AS we celebrate Women’s month, Pietermaritzburg-based businesswoman Chitra Singh is committed to playing an integral part in public health research and the implementation of targeted health programmes, especially HIV prevention programmes, to make a difference and improve the lives of South Africans. Chitra is the KwaZulu-Natal Regional Manager for Epicentre, an organisation that focuses on Public Health Research and implements programmes across the country. Armed with a Masters of Social Science (Research Psychology) degree and registered with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) as a Research Psychologist, Chitra is passionate about generating scientific and policy-relevant knowledge that will make a difference and impact lives. “I love the scope and diversity of the work that I do and am privileged to work with a very efficient and hardworking team that shares a common vision,” says Chitra.Over the last 18 years, Epicentre has played a major role in responding to the HIV epidemic. Initially conducting HIV prevalence, workplace and HIV treatment programmes within numerous corporate companies, followed by larger more complex research projects including the HEAIDS University study in 2008-2009 testing 25 000 students and staff, the Swaziland HIV incidence study 2010-2011 to evaluate the effectiveness of circumcision preventing HIV transmission, to the HIV Incidence Provincial Surveillance System (HIPSS) 2014-2018 which evaluated the impact of the scale up of HIV programmes on HIV incidence (new infections). “In the last three years alone we have conducted no less than 13 different research projects in partnership with leading researchers. “Our team collects robust surveillance data to control diseases in SA and neighbouring countries, assist with designing 90-90-90 programme strategies and collaborate with leading scientists to guide interventions that benefit people more efficiently,” explains Chitra.Chitra was appointed to serve on the HPTN’s (HIV Prevention Trial Network) Women at Risk Scientific Committee (2015-2016) and is a member of the Golden Key International Honours Society. She believes that Women’s Month is an important time to recognise the progress women from all walks of life in SA have made and to celebrate their achievements. “Women’s month is a special time to pay tribute not only to the thousands of women who fought for the equal rights that we as women have today, but also to acknowledge the important women that have played a significant role and made a difference in our own lives. “I am proud that I have always had strong women role models in my life (my mum and grandmother) who largely shaped the woman I am today,” says Chitra. Chitra is happily married to Nasham Singh and has a beautiful and very active four-year-old daughter, Reha. “I am truly blessed to have a good support system and a very hands on husband.” Her advice for fellow working women is to adopt a passion for learning while remaining focused. “There is no substitute for hard work. It is important to learn as much as you can about your chosen field. The more well-rounded you are in your field, the more effective you will be at work and the more attractive you will be to prospective employers. Make every effort to stay focused. “If your vision and passion are very clear and if you believe in something, other people will too. Remain focused on your goals, work hard and enjoy the journey towards achieving your dreams,” concludes Chitra.— Supplied.