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.

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.”

2014-2015 Friday ID Conference Series Begins

This week marks the start of the CFAR/IGHID Friday ID Conference Series for the 2014-2015 school year.

Power and Sample Size Boot Camp
Speakers: Michael Hudgens and Katie Mollan
UNC CFAR Biostatistics Core

September 5, 2014
8:30-9:30 a.m.
1131 Bioinformatics (first floor auditorium), UNC-CH Campus

The CFAR Biostatistics Core will present on power and sample size calculation using examples from HIV research. Topics will include an introduction to statistical power and related terminology, a discussion of the investigator and statistician roles in sample size calculation, and presentation of statistical software and brief formulas for sample size and power computation.

UNC CFAR partners with the clinical division of infectious diseases and the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Disease on a weekly conference series featuring distinguished clinicians and scientists from UNC, local universities, and other national and international institutions. The topics are varied and appeal to not only infectious disease specialists, but also professionals in epidemiology, public health, microbiology, biostatistics and other global health-related disciplines.

The conference takes place every Friday (September through May) from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in 1131 Bioinformatics (first floor auditorium) on the UNC campus. For more information, please contact the conference coordinator, Kathy James. To suggest a speaker, contact the faculty organizer, David Wohl.

For the current conference schedule, please click here.

New book: Innovations in HIV Prevention Research and Practice through Community Engagement

Innovations in HIV ResearchUNC CFAR investigator Scott Rhodes, PhD, MPH, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine has edited a new book: Innovations in HIV Prevention Research and Practice through Community Engagement.

Leaders in the field who are working at various points along the community-engagement continuum, with diverse populations, and different types of HIV prevention interventions (e.g., individual, community, and structural) have contributed important chapters that outline both innovative interventions designed to reduce HIV risk among some of the most affected communities and authentic and meaningful approaches to engagement, partnership, and CBPR. Chapter authors include community members who may come from communities greatly affected by HIV in the United States; organization representatives who are providing services to members of these communities; business representatives; federal scientists and practitioners; and academic researchers who must negotiate the challenges of their institutions (e.g., tenure and funding) and federal and foundation funders who may not understand the challenges and potential successes associated with authentic engagement, partnership, and CBPR.

Information can be found at Springer and at Amazon.

Cohen to deliver 2014 Norma Berryhill Distinguished Lecture

Dr. Myron CohenCFAR 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.

Video from Dr. Cohen on the Global AIDS Epidemic: Where Epidemiology Meets Biology and Public Health

UNC CFAR in the News: HIV drug linked to higher suicide risk

The UNC CFAR is getting exciting news coverage! Our researchers Katie Mollan, MS, Joe Eron, MD, Kevin Robertson, MD, and ACTG investigators have been featured in WedMD, Harvard News, and MedPage Today for their new article which explores the risks of anti-HIV drug efavirenz. This drug appears to double the risk that patients will develop suicidal thoughts or take their lives.

Study co-author Dr. Joseph Eron shared that “Efavirenz is a very important and effective antiretroviral medication that is the foundation for much of HIV therapy worldwide.” Dr. Eron explained that “suicidality (i.e. suicidal thoughts or suicidal behavior or suicide death) is a very serious adverse event that requires clinicians to actively engage patients to assess risk”. This new study demonstrates a clear association between efavirenz and suicidality.

Although the absolute risk of suicidality is relatively small, Eron explained that it appears to be persistent, lasting as long as patients take the drug. Antiretroviral treatment typically is lifelong, helping people with the AIDS-causing virus live healthier lives.

“Clinicians should be aware of this ongoing risk, and talk to their patients to assess suicidality,” Eron added. That means looking for any history of depression or suicidal thoughts or attempts, the study noted.

Good alternatives to efavirenz do exist for patient who may need to start, or to switch to, another therapy. In settings where alternative therapies are not available, the benefits of efavirenz-based therapy with management of depression will usually outweigh the risks of no treatment, especially for people with low CD4 cell counts.

Follow the coverage:

WebMD: “Common HIV Drug May Boost Suicide Risk”

Harvard News: “Widely Used HIV Drug Linked to Higher Suicide Risk”

MedPage Today: HIV Drug Linked to Suicidality Risk

Video Clip: The link between Efavirenz and Suicide