Ryan White Remembered

April 8 marks the 28 year anniversary of Ryan White’s death.

Before HIV transmission was well understood, factor 8, a protein important to blood clotting, was often pooled from hundreds of untested blood donations.  This exposed hemophilia patients like Ryan White to HIV; in an article for PBS Newshour, Dr. Howard Markel recalls that “virtually every hemophiliac [he] treated in the mid-1980s has since died from AIDS.”

Ryan White was a teenager living with hemophilia during this time period.  He was diagnosed with HIV in December, 1984, and became an eloquent spokesperson for people living with HIV.  Among other forms of stigma, Ryan White was initially not permitted to attend school after his HIV diagnosis.  After winning a court case to resume in-person attendance at school, Ryan and his family faced intense hostility from community members, and relocated to Cicero, Indiana.

Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage

Homophobia and misinformation about HIV transmission were rampant sources of prejudice against people living with HIV; Ryan White’s advocacy helped dispel some of the misinformation about the nature and transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Months after Ryan White’s death on April 8, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Ryan White CARE Act to help cities, states, and community organizations to develop comprehensive systems of care; the legislation targeted the poorest people living in the United States with HIV/AIDS.

Myron Cohen Interviewed for The Body

Myles Helfand interviewed Associate CFAR Director Myron Cohen in a series for The Body.

In a short video interview with The Body, an HIV/AIDS-specific service of Remedy Health Media, Dr. Myron Cohen, MD, Associate CFAR Director & International Core Associate Director,  shares a personal anecdote about a patient whose wellbeing was rapidly transformed with the introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

“It was an amazing realization that this medicine, which we’d been told could stop the replication of HIV, I was seeing it before my eyes, and that was really something I’ll never forget.” -Myron Cohen

Myron Cohen interviewed for The Body

This interview is part of a series of interviews conducted by Myles Helfand on behalf of The Body.  Helfand asked HIV care providers to share anecdotes about the most inspiring moments in their careers.

He also interviewed Dr. David Wohl, the Co-Director of the North Carolina AIDS Training and Education Center (NCAETC) and Dr. David Margolis, the Director of the UNC HIV Cure Center and Principal Investigator at Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication (CARE).

Research Assistant Earns Impact Award

Thibaut Davy-Méndez earns Impact Award

Thibaut Davy-Méndez, photo by Amy Stern

Each department may nominate three current masters or doctoral students or recent graduates per year for the Impact and Horizon Award.  Their research should have direct impact on North Carolina.  

Impact Award

On Thursday, April 5, Thibaut Davy-Méndez will receive one of the 2018 UNC Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award for his work related to antiretroviral therapy resistance.  Of particular import was his contributions to a study whose findings were presented at the 2017 Conference Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI): resistance to newer classes of antiretroviral drugs was significantly lower than older classes of drugs.  These findings, Davy-Méndez believes, will help UNC HIV care providers inform their clinical practice.

CFAR Connection

A Research Assistant with the UNC CFAR Clinical Core, Davy-Méndez credits the support of his mentors Joe Eron, MD, and Sonia Napravnik, PhD.

Learn More

For a more extensive story about Thibaut Davy-Méndez’ Impact Award, please visit the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases website.


Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professorship

The Sarah Graham Kenan Award recipients will receive five-year, renewable terms, and are subject to a rigorous review process.

Sarah Graham Kenan Awardees

Last week, Ada Adimora, MD, MPH; David Margolis, MD; and Janet Rubin, MD; were named Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professors.  Dr. Adimora co-directs the UNC CFAR Developmental Core, and Dr. Margolis directs the HIV Cure Center.Dr. Ada Adimora

The Review Process

As the Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professorship is one of the most prestigious awards given my the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine, each candidate was subject to a rigorous review process.  After a preliminary review by a committee of distinguished School of Medicine professors, the Dean’s Advisory Committee, the University’s Health Sciences Advisory Committee, the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, and the Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Committee evaluated the accomplishments of each professor.Dr. David Margolis

For more details about the history of the Sarah Graham Kenan Award, as well as information about each of the awardees’ accomplishments, please visit the UNC Health Care and School of Medicine Newsroom.

Biostatistics Software for Analyzing Dilution Assays

Biostatistics Core Develops Software Tool for Analyzing Dilution Assays

UNC Center for AIDS Research Biostatistics Core graduate research assistant Ilana Trumble and former Core GRAs Andrew Allmon, Owen Francis, Pedro Baldoni, alumnus Dr. Joseph Rigdon, and Core Director, Prof. Michael Hudgens published a research paper in the November 2017 issue of the Journal of Immunological Methods, titled “SLDAssay: A software package and web tool for analyzing limiting dilution assays”.

In current HIV research, dilution assays are used to investigate strategies for eradicating the virus from latently infected cells in HIV positive individuals. This software package aids in the detection of the latent HIV reservoir by providing tools for analyzing data from dilution assays.

The R-package is found here .

MI Blog: Responding to Discord

Here is an excerpt from the most recent UNC CFAR Motivational Interviewing Blog:

“However, ‘discord’ can sometimes be caused by our mood or approach. Perhaps like any other human being, we may feel tired, stressed, overwhelmed, or distracted, and may bring some of these experiences into our sessions with our clients. It may also be that we, as clinicians, are working harder than the client, wanting change to occur badly for the client, and/or we are trying to move the client along faster than they are ready.” —Motivational Interviewing Questions: Responding to Discord

Click here to access the UNC CFAR Motivational Interviewing Blog homepage.

Multivalent Antibodies Show Effectiveness for HIV Prevention and Promise for Treatment and Cure

The ability of HIV to mutate has been a major challenge to vaccine development. As the body produces antibodies to target the outer HIV envelope protein, this protein changes, thwarting the circulating antibodies’ ability to neutralize it. Yet recent studies testing multivalent combinations of three broadly neutralizing antibodies, or bnAbs, have yielded promising results in animal models of HIV prevention. Two investigators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill describe the potential of bnAbs to inform HIV prevention, treatment and cure strategies in a recent article in the New Journal of Medicine. 

“BnAbs are thought to be akin to signposts – that they point to a path that might be followed by a future HIV vaccine strategy through induction of bnAbs capable of preventing HIV infection,” said David Margolis, M.D., article co-author and director of the UNC HIV Cure Center.

No single bnAb can protect against all the variants of HIV present in infected individuals. However, combinations of multiple bnAbs provide increased efficacy.  The development of trispecific multivalent antibodies combine the best attributes of each into a single molecule capable of recognizing and neutralizing multiple viruses not recognized by the individual bnAbs.

“Trispecific antibodies engage a broader range of viral particles than do monospecific and bispecific antibodies,” said J. Victor Garcia, Ph.D., article co-author and a professor of medicine at UNC. “Trispecific antibodies may also block infection more efficiently at mucosal surfaces and within deeper tissue as well as neutralize a wider range of viral particles.

The authors also detail how bnAbs could change HIV treatment and cure research. Broadly neutralizing antibodies may contribute to the deployment of long-acting antiretroviral therapy, which would be an attractive alternative for people who currently take daily medication to control their HIV. In the cure arena, bnAbs could be paired with latency reversing agents to target and clear the virus

“Broadly neutralizing antibodies capable of recognizing HIV-infected cells could direct effector cells to clear the latent reservoir,” Margolis said. “In the case of the evasive HIV envelope, three may be the charm.”

Ending Gender Inequalities: Evidence to Impact Conference

You’re invited to join us for the Ending Gender Inequalities: Evidence to Impact Conference

Conference registration opens 28 February 2018
Participating in this meeting will help you:

  • Enhance knowledge of applied gender research, practice, and implementation, including new technology, gender-focused service delivery plans, evidence-based interventions, equalizing gender roles, education and economic empowerment activities
  • Form collaborative networks with skilled global gender scientists to share successes and challenges in implementation and sustainability of evidence-based programs for underserved key populations
  • Strategize solutions and innovative methods to reach key underserved populations, including but not limited to HIV affected populations, women who use substances, refugee women and children, adolescent girls and young women, and survivors of GBV

Conference Poster Abstracts Now Being Accepted

Key areas of interest: gender-based violence, economic empowerment, educating girls and women, health and wellbeing – such as substance use, HIV, family planning, sexual and reproductive health, and other areas focused on addressing gender inequality!

09 February 2018: Submission deadline for those desiring mentorship with abstracts
16 March 2018: Submission deadline for all abstracts
16 March 2018: Travel Award application deadline
30 April 2018: Abstract acceptance notifications and Travel Award notifications

Detailed abstract and submission information provided here:
Abstract Submission Site

For more information
contact us at gender@rti.org
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Student Brings Panel of AIDS Quilt to UNC

Elizabeth Trefney and her father John will see Jeremy Trefney's panel for the first time when it comes to campus in January.

Elizabeth Trefney and her father John will see Jeremy Trefney’s panel for the first time when it comes to campus in January.

As a freshman at UNC, Elizabeth Trefney remembers seeing a flyer publicizing a class about HIV/AIDS. The semester-long course is offered each spring by the UNC Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and is open to all students. Past classes have focused on how the virus impacts the immune system, currently available treatments and the latest prevention strategies.

For Trefney, the course material felt personal. Her uncle, Jeremy, died of AIDS in 1988. She recently learned her uncle had a panel in the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt began in 1987 as a way of celebrating the lives of those lost to HIV. Trefney’s father, John, says Jeremy’s friends created his panel, which is number 766. There are now more than 48,000 3-by-6-foot panels.

Taking the HIV/AIDS course inspired Elizabeth Trefney to action. She asked UNC’s Executive Vice Provost Ron Strauss, DMD, PhD, who also organizes the HIV/AIDS course, if bringing the quilt to campus was a possibility. Strauss said it was feasible and encouraged Trefney to reach out to the Names Project Foundation in Atlanta, which is the custodian of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

“At first, I just requested bringing a section of the quilt to campus,” Trefney says. “Then I learned I could request my uncle’s panel. It will be the first time anyone in my family has seen it.”

The panel will be on display in the Carolina Student Union’s West Lounge from Jan. 10-31, 2018. There will be a special presentation where attendees will be asked to shine lights from their cell phones on the quilt in an act of unity on Wednesday, Jan. 24, from 7-8 p.m.

An avid musician, Jeremy Trefney's panel of the AIDS Quilt illustrates his passion for the piano.

An avid musician, Jeremy Trefney’s panel of the AIDS Quilt illustrates his passion for the piano.

Surrounded by Love
Jeremy Trefney worked as a marketing professional by day and played music at night in Cleveland. John Trefney remembers listening to his older brother play the clarinet, saxophone and piano.

“Elizabeth plays the piano and I feel like a piece of him is still with us when she plays,” Trefney says.

John Trefney was a high school sophomore when Jeremy told the family he was gay.

“I had a tough time accepting that. It took me about six months to come to terms with it,” Trefney says. “But the experience brought us closer. And when Jeremy became sick and told us he had AIDS, we embraced him. That was not the case for everyone who was diagnosed at that time. My father would go to the hospital every day. I remember him rubbing my brother’s feet. But some people never had any visitors and they died alone.”

Jeremy Trefney died at the age of 31 in 1988. No treatments for the virus existed at that time. The field has come a long way in the past 30 years with UNC leading major discoveries in treatment, prevention and cure research.

Elizabeth Trefney never met her uncle. She and her father hope bringing his panel to UNC will put a face to the virus that still affects nearly 37 million people worldwide.

“Throughout his fight with AIDS, my brother was always surrounded by love,” John Trefney says. “We hope people will visit his panel while it is on campus, and feel that sense of love and acceptance.”