Dr. Myron Cohen featured in BBC series “The Truth about AIDS”

Myron CohenDr. Myron Cohen, CFAR Investigator and Director of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, is featured in the first installment of BBC Radio’s five-part series The Truth about AIDS.

In this episode, Tony Fauci looks back at the scientific breakthroughs that have transformed HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a disease that can now be treated and prevented. Having watched in horror as his patients quickly died from the disease in the US in the early 1980s, as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he has dedicated his career to fighting it.

Fauci talks to the activists who pushed the development of HIV/AIDS medications forward and the scientists whose discoveries lie at the heart of the global fight against the disease. Dr. Cohen speaks at minute 23 about the groundbreaking treatment as prevention trial.

Listen to the episode here.

HIV cure research Q & A with Dr. Tucker and Dr. Rennie

joe200stuart200CFAR Investigators Dr. Joseph Tucker and Dr. Stuart Rennie are experts in the field of HIV research. As a part of their searcHIV project, a multi-site, multi-disciplinary working group focusing on investigating the biosocial implications of curing HIV infection, they have created a Q & A page to answer questions about HIV cure. The goal of the Q&A section is to provide an open, transparent, bidirectional dialogue about HIV cure research.

Read their answers to “How close are scientists to a cure?” and “How do I get selected for an HIV trial” here. More questions and answers will be posted in the months to come.

CFAR Director Ron Swanstrom and Team Identify Timeline for HIV Replication in the Brain

cf657359-1b24-4c6c-b6fe-179b9f0e1a0bA team of researchers has discovered HIV can begin replicating in the brain as early as four months after initial infection. After following 72 treatment naïve participants during the first two years of HIV infection, researchers observed that 20 percent of subjects showed replication in the central nervous system (CNS) at four months.

“This shows that viral replication and inflammation can occur early in infection with the concern being that the damage caused could be irreversible,” says study virologist Ronald Swanstrom, PhD, Director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC’s School of Medicine. “HIV and inflammation have the potential to accelerate the aging process and cause neurocognitive impairment, in the extreme case resulting in HIV-associated dementia.”

Read more here.

Welcome Dr. Kate MacQueen, new CFAR Developmental Core Director

macqueen_kate_2013_200x220The UNC CFAR is delighted to welcome Dr. Kate MacQueen as the new CFAR Developmental Core Director. Kate is a Senior Scientist in the Social and Behavioral Health Sciences Division of FHI 360. She joined FHI 360 in 2001 and before that worked at the CDC. Kate has appointments as Adjunct Associate Professor in the SOM Department of Social Medicine and in the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Health Behavior Program.

We are deeply grateful for Dr. Charlie van der Horst for his efforts over many years as the Core Director. Charlie served in this role since the CFAR started in 1998 and brought energy, insight, and passion that helped make the our Developmental Core an outstanding example of what a CFAR can do.

Dr. Margolis Featured in New Yorker Article on HIV Cure

Dr David MargolisThe New Yorker recently featured the research of UNC School of Medicine researcher David Margolis, MD, in this article about the search for a cure to HIV infection.

Margolis, a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology and immunology, serves as director of the School of Medicine’s Program in Translational Clinical Research.

Dr. Margolis currently leads the largest collaboration of HIV researchers, working to force HIV out of “latency” so they can attempt to kill virus particles that typically lay dormant, hidden from therapies. Margolis was among the first researchers to explore methods to force HIV particles out of latency, which is considered a major obstacle to finding curative therapies.

Read the full story here.

UNC CFAR Investigators Featured at CROI 2015

CROI 2015Five abstracts from UNC CFAR have been accepted for presentation at the poster session at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) 2015, each of which were supported by the UNC CFAR’s Biostatistics Core. This annual collaborative science conference brings together top basic, translational, and clinical researchers from around the world to share the latest studies, important developments, and best research methods in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS and related infectious diseases. CROI 2015 will be held from February 23 to February 26, 2015, in Seattle, Washington, at the Washington State Convention Center. Congratulations to all our CFAR investigators for their hard work and dedication!

Poster presentations that will feature UNC CFAR investigators at the conference this year:

Davis N, Miller W, Hudgens M, Chasela C, Sichali D, Nelson J, Rigdon J, Ellington S, Kourtis A, and van der Horst C. ARV adherence associated with reduced breastmilk HIV viral load and HIV transmission. 22nd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, Washington, 2015.

Jensen K, Van Rompay K, Jacobs W, Fennelly G, Mollan K, Hudgens M, Piatak M, Larsen M, De Paris K. The potential of BCG and HIV-TB vaccines to exacerbate HIV-1 pathogenesis in infants. 22nd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, Washington, 2015.

Joseph S, Kincer L, Bowman N, Menezes P, Robertson K, Anderson A, Loring D, Eron J, Price R, Swanstrom R. HIV-1 Replication in the CNS is Associated With Increased Neurocognitive Impairment. 22nd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, Washington, 2015.

King C, Nelson J, Ziemniak C, Hudgens M, Tegha G, Chasela C, Jamieson D, Persaud D, van der Horst C, Kourtis A. Delayed HIV Detection in Infants Exposed to ARV Prophylaxis During Breastfeeding. 22nd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, Washington, 2015.

Nelson J, Fokar A, Hudgens M, Compliment K, Tegha G, Kamwendo D, Kourtis A, Jamieson D, van der Horst C, Fiscus S. NVP Resistance in Infants Infected by HIV-1 via Breastfeeding in the BAN Study. 22nd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, Washington, 2015.

UNC receives $1.5 million grant to strengthen HIV/AIDS research training in South Africa

cvdhThe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a $1.5 million grant aimed at strengthening HIV/AIDS research training in collaboration with the Wits School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The grant was awarded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health as part of their ongoing HIV Research Training Program. Charles van der Horst, MD, professor of infectious diseases in the UNC School of Medicine, is the project’s principal investigator.

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Education in Action at the NC HIV/AIDS Advocacy Conference

advocacy conference

NCAAN Community Organizer Quinton Harper speaks to a full house about the state of HIV in North Carolina at the Advocacy Conference

The 2014 North Carolina HIV/AIDS Advocacy Conference drew over 150 people to Winston-Salem State University on September 6th to learn how to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and affected communities in our state.

Dr. Jacquelyn Clymore, North Carolina State HIV/STD Director in the Communicable Disease Branch of the NC Division of Public Health, offered insights on the latest epidemiological data in the plenary session, including a dramatic increase in new HIV cases among young African-American men. She also reflected on the huge changes that she has seen in decades of work in HIV and health: medical advances that would have seemed miraculous in the early days of HIV and AIDS, and new challenges that still cost the health and lives of too many people in our state.

Breakout sessions explored an array of issues that intersect with HIV and advocacy. At the “HIV and Incarceration” session, experts from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, UNC, and the justice system discussed the parallel epidemics of HIV and mass incarceration and their effect on health inequalities. In the “Our Whole Selves: HIV, Faith, and Black MSMs” session, faith leaders and advocates from Triangle Empowerment Center and NCAAN Speaking Positively discussed the role of faith communities in AIDS advocacy, particularly in empowering Black MSMs. The Duke AIDS Legal Project and the Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative offered a session to provide updates on federal and state HIV policy and opportunities to take action. The Women’s empowerment panel convened female activists, leaders in syringe access and overdose prevention work, and voting rights advocates. The day also included time for attendees to connect with each other and share a meal.

The event was hosted by NC AIDS Action Network, NC Harm Reduction Coalition, and the Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences. It was sponsored by The Adam Foundation and the UNC-CFAR CODE Office, with major support from AIDS United and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Dr. Joseph Tucker works globally to educate HIV researchers

clinical skills training

Professor Beng Tin Goh teaches STD clinical skills at the 2014 UNC-South China STD Research Training course

The UNC CFAR has a robust membership of doctors and researchers who work internationally to increase knowledge, decrease stigma, and provide care and support in the field of HIV/AIDS. CFAR investigator Dr. Joseph Tucker, assistant professor at the UNC School of Medicine and director of UNC Project-China, is doing innovative work in developing social and biomedical research, and capable global scientists, to work on controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Tucker’s research examines how major shifts in China’s social and economic climate have resulted in the resurgence of syphilis, HIV, and other STIs. He has ongoing projects that focus on social entrepreneurship for sexual health and the social epidemiology of STIs. He lives and works throughout the year with his family in Guangzhou, the capitol of Guangdong Province, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He is PI on an NIH Fogarty International Research Scientist Development Award and serves as a mentor for trainees and junior investigators.

This past summer, Dr. Tucker facilitated the UNC-South China STD Research Training course – an intensive, week-long training course that Tucker described as “fantastic because it provides a structured mechanism to support junior Chinese trainees interested in STD/HIV research”. The training course included academic lectures on clinical science, epidemiology, and diseases prevention, as well as skills building workshops on grant writing, data collection, and project management. Tucker shared, “Despite the sweltering heat (one UNC professor said it felt just like home) and a packed agenda, there was great enthusiasm from both the China and UNC participants. We had a 360 evaluation that included participant evaluation, training faculty evaluation, and external evaluation. The consensus was that the training course exceeded trainee expectations and filled an important niche, catering to junior trainees who often do not have a chance to attend international conferences or get an opportunity to receive guidance from UNC training faculty. The whole point of the training course was to jump start research collaborations between UNC training faculty and Chinese faculty and trainees. With the D43 (mentoring) grant, now we can have a far more reciprocal training experience that is beneficial for all involved.” September 10th is “Teacher’s Day” in China and the Guangzhou postdocs have organized a dinner in honor of Teacher Joe.

Faculty and Students at the 2014 UNC-South China STD Research Training course. UNC CFAR investigators Dr. Mike Cohen, Dr. Joe Eron, Dr. Heidi Swygard

Faculty and Students at the 2014 UNC-South China STD Research Training course. UNC CFAR members Drs. Joseph Tucker, Mike Cohen, Joseph Eron, Heidi Swygard, Peter Leone, Arlene Sena, P. Frederick Sparling, and Ada Adimora were in attendance.

Dr. Tucker’s work spans across the globe; his project searcHIV: Social and Ethical Aspects of Research on Curing HIV is comprised of a multi-site, multi-disciplinary working group focusing on investigating the biosocial implications of curing HIV infection. They have three research sites, located in Cape Town, South Africa, Chapel Hill, NC and Guangzhou, China. Tucker explained, “From an anthropological perspective, there are substantial differences in the social context of HIV in the US, South Africa, and China. For example, take civil society organizations. In the US, civil society organizations were leading the calls for accelerated HIV ART approval at the FDA and have played a pivotal role to push forward new HIV policies. In South Africa, there is also a strong civil society presence, but organized along different themes and strategies. In China, the development of civil society has been more complex, creating challenges in reaching and retaining key populations in some contexts.” The multiple study sites give his team opportunities for cross-cultural comparisons, which help in identifying intersecting themes about the unintended implications of HIV cure. Tucker’s research “hopes to take advantage of these cultural and social differences” as his teams analyze the social and ethical dimensions of cure HIV research.

The results of Tucker’s investigations can be used to assist HIV cure researchers as they create informed consent documents, design research studies, and continue HIV cure research. Tucker noted, “We are fortunate to have Professor David Margolis’s CARE team at UNC. They are an absolutely top-notch group, world leaders in the basic science and clinical aspects of HIV cure research. We are also excited to learn more about structuring community engagement on this topic and how to engage a broad range of stakeholders.”