COMPASS Reverse Congressional Delegation Advocates: Impress, inspire, inform and invigorate

This post originally published by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

“We’re the generation to make conversations about HIV prevention with adolescents and youth normal among African families.”

These were the words of young women’s health advocates Maria Kapira, Cleopatra Sheilla Makura, Thandie Msukuma, Dr. Lilian Benjamin Mwakyosi and Hilda Zenda during a COMPASS Africa reverse congressional delegation CHANGE hosted on HIV prevention last week.

Maria, Cleopatra, Thandie, Lilian and Hilda traveled from Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to Washington, DC as our partners in COMPASS Africa and spent one week exchanging their expertise on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in US-funded HIV prevention programs for adolescent girls and young women with policymakers, the media and fellow SRHR experts.

COMPASS Africa stands for Coalition to build Momentum, Power, Activism, Strategy and Solidarity in Africa, and aims to provide a comprehensive, integrated HIV response supported by a robust advocacy system that is Africa-centered, addresses non-HIV issues and is high impact and data-driven. CHANGE’s role in the program, which is an initiative led by AVAC, is to hold the US government accountable to its commitments to HIV and AIDS prevention for adolescent girls and young women in the three countries, and to be a resource to in-country partners on integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights in HIV and AIDS prevention programs.

Visiting Congress

As part of the COMPASS Africa reverse congressional delegation — or reverse co-del — Maria, Cleopatra, Thandie, Lilian and Hilda participated in CHANGE’s signature advocacy tool. We flip the traditional structure of congressional delegations because policymakers need to hear from sources outside of the US government even within the halls of Congress. As such, we bring advocates from countries receiving US global health assistance to the United States to speak truth to power.

The advocates met with Representative Joaquin Castro and Nita Lowey’s staff to discuss HIV prevention programs in US global health assistance. Maria, Cleopatra, Thandie, Lilian and Hilda also met with new members of Congress, including Representatives Andy Levin and Ilhan Omar to educate them on the importance of comprehensive SRHR programs as they onboard in their new roles. They shared compelling stories with policymakers and their staff to provide critical perspectives that are too often missing from the decision making process in Washington.

visiting planned parenthood

Maria, Cleopatra, Thandie, Lilian and Hilda also met with staff from Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington to discuss comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and Whitman-Walker Health to learn about the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV and AIDS.

Visiting Whitman-Walker Health

The advocates led a media briefing with top-tier media outlets, including Reuters and PBS. To further share their stories, they recorded a podcast episode on the importance of comprehensive HIV prevention in US global health assistance with RePROS Fight Back, a podcast hosted by Jennie Wetter from the Population Institute that features reproductive rights and justice advocates about issues under attack and provides listeners with way to fight back.

Recording the podcast as RePROS

We had an exhilarating week exchanging expertise on SRHR, brainstorming solutions for strengthening US global health assistance, and listening to the advocates’ powerful stories. The advocates left us feeling impressed, inspired, informed and invigorated.

As the advocates mentioned during the media briefing last week, we need to work together to change cultural norms so we can have a positive influence on future generations. Our pursuit of SRHR for all the generations to come has never been more critical — and after last week, watching these fierce advocates in Washington, DC, it feels like it might be possible.

On Capitol Hill

In Memoriam: Manasseh Phiri

Mitchell Warren is Executive Director at AVAC.

It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I share the news that Manasseh Phiri passed away earlier today in Lusaka.

Manasseh was a dear friend and partner: a doctor, writer and radio journalist, activist, advocate, mentor and farmer! Such a long list of roles, each which he managed with passion, courage, wisdom, intelligence and humor.

Many AVACers and partners had the chance to learn from him, enjoy time with him, and be challenged by him at various meetings, workshops and Partners’ Forums. He was also a leading voice in the establishment of AfNHi.

Even when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and went through many rounds of treatment, he continued to be a passionate AIDS advocate – while also establishing the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Zambia so that he could channel his public health, person-centered commitment to HIV/AIDS and to prostate cancer.

He will be sorely missed on so many levels.

Manasseh Phiri

The New Px Pulse is Up — Check out “The Science of Choice”

Now up on our Px Pulse page, and available on your favorite podcast platform, is our latest episode of Px Pulse: “The Science of Choice — The future of HIV prevention research”.

This episode features unmissable conversations about some of the challenges associated with today’s HIV prevention options, and analysis about what should be in the research pipeline of the future.

The field of HIV prevention has been buzzing about the US Government’s National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) since it was published in January 2019. The FOA is the latest development once again bringing the topic of choice to the lips of advocates, researchers, funders and community members—and hear why in this episode of Px Pulse.

NIH’s Division of AIDS (DAIDS) leader Carl Dieffenbach and his colleague, Director Sheryl Zwerski—speaking at a January meeting of the AIDS Research Advisory Committee meeting—address the portfolio of prevention strategies that sets the stage for this episode. Linda-Gail Bekker, former President of the International AIDS Society and a leader at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, shares her agenda for the “science of choice”. And AVAC’s Manju Chatani-Gada talks to two young women advocates from Zimbabwe, Maximina Jokonya of Africaid, and Audrey Nosenga of Young Positives. These young women explain the limits of prevention today and why more choices will mean greater empowerment.

For the full podcast episode, highlights and resources, visit And subscribe on iTunes to catch every episode!

PrEPWatch Redesign!

A redesigned is now at your fingertips! The search engine is more powerful, the site navigation is cleaner and simpler, and you will continue to find the rich selection of resources that inform PrEP introduction around the world. Since 2006, has been home to information on PrEP research, data, cost, access, implementation and advocacy around the world.

As the PrEP field evolves, so does PrEPWatch. Don’t miss these new and trusted tools and resources:

For a quick orientation to the site’s new look and feel, check out the short 5-minute video below. It provides a tour of the main navigation and dives a little deeper into a few of the powerful tools found on