topics presented included long-acting biomedical PrEP, integrated HIV prevention strategies, global research priorities, multipurpose prevention technologies and the impact of COVID-19 on HIV prevention research. For the last time in his role as director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, delivered the meeting’s featured keynote address where he provided updates covering HIV advances in research, COVID-19 vaccines, and pandemic preparedness.

Melissa Turner, the HPTN Community Working Group Co-Chairperson and George Washington University Clinical Research Site CAB Liaison, moderated a panel on “Communications and Messaging Strategies to Enhance Study Recruitment and Retention” that featured community members from Houston, TX, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Kampala, Uganda. Our own Clover Barnes (pictured below) is the Senior Deputy Director of the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA). She presented elements of the District of Columbia model of HIV prevention, care and services as a panelist on the “Global HIV/AIDS Research Priorities Roundtable” moderated by Carl Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS (DAIDS).

The Community Working Group meeting featured a talk on “The Future of Systemic PrEP” with updates on a range of alternative PrEP products in development. There was a special emphasis presentation on “HIV in Adolescents: Turning the Tide Against HIV in Young People” with an overview of the impact of HIV upon youth in sub-Saharan Africa.

The People's Highlights: Staff Focus

Participants, study staff, and community are what make the DC CTU special! Below we highlight a few staff who make meaningful contributions to the work we do.

Melissa Turner

Where are you from?

I am born and raised in Syracuse, New York where my mother, sister, nieces, nephews and a whole host of family member still live.

What brings you to the field of HIV research here in DC?

Soon after graduation from the University at Albany, NY I moved south to DC following close friends who were moving to the area. I loved the warmer climate, diversity, activities and culture. I stayed and now consider DC my home. As the Infectious Diseases social worker in the HIV Center at DC General Hospital in the 1980s, I worked at the bedside of people living with HIV during the first wave of the pandemic and their strength, resiliency, courage, resolve and grace has stayed with me. I was recruited to the research site at the VA Medical Center and accepted because research offered hope and possible remedies for people. The vigorous search for effective solutions that improves the quality of life for people affected by HIV

remains my vocation.

What personal perspectives or experiences equip you to make meaningful contributions to the field?

I bring my humanity, compassion, my personal philosophy of life that all are worthy of pure bliss as we each define it for ourselves; we deserve to experience life on our own terms in our own uniquely personal way; absent of constricting labels, categories and boxes. This perspective informs my public health work, clinical social work and community engagement


Avery Wimpelberg

Where are you from?

I am proud to be from the great city of New Orleans, LA!

What brings you to the field of HIV research here in DC?

When I moved to Washington, DC in the fall of 2011 I was at a crossroads in terms of choosing a career path. I was considering graduate school to become a neonatal nurse, but would have needed to take some prerequisite courses before applying. I reached out to a friend who lived here in DC, and who I knew was working as a Physician’s Assistant, for advice. It turned out she was working at the time as a research clinician at Whitman-Walker and she told me about an opening for a Research Specialist position. I had a background in both HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activism, as well as experience as a Research Assistant for a psychology professor in college, so it was a match made in heaven! I thought maybe I would work at Whitman-Walker while I completed the prerequisite courses for graduate school admission. Life had a different plan for me and, as of February 6th, 2023, I have been with Whitman-Walker for 11 years!

What personal perspectives or experiences equip you to make meaningful contributions to the field?

I have been involved in HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activism for most of my life, and received a PFLAG scholarship in college for the creation of an HIV/AIDS awareness group in high school. I feel very passionately about the injustices of our health system and the disparities between the care provided to different populations. I believe deeply in the Whitman-Walker mission and feel honored to be a representative of such an amazing organization. I am proud of the work we, In the DC CTU, are doing to address the continuing HIV epidemic, including the ACTG and HPTN networks’ mission to increase representation of underrepresented populations in research.

HPTN 094 Study Staff

HPTN 094 addresses the overlap of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and HIV risk and prevalence in people who inject drugs (PWID) by using a mobile health unit to deliver OUD and HIV prevention and treatment medications. This incredibly meaningful work is made possible by a dedicated field team. Learn about them below.


Autumn Yates: What I like best about being a part of 094 is seeing the positive change that being in the study has on participants who are engaged in navigation and care. It is incredible to see how much someone can accomplish and grow in a matter of months and it is humbling to be a small part of someone's recovery journey.

Paola Koki Ndombo: My favorite part of working on 094 is the people I get to encounter every day. Our team is so capable and compassionate, it is a joy to work and learn from them daily. Additionally, the people who we interact with are a constant source of inspiration and knowledge. Often overlooked by society at large, our participants are such warm and resilient people and I am glad to be working with them.

Danny Ramin: I love having the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people that genuinely care about the work being done and who will go above and beyond to assist and support study participants as well as community members

Jess Cantrell: My favorite thing about 094 is the amazing field team I get to work with. I also love getting to engage with community members and create relationships I normally wouldn't have the opportunity to.

Sarah Ahsan: My favorite things about HPTN 094 are the compassion and support the team has for each other and the DC community.

Sydney Bornstein: My favorite things about HPTN 094 are the team and learning from the community.

Lucas Kauzlarich: My favorite thing about HPTN 094 is my coworkers. We have an amazing rapport with one another, and they are some of the kindest people that I have met.

Marc Siegel, MD: My favorite thing about 094 is trying to draw blood from some really challenging arms, legs, and feet.

Anthony Rawls: I enjoy bringing Healthy options, access, and referrals to the Community for a variety of Health Services needed and available.

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