PLOS Medicine Special Issue: Advances in HIV Prevention, Treatment and Cure

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The editors of PLOS Medicine are delighted to announce a forthcoming Special Issue focused on HIV research, along with guest editors Drs Linda-Gail Bekker, Steven Deeks and Sharon Lewin. Submissions are now being invited, with a deadline of June 9, 2017.

PLOS Medicine, the leading open access medical journal published by PLOS, welcomes submission of reports of high-quality research studies to be considered for publication in a special issue covering advances in the prevention, treatment and cure of HIV infection. This special issue, to be published at the end of 2017, will be guest edited by Dr Linda-Gail Bekker of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town; Dr Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco; and Dr Sharon Lewin of the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital. Alongside research papers, the special issue will include commissioned content contributed by leaders in the field.

HIV infection continues to pose a critical risk to health in many countries, with 2.1 million people (including 150,000 children) estimated by UNAIDS to have been newly infected in 2015. Due to intensive efforts to diagnose and treat people with HIV, 18.2 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy according to the most recent estimates. However, given an estimated total HIV-infected population of 36.7 million at the end of 2015, a substantial treatment gap leaves many millions of people at risk of AIDS-related diseases and, if unaware of their status, likely to infect others.

For this issue, the editors are inviting reports of high-quality research studies with the potential to inform clinical practice or thinking, focused on:

  • State of the global HIV epidemic—large-scale epidemiological studies addressing important topics, including progress towards UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets and the status of key populations
  • HIV prevention—clinical research aimed at development of vaccines, drugs and biomedical approaches
  • Clinical and epidemiological studies seeking to characterize and improve management of HIV infection and co-morbidities
  • Scientifically rigorous and practically relevant implementation research studies focused on HIV prevention and treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries
  • Towards a cure for HIV infection—translational and clinical studies aiming to achieve control or elimination of HIV

Please submit your manuscript at: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/s/submit-now. The deadline is June 9th, 2017.

Presubmission inquiries are not required, but do indicate your interest in the special issue in your cover letter. Questions about the special issue can be directed to plosmedicine@plos.org.

2017 CFAR Developmental Award Webinar – March 28

The UNC Center For AIDS Research (CFAR) Developmental Core will be conducting a webinar on Tues., March 28th, at 9 am EDT.  This free webinar will focus on applying for and implementing a 2017 CFAR Developmental Award, and will address the application process, NIH requirements, necessary documents, and more.  Both domestic and international research will be addressed and questions are welcomed.  You may send your questions to us beforehand or ask them via text at the time of the webinar.

To register, email cathy@unc.edu.  We will send out directions on how to attend the webinar at the time of your registration.

MEASURE Evaluation: Translating Data into Health Recommendations

Zambia-Visitors-Sept-2016-02_with-banner-768x485By Kathy Doherty, Senior Research Writer MEASURE Evaluation

Health data are essential to understanding what is working in a health system and what is not. Data alone, however, are just numbers, unless transformed into compelling information products that communicate and lead to action to improve health care.

For the past year MEASURE Evaluation—a $180 million program housed in the Carolina Population Center at UNC and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—has provided technical assistance to 14 health professionals from Zambia’s Ministry of Health, the National AIDS Council, the Ministry of Community Development, and the University of Zambia. They spent three weeks last fall in Chapel Hill working on data products, such as posters, data dashboards, and trend lines, and then flew home, certificates of achievement in their baggage and a vetted health communication product on their laptops.

Take, for instance, Boyd Kaliki, a provincial monitoring and evaluation (M&E) officer with the health ministry in Lusaka – Zambia’s capital. He supports programs to prevent HIV transmission and uses the country’s data software to generate visuals that illustrate what health data are saying. For this training, he focused on merging data sets to discover why only 37 percent of HIV-positive women of childbearing age are using modern contraceptives.

He compared women living with HIV, who do use contraceptives, with other data and discovered that HIV-positive women with more education were more likely to use contraceptives, and that rural women were less likely to use them. His analysis led to three conclusions:

  1. The government should offer HIV testing, counseling, and treatment along with family planning services and incentives in rural and urban areas.
  2. The government should improve health education so women living with HIV understand how to take precautions for their health during and after pregnancy.
  3. The government should help families keep their girls in school, because education correlates with contraceptive use and delayed childbearing.

To learn more, visit the IGHID blog here.

Blog: ID Clinic Director Claire Farel, MD, MPH, Answers Most Common Patient Questions

Claire Farel, MD, MPH, medical director of the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic.

Claire Farel, MD, MPH, medical director of the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic.

Claire Farel, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor of medicine in the UNC School of Medicine and medical director of the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic. In answering the most common questions she is asked as a clinician, Dr. Farel illustrates the vast prevention and treatment services available at the clinic, and how they can be accessed.

I love it when patients ask questions. Being able to partner with patients in their care keeps all of us in the UNC Infectious Diseases (ID) Clinic going. Asking questions shows that patients and their families are engaged in what all of us find most important: a healthier life, an understanding of illness and treatment, reliable information to pass along to others, support during stressful times, options for prevention of infection, maybe even a lasting contribution to science.

There are some questions I get more than others. The following are some of the perennial favorites:

“My significant other has HIV. What can I do to keep from getting it?”
We love to get the word out about HIV prevention resources. If your loved one is on HIV medications already and doing well with an “undetectable” amount of virus on blood tests, their risk of passing HIV on to anyone else is greatly reduced by somewhere between 92-100 percent. We call this “treatment as prevention,” but there are other ways to use HIV medications to keep from getting the virus. You can take a pill every day to prevent HIV before an exposure, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Using PrEP consistently creates a “shield” in your body against possible infection, dropping the risk of acquiring HIV by at least 90 percent. In an emergency situation (for example, if a condom breaks during sex or in cases of sexual assault), you can take a combination of medications called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent infection after an exposure. There’s a fixed window of time for PEP medications to have a benefit, however – so it’s important to start those emergency medications within three days of the exposure. Our emergency department has expertise in providing this care and our clinic team can assist in accessing preventative medicine if needed.

We are happy to see folks who are interested in HIV prevention in our clinic and can offer lots of resources to make taking preventative medicine manageable and affordable – as well as advice on protecting yourself in other ways.

“How can I arrange to be seen in your clinic?”
We have special programs for HIV-positive patients that allow self-referral – just give us a call (information is included below) to arrange an appointment. We require that most other patients get a referral from a medical provider (such as a primary care provider or another specialist). Having your medical records and the initial workup for your problem allows us to provide a focused, expert consultation. We advise that anyone at risk gets testing for HIV and hepatitis C as recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), either through regular healthcare provider, free testing events, or local health departments. We take referrals from all of these sources and provide hepatitis C treatment through our clinic if you have a new or longstanding diagnosis.

Our contact information is below, or many practices can send referrals electronically.

UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic
101 Manning Drive, 1st floor Memorial Hospital
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Phone: 984-974-7198
Fax: 984-974-4587
http://www.med.unc.edu/infdis/clinical-care/infectious-diseases-clinic

Our mission is to provide excellent clinical care and education for all of our patients, whatever their concern, and to offer them every advance and advantage in our field to keep them healthy. Keep asking questions!

For more information and commonly asked questions, please visit the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases Blog!

FHI 360 / CFAR Brown Bag Event

CFAR Director Dr. Ronald Swanstrom welcomes everyone to the event!

CFAR Director Dr. Ronald Swanstrom welcomes everyone to the event!

On October 14th, senior researchers from FHI 360 and the UNC CFAR gathered for a brown bag lunch event to explore ways that the two organizations can expand their collaborations and offer support to each other in their HIV research and clinical efforts.

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Katie Mollan explains the services offered by the CFAR Biostatistics Core.

Kate MacQueen, Senior Scientist at FHI 360 and Core Director of the CFAR Developmental Core, shared that the idea for the event grew out of conversations with Ron Swanstrom on how “we could foster more engagement between FHI 360 scientists and UNC CFAR leadership”. MacQueen commented, “At FHI 360 we have a long-standing tradition of brown bag lunches to communicate with each other about our work as well as to introduce established and potential partners to our in-house colleagues. This seemed a perfect mechanism to showcase what the UNC CFAR has to offer FHI 360 researchers engaged in HIV work or interested in pursuing such work.”

Ron Swanstrom, CFAR Director, welcomed the group to start the meeting. Kate MacQueen discussed the funding opportunities and support for researchers offered by the Developmental Core. Marcia Hobbs (pictured below), VIM Core Co-Director, discussed STI testing capacity. Jeff Stringer, CFAR International Core Director, shared about the CFAR’s commitment to women’s reproductive health locally and globally. Carol Golin, Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Core Director, discussed the social and behavioral instrument database, a valuable tool produced by the core. Katie Mollan (pictured above), Biostatistics Core Manager and Cam Bay, Statistician, offered information about the statistical consulting services the core provides.

Marcia Hobbs addresses the group about the VIM core and STI testing capacity at the UNC CFAR.

MacQueen noted that they had a “great turnout for lunch” and “the people who attended were very engaged, asking a lot of questions”. The feedback she received from her FHI 360 colleagues is that “they discovered a lot about the UNC CFAR resources and gained a much better appreciation for how the CFAR can support their work”.

Plans are in the works to invite FHI 360 HIV researchers and program managers to UNC to describe their work and brainstorm about opportunities for scientific collaboration between the two organizations. Stay tuned!

CFAR represented at World AIDS Day Events Around the Triangle

Dr. David Wohl speaks on HIV Therapy at the 2016 Red Tie Affair

World AIDS Day, started in 1988, is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, increase awareness, combat stigma, and improve education. Each year, the UNC Center for AIDS Research and the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases host a World AIDS Day Symposium featuring presentations by UNC faculty members, expert research and medical professionals, and panel discussions.

This year, morning session keynote speaker Michael Mugavero, MD, MHSc, from the University of Alabama spoke on “Ending AIDS in Alabama”. The afternoon session keynote speaker Elizabeth Connick, MD, University of Arizona, spoke on “The Role of the B Cell Follicular Sanctuary in HIV Immunopathogenesis”.

Attendees enjoyed a lively panel discussion on Access to HIV Care and presentations on a wide variety of relevant topics to the field, including “HIV Epidemiology” from Erica Samoff, PhD, MPH, North Carolina Division of Public Health and “The Role of the Immune Response in Curing HIV” from Nilu Goonetilleke, PhD, UNC Chapel Hill. Allison Matthews, PhD, UNC Chapel Hill, spoke on “Crowdsourcing Contests and Community Engagement for HIV Cure Research: A Mixed Methods Evaluation” and Sarah Joseph, PhD, UNC Chapel Hill, shared information on “HIV in the Brain: Observations from Throughout Infection”.

The UNC CFAR was represented at a number of other WAD events around the triangle this year, including the Red Tie Affair at UNC and the Durham County WAD Commemoration.

In addition to the World AIDS Day Symposium, the UNC CFAR supported a variety of community events around the triangle. One such event was the annual Red Tie Affair, hosted by UNC organization GlobeMed, a group of students dedicated to fighting for global health equity.

The benefit gala united students and health professionals to engage in a compassionate dialogue about HIV/AIDS. The UNC CFAR was represented by Myron S. Cohen, MD and David Wohl, MD. Dr. Cohen, Associate Director of the CFAR, presented on HIV prevention efforts in 2016 and offered suggestions on how to continue propelling these efforts forward. Dr. David Wohl, Professor of Medicine in the UNC Division of Infectious Diseases, presented on HIV Therapy and the incredible strides that have been made in the search for a cure.

Proceeds for the event will support GlobeMed’s partnership with Young Love, an organization based in Botswana with a mission to implement life-saving sexual health education programs for youth in Southern Africa.

The UNC CFAR CODE office was represented by Office Director Caressa White at the Durham County World AIDS Day Commemoration. The event was held in Durham Central Park, featuring remarks from Michael Wilson and Virginia Mitchell, Chairs of the HIV/STI committee. Caressa White shared a timeline of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and attendees enjoyed artistic performances by TAKIRY Dance Group from El Centro Hispano and Voices from the Heart from Triangle Empowerment Center. Following a candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of those we have lost to the epidemic, the crowd walked to the LGBTQ Center of Durham for a group viewing of an HIV/AIDS-themed photography exhibit “I Still Remember” and reception.

Cohen Talks HIV Prevention, Learning Rules of Emerging Infections during China Visit

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CFAR Investigator Myron Cohen, MD, began his research career in China more than 30 years ago. Although based in Chapel Hill now, he visits China annually and talks regularly with UNC Project-China Director Joseph Tucker, MD, PhD. Dr. Tucker and colleagues at UNC Project-China recounted Dr. Cohen’s visit to the region in October 2016, during which he presented in three cities and was the keynote speaker of China’s National Conference on HIV/AIDS.

Read more here…

Currin Named Certified Nurse of the Year

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David Currin, RN, ACRN, CCRC, will also be honored as the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board’s 2016 Certified Nurse of the Year.

“I was so surprised and excited when I received the letter that I would be receiving this year’s award,” says Currin, who serves as the Certified Clinical Research Coordinator and the Clinical Quality Program Manager for UNC’s Global HIV Prevention and Treatment Clinical Trials Unit. “Honors and awards are not why I do this work. I am going to dedicate this award to the memory of the friends I lost in the 1980s and 1990s to HIV.”

Certified as a research coordinator and an HIV nurse clinician, Currin has spent the past 15 years seeing patients on study at UNC and at affiliated site like the Wake County Health Department. At any given time, he sees participants from five to six studies, including those funded by the government and those trials funded by pharmaceutical companies. He splits his time between these duties and overseeing the team who manage the data collected by the unit’s many studies.

“My heart is really in seeing research patients,” Currin says. “I got my start after nursing school at the state’s mental health hospital. When I came to UNC in 2001, the first studies I saw patients on were treatment naïve trials. These were people who were being diagnosed with HIV and had never initiated therapy. Because of my psychiatry background, I felt I could help them identify ways to accept their diagnosis and the lifelong commitment of taking daily medications.”

Read more here…

2017 Campus-Wide Course on HIV/AIDS at UNC

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For over 20 years, the UNC CFAR has collaborated with experts around the country to offer a dynamic interdisciplinary course on HIV/AIDS. Clinical, community, and research leaders offer guest lectures to give students a conceptual understanding of the clinical manifestations & the social, legal, political, & ethical issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Registration is now open for this year’s course: PUBH 420 AIDS Principles, Practices, & Politics.

One-Credit Course – Pass/Fail

Spring Semester, Wednesday Evenings, 5:45 – 7:00 pm

Click here to view the flyer for the course: AIDS Course PDF Flyer