National University of Science and Technology is known for producing best academics, athletes, but music has not been one of them and a young artistis slowly rising out of the ashes like a phoenix hoping to reach the skies.
EmmanuelNxongo, a twenty-one-year old currently doing his part two studies in ChemicalEngineeringis also trying to put his name on the map with his few solo trackswith a stage name ofReezy Terah.
He has not been able to put himself out there as he would have wantedbecause of school constraints and other commitments and has been limited to singles only.
“I will start releasing more tracks as in an album when I’m more ready and stable,” saysTerah.
Emmanuelstartedhis music career when he was drawn into his former high school choir. That was when he started his recording sessions.
“I started by (singing) joining the choir when I was in form one, that was 2011 but soon dropped out and came back 2015 when I recorded my first solo track,”saidTerah.
The formerSandringham HighSchoolstudentreleased anafro-popsolo track in 2015.
“My first track was a love song titled my one and only,” saidTerah.
TakudzwaMutasa, aNUST student is impressed by the quality and determination put in byTerahin his music and that people should take him seriously.
“Terah’ssongs are nice and they are of good quality and I like the energy he puts in his songs and I hope that people could take him seriously”, said Mutasa.
His latest hit is proving to be a force to reckon with as it is ravaging streams on YOUTUBE.
“My latest singleChihwitsiChemoyohas more than a thousand streams on YOUTUBE”, saidTerah.
One student from NUST by the name of Shelton Nyathi who is studying Risk and Insurance says the music produced byTerah is of a different dynamism.
“The track (Chihwitsi Chemoyo) took me by surprised and a loved listening to it and hope other students can check it out and see how talented the young man is”, said Nyathi.
Emmanuel is not only a regular artist but he is proving to be a jack of all trades in terms ofmusic genres.
“I am into afro-pop, RnB and trap but my heart goes mostly for afro-pop,”addedReezyTerah.
The young artist takes his musical inspiration from himself mostly but American Carter junior is his former inspiration now.
“My inspiration used to be Lil Wayne but now inspire myself”, proclaimedTerah.
In 2017,TerahenrolledwithNUST to pursue a degree inChemical Engineering.
Terahis a young man who hashis lifeplanned out,how hedesires it to be after his varsity life”.
“I do have my life set out the way I would wish it to be like but for now I cannot really tell you my aspirations but only that I want to live in the moment,” maintainsTerah.
Terahlamented the lack of recognition of the art in the institution as he feels it is looked down upon.
“At NUST we can see that they introduced Campus Awards for slay queens and best couples but not even one for musicians,” saidTerah.
ReezyTerahalso feels that the money in the industry is not healthy to take care of one.
“In Zimbabwe there is no money and it is not enough to sustain youas a career,”Terahpointed out.
Not only is he (Nxongo) is he an artist but also an artist activist in the institution.
“At the moment I have worked so hard to be indirectly but part of the current SRC under entertainment Committee and I push as an artist activist,”Terahsaid.
With this initiative, it has actually helped other artists to be recognised and push for other supporting programmes in the institution.
“We have supported the initiative of Open Mic Sessions and on MissNustthe after party will be full hands on powered by NUST artists,”Terahpointed out.
Terahfeels like artists in NUST and Zimbabwe as a whole have to be themselves so as to improve the state of the genre (afro-pop).
“I think more of the artists in my genre should try to be natural and stop copying Nigerians and until then Zimbabweans will take us (musicians) seriously”, saidTerah.
For those who are new to the blog, let me start with a little introduction…I am a Ph.D. student, about to begin my second year. I study Sociology and Social Policy with a focus on childhoods and families. I am currently at home, in Zimbabwe, for my field work (data collection).
Being back home means adjusting to a new schedule. When I was back on campus in Hong Kong, I set my own time and I really thought I was managing quite well (if my 1st-year annual evaluation is anything to go by). But, since I came home to begin the practical part of my work, I feel so overwhelmed with the amount of work that is facing me daily.
From left to right: Sikhanyiso, Zanele and Thando exhibiting at the 2017 ZITF
Young, Ambitious, Motivated, Enthusiastic, Independent, Strong. This is how Thando Dube, Zanele Tshuma and Sikhanyiso Mpofu describe themselves. And they have a perfume manufacturing start up to show for it all.
“We are three young ladies who want to become independent strong women who can change the world by doing what hasn’t been done before,” says Sikhanyiso.
“We saw a gap in industry and my partners and I intend to bridge that gap. As Zimbabweans we have been importing perfumes from various countries yet we have our own resources we can use in order to have our own perfume brands,” adds Thando.
The three ladies completed their Applied Chemistry studies at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe this year and their perfume manufacturing start up is a result of their final year class project.
Metso is a student at the National University of Science and Technology. He has three other sibblings, one is starting her degree programme, the other just started her ‘A’ level at Empandeni boarding school and the last one is writing her form four examinations this year.
With much of his parents’ attention going to his three female siblings, he has to take care of himself. It has not been easy, and he has since resorted to soccer betting, a form of gambling to subsidise his welfare.
Metso is among a host of other college students who have enrolled into this gambling circus to try and make ends meet as they strive towards completing their studies.
At a time when Zimbabwe is marred with high rates of unemployment, industries characterised with no activity, with only big rusty keys hanging on the falling gates; betting halls have become the new industries with regular patrons thronging these spaces from as early as 7am in the morning till 1030pm in the evenings daily.
Patson Nkomo, a security official at one of the betting halls in the city of Bulawayo observes that some have become regulars at the shop, and only absent when they fall sick, (giggles).
“Others are now informal employees here (laughs), they are here 24/7. With the issue of unemployment so high in Zimbabwe, this is where others make their living, including university students from a number of colleges in the city,” said Nkomo.
According to Admire Mapani, a student at the Bulawayo Polytechnic, betting has become a way of life for most college students.
“There is so much peer pressure we go through at school,” said Mapani. “You meet people from different families and you are also faced with the challenge to survive atleast, so the little your parents send you, you spin some of it through betting with the hope of multiplying it.”
However, issues to do with addiction of this sort of gambling tends to haunt.
According to Metso, he finds it hard to pass by the shop without being tempted to bet.
“I think I’m becoming an addict. I find it hard to pass by the soccer shop without being tempted to bet. Sometimes I even use my lunch money. I know its bad but I can’t control it sometimes”
This sort of gambling has become a normal routine and to others a little bit addictive. For the lucky ones, they have managed to get the best out of the experiences and to the unlucky, lots of money has been lost to the betting halls.
According to Mapani, college life can be terrible especially if you are far from home.
“It can be pretty tricky and because there are no grants or student stipends, anything that brings money could be ideal,” Mapani added.
Over the years, alarming rates of prostitution have been told in colleges, selling of drugs by male students and now betting is the new trade. The most important pre–occupation is making money.
Good as it may sound, and business as usual for the for the owners of the shops, concern is largely on the development part of the African countries. Questions on whether betting can really drive the ailing African economies.
Tiffany Forester concluded the morning meeting with the fierce clutching of her hands, like she always did. Without the need to tell people to leave her office, this gesture had come to symbolize the meeting adjourning. As her employees filed one after the other out, she took her seat behind a huge crystalized glass table. The table had been custom made for her by Glass and Glass Co., and it has cost a pretty penny.The glass was tempered and bullet proof just like the glass that was the boutique.
Tiffany’s vision when she saw the land was crystal and clear. Literally. She wasn’t about to fuss over the price, that’s why she became Mrs. Jared Forester. The floor of her office, like that of her boutique, was of reclaimed hardwood that gave the entire place a sophistication she liked to believe was an extension of herself. The glass walls blended well into the floor and the antic black and white shelves, meant for shoes, handbags and perfumes in her boutique and files in her office, made for a finishing touch that was exclusive as it was expensive. There was something about the boutique that made people want to spend more. Tiffany was for the belief that less was more, unless it involved money, and she treasured her space so much. As such her office only contained her table and shelves that stood on either side of the door. To give her the privacy that the glass denied her, she had heavy charcoal grey curtains cover her office.
When the last of her employee closed the door, she began working on her make up. Tiffany was thirty-six but looked at least forty three. But on purpose. Her husband was seventy, and the way the two had begun dating had been so controversial, she feared her business was doomed before it had debuted. She met Jared when he was still married and moved in with him when he was going through the messiest divorce battle Rosemary had laid its eyes on.
Anyway, Tiffany had a thing for a lot of make up with a smoky eye and sultry red lips. Her red lips made her ghostly pale porcelain complexion even whiter, which in itself aged her. She had a thing for a tight big bun on the center of the head, and always had her platinum blondes locks fashioned in that way. She was tall and slender and dressed her figured in knee length figure hugging dresses, nude stiletto heels and lots and lots of diamond jewellery.
Tiffany looked away from her mirror as she heard footsteps. She got up and opened the curtains and as soon as she had done that, she came face to face with her assistant Mary Bishop, a sassy dresser such as herself, and two black people she didn’t know. A female and a male. She went for the door thinking they were disgruntled customers, even though she hadn’t seen them before.
She opened the door, smiled at Mary then allowed her guests to come in.
“They are detectives from Harare.” Mary whispered.
“Call Jayden immediately.” She said to her assistant as she closed the door.
She took a seat behind her desk then began drumming her hands on the glass.
“I’m not talking to you without a lawyer present.” She said looking at a pure diamond watch. “He will be here in five.” She said stealing a peek from the two who were marveling at her office.
If she wasn’t already a married woman, she might have considered the man for a partner. He was strong, tall, with a glimmer in his eyes as indication of boyish charm. He had brown skin with short, well cared for, hair and a strong jaw. She liked that in a man. Detective Sergeant Brandon Makiwa was not that much into a fashion, although he wasn’t a bad dresser. Since he could remember, he had always dressed like a biker. Dark jeans, with a muscle top and leather jacket. The fingerless gloves was something he had picked up from an ex-girlfriend.
The lady sitting next to him wasn’t a bad dresser, but she, Tiffany, was a better dresser. Tiffany had to admit though, this lady was the first person with curves who looked exceptionally well in a pants suit. The suit was black, shaped her just right and the tank top was a nice twist. She was well, kinda nice looking with wine red cropped hair and a so-so complexion.
“Jayden.” Tiffany suddenly said when her step-grandchild opened the door.
There was an urgency on his face that made the detectives curious. His eyes were intense, though Detective Inspector Dhlamini had to admit, beautiful. He was tall and broad, he clearly took care of his body. And he wasn’t bad in the dressing department either. He had on a formal navy blue trouser with a matching waistcoat. A snow white shirt with the top button undone and a diamond watch just like Tiffany’s peeking from his shirt and to finish off, he had on J.T Bean designer white sneakers. All of this aside, it was his hair that Dhlamini fell in love with. It was a brownish black and was pulled back rather stylishly. The brownish in his hair complemented his sun kissed complexion.
“Is everything alright?”
“These two are detectives from Harare.” She said standing up to greet him. She put a hand on his shoulder as he looked at the detectives seriously.
“How can we help you?”
“You’re her lawyer?” Dhlamini began sarcastically. “Surely didn’t see that coming-“
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tiffany snapped.
“Rosemary is just a couple of minutes from Harare. It’s not a world of its own.”
“Junk aside, detective. How can we help you?” He asked as he put one hand around Tiffany.
“I’m detective inspector Qiniso Dhlamini and this is my partner Detective sergeant Brandon Makiwa and we are with the Homicide Unit. We are here because we wanted to talk to Mrs. Forester about a handbag that belonged to our victim.”
“A handbag? Are you accusing her of anything?”
“No.”Makiwa answered. “The handbag is missing and we are reliably informed that it carries with it a GPS signal that might help us track it. The bag might be what we need to break the case.”
“That’s it?” Jayden asked dropping his hand. He turned to Tiffany, biting his teeth he whispered, “I ran out of a meeting that could have made me millions for a handbag?”
“I didn’t know what they were going to say. Jared said if ever I was approached by the police from Harare, to have you in the room before saying anything.” She answered as she took her seat.
“Why would your husband tell you that?” Dhlamini asked wanting to know.
“I thought you were here about a handbag. What about it?” She asked matter of fact as she gathered her hands on the table. Jayden slipped his hands into his pockets as he stood like a statue next to her.
“Yes we are, ma’am.” Makiwa said as he produced a magazine cutout of the bag.
“I’m not that old. Call me Tiffany.” She said as she took the paper. She studied it once then put it down as she formed a bridge with her fingers. “It’s a Jackie Black handbag 2010 edition. What do you want to know about it?”
“How long is the GPS tracker in the bag active?” Makiwa asked.
“Until the bag is destroyed by fire. With all the technological advancements, you would think by now we would have a fire-proof bag.” She laughed lightly then said, “The GPS is there so that if the bag is stolen, it can be recovered rather quickly. The good news is, most of the people who steal it can’t afford to buy it and hence don’t know about the tracking system. And those that buy it are okay with the system being intact.” She said with a smile looking at Dhlamini.
“We want to track the bag. What is needed?”
“Tell me the name of your victim.” She said as she reached under her table for a white laptop.
“Laura Vanhuvangu.” Dhlamini called out.
“Laura V.” Tiffany said and then looked up. “Oh.” Her expression changed to shock.
“Laura V. is dead?”
“You knew her well?” Dhlamini asked.
“Well enough. She was one of my biggest customers.” Tiffany dropped her eyes, thought for a while then looked at the detectives as she said, “I will help you any way that I can.” She said as she returned to her laptop. “Ok, there is the signal of the bag.” She said as she turned her laptop so the detectives could see. “It’s at the Harare International Airport.”
“Excuse me.” Dhlamini said as she jumped up, on her phone, as she exited the room.
“Is there any other way that we can track the bag without your laptop? As it is, the bag is mobile and our best chance of getting whoever is carrying it are about to go down to hell in a hand basket.”
“Give me your phone. I will send you software that will allow you to track only this bag.”
As soon as Detective Keegan Gono got off the phone with Dhlamini, he rallied up a team of uniformed detectives and prayed to his saint he would get to the airport in time. Sounding his siren only got him so far as traffic in the capital was bad. Lucky for him Chief Superintendent Lincoln Chigariro was making one call after the other, and his actions paid dividends when he was able to get the security team at the airport to have all planes grounded until further notice.
Not only that, the airport was barricaded and no one was allowed in or out. He communicated the developments to Gono who was now on a smooth highway outside of the city center.
With the software already operating in his phone, Makiwa and Dhlamini headed for Harare International airport.
Jayden waited until the detectives were gone to let his frustrations loose. However, Tiffany didn’t respond to his frustrations in the same manner as always, and he was genuinely concerned. He sat on one end of the table, close to her, softening his voice, he said,
“You do know I’m not a lawyer, right?”
“Jared said you have been interrogated by the police so many times and slipped right through, you are my best bet at getting out of any interrogation.”
“That might be true. But you also have to remember that I have a day job and unless it’s necessary don’t call me. Okay.”
“I knew her. You know. She wasn’t just any other customer. To me she was a fellow fashion lover.” She licked her lower lips as she got up from her chair. She walked to the window, opened it wider then breathed it. “She was like a friend. Why would somebody do that to her?”
“I’m sorry.” He had never seen this side of Tiffany and didn’t know how to handle it.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to be alone for now.” She said with her back to him. Something she had never done.
She couldn’t believe Laura was gone. She wasn’t close enough with Laura to cry, but they were close enough for her to hurt. Dying was one thing. Being murdered was another. She repeatedly asked herself why someone would do that to Laura. She was genuinely a fun person to be around.
Tiffany could remember the last time she had seen Laura. About two months ago. Laura had come in wanting to buy a clutch for a party she was attending. The clutch cost eight hundred dollars and she only had five hundred. Tiffany had given her the bag for free. At that time she had thought it was good to treat Laura good, after all the kid had good taste and was going to come into the store for years to come.
Coldness filled her body as she thought of that day. She hadn’t known that would be the last-. She refused to finish that statement. She went for one of her cardboards. Behind the files was quality Knight 101 red wine. Grabbing it by one hand, she went to the boutique.
They had just opened, and thus people hadn’t started coming in. She ordered one of her girls to close the door and draw the curtains, and once that was done, everyone inside got a glass.
“I’ve just learnt that Laura V. is dead. You might not have known her, but she was a fellow fashion lover, she had good taste and was a good person.” She breathed in as she raised her glass. Others did as well. “May her soul rest in eternal peace.” She brought her glass to her face and sipped.
Police cars parked haphazardly at the entrance to the airport. Drawing their weapons, with the exception of Gono, the police budged in. Panic filled the air as people immediately dove underneath the closest benches. Those that weren’t fast enough had their hands in air before the police even ordered them to do so.
Uniformed police officers lined all the entrances and had rifles pointed toward the public. Gono and his team went deep into the terrified public and as his phone indicated they were close, excitement was rife.
He suddenly stopped then turned back to look at both Dhlamini and Makiwa who had his back.
“It’s her.” He said pointing to a girl who was on her knees with her hands over her head.
She was less than a foot from where they were and unless she was a very good actress, she looked scarred. Since he was the only one without a gun, he walked toward her and tried to be as nice as he could.
Dhlamini who wasn’t buying into her innocence followed at a respected distance ready to fire if things went sideways.
Makiwa knelt next to the girl, immediately noticing the bag. He tapped her shoulder, she looked back at him with terror in her eyes.
“You are coming with us.”
“Why?” She asked already in tears.
“We want to know where you got that bag.” He said as he led her out.
A Namibian Grade 12 learner Simon Petrus is making waves after he invented a mobile phone, with no sim-card, which uses radio signals and doesn’t require airtime to make calls.
According to New Era, Petrus, who is a learner at Abraham Iyambo Senior Secondary School, made the phone using parts from a telephone and television set, and his invention doesn’t even need a sim-card to make calls.
The mobile device took the whiz kid two years to complete, and it has not been plain sailing for the young inventor, who faced financial difficulties. The project was funded by Petrus’ unemployed parents, who had to sacrifice over N$2 000 (U.S$ 146) to ensure that his project would be completed successfully.
The invention, which is made up of a radio system, is attached to a box and makes voice calls, while also doubling up as a TV, allowing the user to watch one TV channel. Petrus’ invention is not a fly-by-night success story. Last year the learner won a gold medal at the NamPower national schools’ competition, after he reportedly invented a machine that serves as a seed drier and cooler.
Petrus’ invention continues to cause a stir on social media, where the development is being celebrated as a remarkable example of the innovative nature and potential of young people on the continent, which needs to be supported.
Over the past few years, Namibia has been the birthplace of various innovative projects by young people.
Last year, another Namibian student, Gerson Mangundu, developed the country’s own social network site called Namhook.
In 2014, another young inventor from northern Namibia, Josua Nghaamwa built a satellite dish booster using scrap material to enhance internet connectivity, to benefit those living in the rural areas where the signal is significantly weaker than normal.
The bodies of young men arrived in the morgue of Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital emaciated, displaying the ravages of a phenomenon that had only recently been named.
Blood-filled red and purple lesions riddled the corpses’ skin. Creamy white patches of oral thrush covered their mouths and throats. Louis Picker, in 1982 a 26-year-old pathology resident, suited up with full-body protective layers over his scrubs to perform the autopsies. Inside these bodies, the doctor found organs invaded by tumors and lungs heavy with infection.
“Everybody suspected it was some sort of virus, and that it was catching,” Picker recalls, “but nobody knew what it was.” Some had called it GRID—“gay-related immune deficiency”—because rare diseases, brought on by failing immune systems, suddenly seemed to cluster in the nation’s gay communities. The name that stuck, “acquired immune deficiency syndrome,” was coined that same year. Picker had come to Boston fresh out of medical school at the University of California–San Francisco. As the young med student completed his studies, a skin cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma and a pneumonia caused by a fungus emerged in San Francisco’s gay community, both related to the collapse of sufferers’ immune systems. “For the most part, it was uniformly fatal, and there was quite a bit of hysteria,” Picker says.
Early in his training, Picker was drawn to the study of the immune system—“a complicated, finely tuned dance that came about by evolution,” as he puts it—and how it keeps us alive in a sea of pathogens. AIDS, which robs otherwise healthy adults of these natural defenses, fascinated him. “Here was a disease of the immune system that appeared right in front of my eyes when I was trying to figure out what to do in life,” he says.
In 1985, Picker published his first paper on AIDS and its cause, which had been discovered not long before: human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. He spent the next decade investigating how T cells, the soldiers of the immune system (and HIV’s target) operate in the body. Every so often he would hear that a former classmate from San Francisco had died of the disease.
In fact, the career of the Los Angeles native entwines with the history of one of the planet’s most lethal infectious killers. Since the days when Picker would scrub down after autopsying Boston’s first AIDS victims, billions of dollars and countless hours have been invested in research, while an estimated 39 million people have died from AIDS-related causes globally. Like the rhapsody of immune cells that work together to fight off infection, scientists around the world have worked for decades to solve the many riddles of HIV and AIDS. Picker is just one character in a worldwide epic. But right now, he and his research team at Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University believe they’re onto something big.
On a recent afternoon Picker, 59, sat in a sun-drenched conference room at OHSU’s West Campus in Beaverton, home to his 26-staffer lab and the rhesus macaques on which their work depends. The immunologist, dressed in his characteristic black jeans and button-down shirt, sounded confident but far from nonchalant as he explained his ambitious vision of a vaccine to prevent and cure AIDS: “I think within 15 years we’ll have both.”
No one would have made this claim a decade ago. AIDS vaccine research has been riddled with setbacks. (In 1984, when US Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler announced that researchers at the National Cancer Institute had identified HIV, then called HTLV-III, she expressed hope for a vaccine within two years.) Meanwhile, a major effort for a full-fledged cure—a therapy that would rid the infected of the virus—never really got off the ground, hampered by a lack of critical scientific understanding and funding, and perhaps rendered less urgent by the development of antiretroviral drug therapy that has allowed many people with HIV to live longer. In 1994, AIDS was the leading cause of death for all Americans aged 25 to 44. Today, because of the antiretroviral therapies, many Americans have come to regard AIDS as a chronic illness instead of a death sentence. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in September that about half of the 1.2 million HIV-positive American adults don’t take antiretrovirals, and more than 14,000 Americans with AIDS still die every year.
“The AIDS vaccine field has been kind of a disaster,” says Guido Silvestri, chief division officerof microbiology and immunology at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center. “There has been a huge investment of funds, and very little to show so far.”
HIV does present some particular challenges. Vaccines typically train the immune system to attack specific targets, or antigens. But HIV mutates constantly, even within one infected person: the target never stops moving.
“It’s not like influenza, where we can get a different shot ever year and be pretty close to what is circulating,” says Wayne Koff, chief scientific officer of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. In the 31 years since HIV was first identified, only four potential vaccines have advanced to human trials. Three of them failed outright—and may have even increased infection rates. Then a large trial in Thailand dealt a surprise: 32 percent efficacy against HIV infection. The results, published in 2009, weren’t good enough to bring that vaccine to market, but they reenergized vaccine research.
Around the same time, the case of Timothy Brown, an HIV-positive Seattle-born man living in Germany, jolted to life the stalled research for a cure. Two bone marrow transplants for leukemia eliminated HIV in the now-famous Berlin Patient. (Brown’s doctor found a donor with two copies of a rare genetic mutation that produces resistance to HIV.) Brown went off his AIDS drugs after his first transplant; eight years later, he’s still HIV-free. But a bone marrow transplant—an invasive, dangerous, and expensive last resort for a person who will otherwise die from cancer—isn’t a realistic option for most of the world’s millions of HIV-positive people. “It’s an experiment, not a solution,” Koff says.
Still, the scientific community took notice. The biggest impediment to a cure is that once a person is infected, a reservoir of HIV always lies dormant in the body. Because it’s not active, this stealth infection is invisible to both the immune system and AIDS drugs. Periodically, some of this latent virus reactivates. Antiretroviral drugs, which first came on the market in 1987, can then fend off these attacks, but take an HIV-positive person off the pills, and the infection will come roaring back. If latent HIV can be wiped out, one way or another—as clearly happened in Brown’s case—it means that the virus isn’t as invincible as it has seemed.
By the mid-’90s, Picker worked at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. An infectious agent in the herpes family called cytomegalovirus (CMV) caught his attention as a potential factor in HIV research. CMV is widespread—an estimated 50 percent of people in the developed world will contract CMV by the time they’re 40, and it’s ubiquitous in the developing world. For the vast majority of us, it’s basically harmless. Once a person is infected, CMV stays in the body for life. And—critically—it sparks an enormous immune system response that never stops: in most people with CMV, the body devotes a full 10 percent of its T cells to fighting it. “CMV was different from just about everything else,” Picker says.
All vaccines mimic an infection to prompt the body to prepare for a fight. The best mimic for an HIV infection would be a weakened HIV that could prime the immune system without causing disease. But because HIV mutates so quickly, there’s too much risk that even a weakened strain could “heal itself” and cause a real infection. AIDS vaccine researchers therefore genetically engineer bits and pieces of HIV into less dangerous viruses. Picker was the first to recognize that CMV was uniquely suited for this task.
At this point, he was installed in a comfortable and stable position in Dallas, where one of his jobs was studying specimens from AIDS patients. “The studies I was doing were great,” he says now. “But I realized that it was like looking at the stars—you can’t do anything about it.” He thought he could develop a CMV-based vaccine, but he’d need to test on animals—specifically, nonhuman primates.
Picker did enjoy some standing in the AIDS research world—he’d developed a test to measure T cells specifically dedicated to battling HIV, for instance. But unlike the field’s best-known researchers, he had not made his career in an HIV lab. “I didn’t have a lineage to depend on,” he says. “I had to make my own name starting from scratch. But if I was going to do academia and science, I needed to make the commitment and take the risk of failing.”
In 1999, he quit the Dallas job and came to OHSU, home of the Oregon National Primate Research Center, one of eight such labs in the country. Here he could work on an AIDS vaccine with Jay Nelson, head of OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and one of the world’s leading experts in CMV. But after the initial start-up money the university gave him ran out, Picker would be living grant to grant. He’d also stop working directly with patients—probably forever. At OHSU, he’d be focusing solely on research, staking his career on his ability to do the difficult science needed to eradicate a disease that has eluded its pursuers for decades.
Picker set out to prevent AIDS, not cure it. In 2006, he and his team began vaccinating macaques against SIV, the monkey version of HIV. The researchers placed bits of SIV genes inside weakened CMV, hoping the macaques’ immune systems would then mount their natural immediate, large-scale response to CMV. “The immune system will make a response both to the CMV genes and to the SIV or HIV genes that will be in the same flavor, so to speak,” Picker explains. This approach contrasts sharply with that of most HIV vaccine projects, which typically focus on generating antibodies to block infection. Instead, Picker’s method aims to provoke T cells to prevent an infection from progressing to disease. Two years after he inoculated the first group of monkeys with the CMV-based vaccine, he exposed them to SIV.
In 2013, Nature reported Picker’s surprising findings: not only were most of the macaques able to control SIV, but over time their immune systems completely killed off the virus. It was the first evidence of monkeys eliminating the AIDS-causing virus from their bodies. Says Koff: “Louis straddles the prevention and the cure. The most intriguing thing about his vaccine is that the responding animals appear to clear the infection.”
Picker’s vaccinated monkeys are initially infected. But it’s a very low-level infection compared to the normal course of the disease—a small blip instead of a huge spike. In contrast to the typical course of SIV or HIV, which replicate at breakneck speed and overrun the body’s T cells, the bolstered immune system quickly manages this infection, rendering it undetectable in the blood within a matter of days. Remarkably, about a year in, even the most sensitive tests turn up no trace of the virus in tissues where it would normally be present. In the meantime, the monkeys don’t get sick. Today, 64 out of 119 inoculated animals are cured or on their way to being cured.
By all accounts, Picker is curious, determined, and—perhaps most crucial for AIDS vaccine research—creative. Picker’s biggest show of creativity has been his use of CMV to pump up the immune system to fight off AIDS. “Louis’s idea of using the cytomegalovirus has been very innovative,” Silvestri says. “It’s a persistent virus, highly immunogenic, mildly pathogenic in most cases, and can be modified.”
As Picker explains it, “The reason we think it works is because CMV generates these large immune responses at the body’s beachheads, all of the time. They are there at the portal of entry, where the pathogens come in, and they are at all the possible places the pathogens can spread.”
Although there’s no guarantee the results will translate to humans, many in the field are cautiously optimistic that Picker’s immune innovation could be, at the very least, one component of an effective AIDS vaccine. “The model he’s used in primates is very vigorous,” says Robert Seder, who studies vaccines for infections like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria as chief of the cellular immunology section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
If his vaccine is successful in humans, Picker says, “The person who’s protected would have an infection which they wouldn’t notice. They wouldn’t get sick, and it would be cleared.”
In 2008, while attending a conference in Cape Town—where, as in much of sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is rampant—Picker met South African journalist Belinda Beresford. When the two married 10 months later, he became father to her adopted son, who had lost both his biological parents to AIDS. The teenager—one of six children in their blended family—now attends high school in Portland. This connection infuses Picker’s work with a personal drive beyond his scientific ambition. “This is still a terminal illness if you’re poor,” he says. Of the more than 35 million people infected with HIV, shockingly few—only 37 percent—have access to lifesaving antiretroviral drugs. According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million people worldwide died from AIDS in 2014, including more than 150,000 children.
And while the modern drugs are a godsend for those who can get their hands on them, they’re not perfect. Due to the latent reservoir of HIV, people on antiretrovirals still have a chronic low-level infection that causes inflammation and premature aging. Among many other side effects, AIDS drugs themselves can lead to other serious health problems, like heart disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
Meanwhile, about one in eight HIV-positive Americans doesn’t even know he or she is infected. People who are HIV-negative and at high risk for infection can take a protective drug called Truvada, but must take it daily and see doctors every three months for HIV testing and refills. “It becomes a compliance issue and a cost issue,” Seder says. The US reports 50,000 new HIV cases every year; in Oregon, an average of 260 new cases are diagnosed annually, with more than 100 of those in Multnomah County. Worldwide, it’s estimated that around 2 million people become infected with HIV each year.
The only way to stop this epidemic is to prevent new infections and cure the existing ones. “In this interconnected world, we are more at risk of infectious diseases than ever,” Picker says. “They are going to come back if you don’t get rid of them completely and you don’t keep your vigilance up.”
Based on Picker’s monkey study, in 2014 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded his team and OHSU $25 million. The project’s first human study is slated to begin in late 2016. If he can raise enough money—he estimates he’ll need something like $250 million—Picker intends to lure the leading minds in the field to Portland to start a center for HIV cure research at OHSU. With roughly 10 principal investigators, a staff of hundreds, and a dedicated facility for various arms of the research, he would then aim to lay the groundwork for an HIV cure within a little over a decade.
In June, OHSU announced that it had successfully raised $1 billion for cancer research, half from Nike cofounder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny. Picker wants to play in the same league. “If they spend even half that billion dollars wisely,” he says, “OHSU will be a major global force in cancer. That’s the goal here.”
So far, betting on his scientific prowess and CMV seems to have paid off for Picker. “It’s one of those few cases where you have a lovely idea that actually seems to work,” Silvestri says. “Louis’s vaccine is the leading candidate for a preventive AIDS vaccine, and one of the most promising candidates for a therapeutic AIDS vaccine.”
There’s still a lot of difficult work to be done. Picker must show that he can weaken CMV enough that it doesn’t make anyone sick, and that he can elicit the same immune response in humans as he did in monkeys. Only then will he be able to test the vaccine’s effectiveness in humans as prevention or cure. “Advancing into people is not a small step,” Koff says.
He must also protect more subjects. Why more than 40 percent of the monkeys did become infected is a key question. Picker or other researchers must reactivate the virus’s latent reservoir so the immune system can recognize it and fight it off. And they must find and breach the “sanctuaries” in the body, places where the immune system can’t reach latent HIV even after the virus reactivates. (In a paper published in Nature Medicine in January, Picker reported an important biological sanctuary for latent HIV, the B cell follicles of the lymph system.)
Still, Picker believes his vaccine could provide what’s known as a functional cure. Even if it doesn’t wipe out every HIV-infected T cell in the body, it could lower the viral load enough for the immune system to handle it. Given time, HIV-positive people who get the shot could go off their meds without getting sick. Ever.
It would be an epochal achievement. “Being part of either a cure or a vaccine would be wonderful, because it would bring me full circle,” he says. “From being there at the very beginning when the epidemic began to watching the devastation both in this country and through my wife’s eyes in sub-
Saharan Africa—to get to the point where it’s eliminated would be fantastic.”
Even if his AIDS trials fail, Picker believes that tuberculosis, malaria, herpes simplex 2, hepatitis B, even cancer—“other scourges of mankind,” in his parlance—also make promising targets for CMV-based vaccines. Meanwhile, Picker has helped to overturn the conventional wisdom that HIV and AIDS cannot be conquered.
“It’s always nice when you have solid evidence to change dogma,” he says. “That’s new knowledge, and that’s what we’re here for.”
This ‘f’ language really isn’t my thing but I chose to title my article that way after I saw a post on Facebook by a friend of mine and it just got me thinking. Apologies for using the ‘f’ word, I did not want to remove the same impact his post had on me when I read it. Thanks to you man, you made me think this.
By Sineke Sibanda
We have turned over to 2016 out of a horrendous 2015 and I can assure you that most of us who penned down their resolutions, they were probably a much ado about nothing. A few of us who religiously followed them really achieved little compared to what was on our diaries. I was on Forbes website yesterday and one of the quotes I met said that people who normally resort to fate are graduates of failure. This is not to rule out that there are people who strongly believe in the “fate cult”; that there is no need to plan because things will always take the course of nature. If I’m doomed to fail, I will fail, if I’m favoured to win, I will win. Taking out all the forces that are behind the doom or the victory, I want to bring ‘you’ as a force that determines either of the two. I know in Africa, people have all the superstitious answers to every failure or fortune, in Europe, they have all the logical explanations. You know what? I don’t want to be part of that trajectory because I think that it’s just a fall back platform to legitimize our failures and make us feel better about ourselves at a time we should go back to the drawing board and asses where and why we missed the heart of the dart-board.
I guess there is a proper definition as to what resolutions really are but I will explain it according to how it has been institutionalised into my genes ever since I left primary school. They said new year’s resolutions are projections of what you want to achieve at specific time frames of the year. One of the things that I was never told is that the how to, why to needs to be figured out by no one else but me and if I did not, my resolutions would remain on that paper; beside the point that I was told to be particular about the when to achieve them.
I remember some of my 2015 resolutions were to own a driver’s license, travel to four African countries for the holidays among many others, a bit too personal. Sadly, I have very convincing excuses on why none of these were achieved. Trust me if I tell you my reasons, you will really say f**k resolutions… But to be quite honest, I think there is no need to f**k resolutions because at the end it all, we are the people who screw up our resolutions due to several reasons. There is an old adage that says life is what you make it, when I looked at it while writing my 2016 resolutions, it read differently and made perfect sense. I could have made my life if I had I asked myself the right questions. The reasons why most resolutions fail is because we ask the wrong questions. When you ask yourself the wrong questions, you are bound to get wrong answers, if that happens, then you are doomed.
We are also afraid of challenging what we already know. One thing I have learnt over the years is that you can never grow beyond what you already know. The amount of what you know determines how far you reach. Some of our resolutions have failed because we didn’t acquire the necessary knowledge to achieve them. It’s so sad that we want to be better but do not dare ourselves to try that which will make us better. If you are afraid of challenging yourself to reach out to the deep, then don’t hope to get there. The idea is to be able to match your resolutions with a proper plan of action and then act.
One other funny thing that normally happens is that when we write our resolutions, we tend to go up the terraces and expect to see them work out miraculous somersault for us. Really? Everything on earth requires motion and action, nothing goes on autopilot, you need to be part of the resolution, once you distance yourself from it, forget the miracle. You need to be part of the resolution, nothing happens on its own. You make things happen.
The next point reminds me of a song by Imagine Dragons from the Night Vision album, “Demons”, ‘nomater what we breed, we still are made of greed’. It’s true, we are made of greed but I think we are still reasonable enough to know that we cannot be greedy on ourselves. I mean you are the resolution yourself. The principle of chewing only enough for you to swallow applies here. The best you can do is to pen down your resolutions, break the targets down to smaller bits that you can assimilate and work on getting the desired result in short time frames and then assess yourself at those specific time frames and measure your success.
For the guys that believe in just doing it, it’s good too, just do it but till when will we continue walking blindly without an idea of the future. The reason why we tend to think resolutions don’t work, it’s because we don’t make provisions for playing while we achieve our goals. Play hard and work hard, simple. As you reach out to your goals, make the process enjoyable.
Life is funny, you only get out of it what you put into it. So discipline yourself enough to reach out to the best of life. Work on your resolutions and put your heart, soul and spirit to making them come true, no miracles this time around, otherwise, instead of F**king resolutions, you know who to ‘f’…
I have just been thinking lately while I continued in this spirit of activism against gender based violence, my mind has been struck by the fact that we have 365 days in a year and we only have 16 days to raise awareness on gender based violence. I realized that 16 days are somehow inadequate for such a cause. I know that my chauvinist and feminist colleagues may be wondering what I intend to establish by writing such ‘nonsense’.
Principally, if you look at issues of development as isolated from inclusivity, I dare say you need to recourse. On a backdrop of looking at women’s role in peace negotiations, peace building, diplomacy, decision-making, poverty reduction, universal justice, policy formulation, socio-political reform, economic recuperation among other key issues, it is quite evident that all this cannot be achieved in 16 days of activism. We need to look beyond the #16, because this is not just an episode but an entire series that needs more time and resources to achieve tangible results.
Concerns of gender-based violence have continued since 1991 when these #16Days were declared and endorsed for observation but we have had a considerable increase of these issues, meaning the #16days have not been enough to address these. Looking at period after 1991, we had a considerable number of women who were raped and tortured in the Rwandan civil war in 1994, the Kenyan violence of 2007, political violence in Zimbabwe in 2008. One may note that these were war and conflict scenarios, but does a war push people to rape others? If it doesn’t, then why has the protection of women during these times been so un-prioritised. It shows a lack of will to do so by the nations as a whole.
We also started hearing issues of human trafficking for prostitution and drug smuggling in South Africa, Nigeria and other countries by some business pimps, women were the main objects used for these deals. Boko Haram also came in with their religious expediency and manipulated young girls, depriving them of their right to education and dignity. There are a lot of issues we can relate to but in all honesty, the idea is that we need to look beyond the #16 because it is not enough. Of course there are men who have shared the same fate, as such looking beyond the #16 is a win-win for both men and women.
We need to start looking at the #16days as a starting point towards something bigger and better; as a process to making the world a safer and better place, extending to the protection of women and men. Everyday should be a lifestyle of being conscious of each other’s rights and their protection.
The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) has challenged government to look into issues of students’ affairs or brace for a year of students protests in the coming year.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the new national executive, incoming President, Alister Pfunye, told journalists that the team was working on creating solidarity networks that would enable the progressive betterment of students’ lives across the country.
“We will put government to task. We are ready to pursue government so that we get our academic freedoms and exercise our rights as students. As the new leadership, we will lobby and engage the ministry of education and the ministry of Finance to support and put students at the forefront,” said Pfunye.
The new executive also decried the failure by government to consider students in the 2016 budget by allocating funds to improve the infrastructure and accommodation at tertiary institutions. The team said it is contemplating to push for a review of the budget by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
The team also said the issue of accommodation and general students’ poverty has led to a rise of sexually transmitted diseases across higher learning institutions in the country.
“We are also worried about the government’s silence on the welfare of students away from home who have resorted to engaging in sexual relations with sugar daddies (elder people) and miners who are in areas close to institutions such as Great Zimbabwe University and Midlands State University. Our recent statistics are at 6,000 for students with STIs at different institutions all over the country,” said Makomborero Haruziviishe, the new secretary General.
Despite the failure by the previous leaderships to engage the ministry of higher and tertiary education, the new leadership promised to continuously push until answers come from the government.
“We will continue to push even if they keep quiet, we will let the students speak. If they don’t listen to us, the power is in the students that elected us, that which they will desire we do to get the attention of the government, we will do,” Pfunye said.
The new leadership denounced allegations of being associated with any political party emphasizing on the fact that they are a strictly non partisan movement but a student movement pioneering the interests of all Zimbabwean tertiary students.
“I want to emphasise that we are not pushing interests of any political party, we are a student’s union with the interests of students at heart,” spokesperson Togarepi Mhetu said.
On the same note, the new president dismissed the allegations as unfounded and baseless charging that ZINASU is not aligned to any political party because the struggles faced by students are universal and they do not care whose political party card you carry.
The outgoing president, Gilbert Mtubuki, challenged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and President Mugabe to attend their elections in the future so that they can see that democracy is still alive and young people are ready to inspire government to also follow democratic tendencies.
“I sincerely wish that our senior politicians could learn from us the youth, we had our congress from 6-9 December 2015 and our elections were fair and credible as students freely expressed their democratic right and voted for a new leadership of their choice. There was no Nikuv, no rigging, the elections were free and fair.”
The leadership which vowed to challenge the privatization of tertiary education by government while demonizing students and subjecting them to uncouth conditions is led by Alistar Pfunye of Midlands State University and Precious Manyoka of Bondolfi Teachers College (BTC) as the vice president.
Makomborero Haruzivishe of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) is the Secretary General while Wilfred Chadzima of Masvingo Teachers College (MTC) is the board’s Treasurer General. Togarepi Mhetu of MSU is the spokesperson and the Gender Secretary is UZ’s Caroline Ganti.
Other members of the national excutive council are Thamsanqa Ndlovu of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) ,Mellisa Museka of (BTC) and Privilege Gandira of the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) who is the Secretary for Legal Affairs.