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TB and HIV Investigative Network (THINK) is a registered non-profit organisation dedicated to making a difference on the tuberculosis (TB) and HIV epidemics through clinical research, training and improved health systems. THINK is supported through international research funding as well as government, and industry and global health partners.

Dr Kristina Wallengren, PhD, MPH, is the founder and Executive Director of THINK. She says, "THINK was started with an urgency to make a difference. The burden of disease is high South Africa, and KwaZulu-Natal is the province that suffers from the highest number of drug resistant TB cases per population, so we had to do something. We have the expertise at our hands as cutting-edge researchers and public health experts."

THINK started its first clinical trial in 2013 in a small room at Durban Medical Centre with a small research team providing treatment to 12 patients. Since then THINK has created 300 job opportunities a nd provided care for over 130 000 patients in eThekwini. "THINK is providing evidence based interventions to strengthen health systems to support all patients on ART. The global goal is to end AIDS by 2030 and we are the forefront of contributing to this goal," says Siyabonga Nzimande, Director.

THINK undertakes the whole scope of TB and HIV interventions, from prevention, to care, to treatment follow-up of patients. "We have expanded out from research sector into health service strengthening service delivery," explained Dr Wallengren.


Dr Wallengren has a hands-on approach to managing organisation which permits her being involved in all aspects of the activities. "I like to visit the clinics and field because it is empowering for me to know and understand what is happening on the ground. This enables me to much better informed in my decision making." "No matter your position in the organisation, the whole team is one big family. Dr Wallengren's leadership style the one thing that connects the dots to be able to provide the quality of work that we do." says Trevor Mvundura, Chief Financial Officer.

"We have a very unique leadership style as we don't from the front. We form the back bone that steers our teams forward; providing the skills and capacity development for each staff member," says Dr Ronelle Moodliar, Principal Investigator. "We are all reaching for the same goal; impacting one patient, one family, and one community at a time."


"THINK believes in people, we have demonstrated that internally. This is the value that underpins the daily operations of the organisation." says Siyabonga Nzimande, Director. "Making a difference starts with how we make each other feel as colleagues. When we are supported by our colleagues, we feel that we belong," added Dr Wallengren. "The main thing that keeps me driven is the passion, it oozes out of everybody, which makes our work exciting and helps us address challenges when they come," says Dr Moodliar.


"The most important person is the patient and we are cognizant that behind the data is a face, not a number, " says Nzimande. Due to the long duration of clinical trials, the research staff get to know their patients well. Consequently, the staff's interaction often goes beyond clinical treatment to include involvement in social issues that impact on their patient's daily lives.

Due to this approach, many of the THINK's patients are advocates for the organisation. As said by one patient, "The nurses are great and the doctors will take care of you fantastically." What keeps THINK's patients and other stakeholders coming back is the transparency that the organisation demonstrates as well as its efforts to go that extra mile.

THINK also allows its sponsors to step into its world. We are that advocate for both the patient and the sponsor, thus marrying the patient with the data," says Dr Moodliar. As such the relationships with THINK's sponsors have been built on a foundation of trust, transparency, competence, compliance with international norms and local rules and regulations. "THINK is defined by authenticity in all that we do," says Dr Wallengren.

As THINK needs to generate income in order to remain sustainable, an important aspect of the organisation's work is education and training in schools and workplaces on TB and HIV, and healthy living practices. In addition, THINK runs wellness and peer education programmes to overcome stigma barriers for HIV patients at clinics and companies. " All of this adds up to our brand and our image," emphasizes Mvundura.

Since the organisation was founded in 2013, THINK has grown enormously and achieved a number of successes including developing a demonstrable model for othee organisations to replicate.

Dr Wallengren said, "Partners and sponsors come to us because they know that the quality of our work is excellent. We also work collaboratively with a number of institutions." Three new TB drugs, the first since the 1950s, have recently been developed and THINK is contributing to bringing them to the market. Furthermore, THINK has conducted research to improve care for drug resistant TB by reducing treatment duration from two years nine months, which has now been adopted as standard of care in South Africa. "We are the ones who brought in the data that enabled the World Health Organisation to revise the global treatment guidelines; knowing shorter treatment is possible," added Nzimande


New TB medication has the possibility of shortening treatment for both drug sensitive and drug resistant even further and to change millions of lives by providing single cure for all strains of TB in the next 10 years. A specific field of interest is TB in children who are chronically under diagnosed. However, they are vulnerable to infection due to the close contact that they have with their mothers (who may be infected) from one to two years of age.

"We are all about working smart not hard, we have to live world that is evolving. The new tool is business intelligence, which is a platform for making informed decisions always having a finger on the pulse of where we are," Dr Wallengren. "We want to save the world."


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