Dr. Norma Harris’ Reflections on Contributions to Ending the HIV Epidemic

Content From: HIV.govPublished: February 16, 20244 min read


I’ve had an incredible opportunity to work with many real giants in the public health field. And, for that, I'm extremely grateful. Thank you to those who mentored me along the way. I would not have had the career that I've had without their support.


Before her retirement, Norma S. Harris, PhD, MSPH, shared these words with HIV.gov as she reflected on her 35-year career in public health, a field she chose because it’s science-based and provides opportunities to impact diverse communities positively. We honor Dr. Harris for her contributions to the HIV field and celebrate her legacy and impact in areas such as HIV surveillance, HIV prevention indicators, and reproductive health, among others.

After 11 years with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, most notably as the HIV Surveillance Coordinator, Dr. Harris transitioned to working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Her retirement in December 2023 marked the end of her 24 years working at the CDC, where she most recently served as the Associate Director of the Office of Performance Improvement within the Division of HIV Prevention.

“Dr. Norma Harris was instrumental in leading the work to create the quality-of-life indicators for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy [NHAS] and instrumental in the development of the AHEAD dashboard. Through her dedication and deep knowledge of data sources, the NHAS, the quality-of-life indicators, and the AHEAD dashboard are richer, more nuanced tools that support our national efforts to end the HIV epidemic.
–Harold J. Phillips, MRP, Former Director, White House Office of National AIDS Policy.

During her CDC tenure, where she has held various leadership roles, Dr. Harris is proud of the work she contributed to regarding HIV surveillance because, as she noted, “surveillance is the backbone of any public health work that we do at the CDC.” As she reflected upon her early days at the CDC’s HIV Surveillance Branch, one project she is particularly proud to have been a part of is the Enhanced Perinatal Surveillance Project. As project coordinator, she was responsible for evaluating timely perinatal HIV prevention efforts and monitoring the implementation of the U.S. Public Health Service’s recommendations for HIV testing and the use of antiretroviral medication to prevent perinatal HIV transmission. “Being a part of the overall success in drastically reducing perinatal HIV infections in the U.S. is extremely rewarding, and I’m honored to have played a role in this historic public health achievement,” she said.

Collaborating with colleagues at the CDC and in the federal government, Dr. Harris played a critical role in identifying the indicators for HIV prevention. She shared, “This is really what I’m passionate about—the work surrounding the indicators for HIV prevention and identifying those most strategic indicators for the nation that we should be working on and then working to collect and report those data for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), and the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative (EHE). Using data to identify gaps or areas needing more action is critical in reaching NHAS and EHE goals."

The Future of HIV Work

As we neared the end of our conversation, Dr. Harris offered her thoughts about what she envisions for the future of HIV work: “I’d like to see additional efforts around the key pieces of work that are going to reduce new HIV infections, specifically testing, and getting folks linked to care, and the continuum of care working to get people virally suppressed. Progress in reducing new HIV infections has not been seen in all populations; consequently, focusing on identifying ways to address social determinants of health will be instrumental in moving the needle and seeing additional progress in reducing new HIV infections."

As HIV.gov looks toward the future and continues supporting efforts to end the HIV epidemic, we thank Dr. Harris for her invaluable contributions to identifying indicators for U.S. HIV prevention initiatives, NHAS and EHE, and America's HIV Epidemic Analysis Dashboard (AHEAD). AHEAD is a tool that includes the key HIV prevention indicators used to track EHE's implementation and the progress made toward achieving the initiative's goals. To learn more about this interactive tool, please read our web page here.