RIP Dawn Smith, HIV prevention advocate and CDC researcher


The following post on was written by B. Kaye Hayes, MPA, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infectious Diseases, Director, Office of Infectious Diseases and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP), Executive Director, Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).

The Office of Infectious Diseases and HIV/AIDS Policy joins the rest of the HIV community in mourning the passing of Dr. Dawn Smith of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of us in this office have had the good fortune to work with Dr. Smith. She was a shrewd leader and a friend. Her career as an epidemiologist, physician, and researcher with the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention (DHP) spanned decades, and her countless contributions to the field have made a real difference in the lives of so many. of people.

Dr. Smith completed her residency at the Indian Health Service Hospital in Fort Defiance, Arizona. Subsequently, while earning a dual master’s degree in public health and statistics from the University of Michigan in the late 1980s, she learned of a deadly new disease that was killing African Americans at a rate disproportionate. This sparked his lifelong commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS. She began working at the CDC in 1991. Her career there included four years as Associate Director of HIV Research at the CDC’s field station in Botswana, where she helped develop clinical trial infrastructure and launched PrEP trials.

Over the past decade, she has been one of the nation’s leading analysts and advocates for expanding PrEP access and use to all those for whom it is indicated, including homosexuals of color and heterosexual men and women. Most recently, Dr. Smith held the position of Head of Biomedical Prevention Activity at DHP. She was the lead author of the recently updated CDC Clinical Practice Guidelines for PrEP. Dr. Smith was also one of the leaders of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative in the United States, managing DHP’s EHE Prevent Pillar Working Group, one of four working groups for each of the EHE pillars supporting the 57 priority jurisdictions to expand and strengthen their locally informed efforts to end new HIV transmissions.

At the time of her death, Dr. Smith was assigned to lead the Epidemiology Task Force in the CDC’s multinational response to monkeypox, where she applied her experience and expertise to another infectious disease of global concern.

I had the pleasure of working with Dawn for the first time 31 years ago when I was also at CDC. We developed the first workplace HIV education program for CDC employees. It was the start of a long relationship. I know I am just one of many people in this field who have benefited from his guidance and mentorship. She was a smart villain and a warrior in the fight against HIV among disproportionately affected women and communities of color.

My colleagues Harold Phillips, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Timothy Harrison, Senior Deputy Director of the IOPD, also shared their memories of working with Dawn and her many contributions to the HIV community. :

“At the February 2020 meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), Dr. Smith made a strong impression as a member of a panel of all female researchers who focused on missed opportunities for testing of HIV and access to PrEP for Black women,” Phillips recalls. “Filled with insight and potential solutions, her remarks conveyed both her wisdom and her passion. ensured that we explored the issues she raised in the development of the Revised National HIV/AIDS Strategy Dawn has mentored and inspired many of us in the field of public health and as part of his legacy, it is up to us to complete the tasks at hand.

“Dawn was truly at the forefront of working to eliminate HIV-related health disparities and ensure equity in our HIV response,” Dr. Harrison noted. “Over the past decade, she has been such an effective advocate for ensuring that new biomedical tools reach those who need them most, especially communities of color and women.”

My IOPD team and I send our sincere condolences to Dawn’s family, friends and colleagues at CDC and to the entire HIV community. She will be greatly missed as a leader, mentor and friend.

This announcement originally appeared on November 9, 2022 on

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