CFAR Co-PI Dr. Myron Cohen was recently featured in an interview clip about HIV prevention research, produced by the NIH. He explained the importance of the landmark NIH-funded HPTN 052 study, which found that people living with HIV who are on treatment and durably virally suppressed have a negligible risk of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner.
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.
The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) announced that the final results of the HPTN 052 study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). This pivotal study demonstrated that antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection provides durable and reliable protection against the sexual transmission of the virus from infected men and women to their HIV-uninfected sexual partners.
The final results showed a 93 percent reduction of HIV transmission when the HIV-infected person started ART when their immune system was relatively healthy. HIV transmission from HIV-infected study participants to their partners was not observed when viral replication in the treated individual was stably suppressed by ART.
“The HPTN 052 study confirms the urgent need to treat people for HIV infection as soon as it is diagnosed to protect their health and for public health,” said Myron S. Cohen, M.D., principal investigator for HPTN 052 and director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “This study represents more than a decade of effort by a worldwide team of investigators, and the tremendous courage and generosity of more than 3,500 clinical trial participants.”
HPTN 052 began in 2005 and enrolled 1,763 HIV-serodiscordant couples – where one person was HIV infected and the other was not – at 13 sites in nine countries (Botswana, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the United States, and Zimbabwe). The majority of the couples were heterosexual (97 percent). HIV-infected participants were assigned at random to start ART at the beginning of the study when their immune system was relatively healthy (called the “early” arm), or later in the study when they had immune system decline (called the “delayed” arm).
In 2011, interim study results demonstrated significant benefit of early ART, with a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission from early ART compared to delayed ART. This finding was reported based on the recommendation of the study’s data safety and monitoring board; presented at the 6th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Rome, Italy; and published in NEJM.
All HIV-infected participants in the study were then offered ART and the study was continued until May 2015 to understand the magnitude and durability of “treatment as prevention”; 87 percent of the HIV-infected participants remained in the study for its 10-year duration.
The HPTN 052 results have helped to galvanize a worldwide commitment to a universal “treatment as prevention” strategy for combatting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with ART offered to all HIV-infected people, regardless of CD4 cell count.
About HPTN 052
HPTN 052 was a randomized, controlled trial designed to evaluate the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV in serodiscordant couples. The trial was conducted by the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) and funded by the U.S., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additional support was provided by the NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group. The antiretroviral drugs used in the study were made available by Abbott Laboratories; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Gilead Sciences; GlaxoSmithKline; and Merck & Co., Inc.
CFAR Associate Director Dr. Myron Cohen (Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health; Yeargan-Bate Eminent Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology; and Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases and Director, Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases) will deliver the 2014 Norma Berryhill Distinguished Lecture.
The event will be held Wednesday, October 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the Carolina Club. A reception with light refreshments will be held immediately following the lecture at 6:30 p.m.
The Dean and Advisory Committee of the School of Medicine established the Norma Berryhill Lectureship in September 1984. The Lectureship has two essential components: (1) a Lecture to be given annually by a tenured or tenure-track member of the faculty of the Medical School and (2) a convocation of the Medical School to be held at the time of the Lecture and at which new faculty members will be recognized.
The selection of the Norma Berryhill Lecturer is meant to honor a member of the faculty whose accomplishments have added distinction to the Medical School. The convocation is also intended to further a sense of community within the Medical School. Because Mrs. Berryhill was a major champion in promoting community connections, the Lectureship was named in her honor.