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…

FHI 360/UNC CFAR Brown Bag Lunch

Come join us for the first Brown Bag Lunch gathering of FHI 360 and UNC CFAR researchers and investigators.

Agenda:
11:30-11:45 – Introduction – Ron Swanstrom
11:45-12:00 – Developmental Core – Kate MacQueen
12:00-12:15 – STI Testing Capacity – Marcia Hobbs
12:15-12:30 – Women’s Reproductive Health – Jeff Stringer
12:30-12:45 – Social and Behavioral Instrument Database – Carol Golin
12:45-1:00 – Statistical consulting services – Katie Mollan & Cam Bay

The event will be held in Room 2104, the main conference room at FHI 360. The building is located at 359 Blackwell St. Ste 200, right next to the Durham Bulls ballpark.

Lunch will be provided!

Parking information can be found here.

Friday Morning ID/CFAR Conference: HIV and STD Epidemiology in North Carolina

October 7, 2016
8:30 – 9:30 a.m.
1131 Bioinformatics
UNC Campus (directions)

Heidi Swygard, MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases
UNC School of Medicine

Please click here to fill out a quick registration form.

Heidi Swygard, MD, MPH, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC’s School of Medicine. She specializes in HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) care and prevention; HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); and linkage to and retention in care. She sees people living with HIV and people at high risk for becoming infected, including the transgender population, two days a week off campus.

Dr. Swygard is a medical epidemiologist and consultant for special projects with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services HIV/STD care branch. She is medical director of UNC’s annual HIV conference, which draws 400 providers from across the state. Dr. Swygard recently served as the medical director for the inaugural Injecting Drug User Health summit, which was hosted by the Mountain Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Asheville.

Dr. Lisa Hightow-Weidman Will Develop Mobile Technology to Prevent and Treat HIV in Adolescents

People under the age of 30 account for the majority, or 40 percent, of new HIV infections in the United States. This age group is also more likely than adults to own a smartphone and use this device to download apps and access health information. Recognizing adolescents’ connection with mobile technology, a research team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with colleagues at Emory University, has secured $18 million in funding over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to form the UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology or iTech.

“iTech will facilitate the execution of six research studies. Each study will use technology to address a barrier to the HIV care continuum,” said Lisa Hightow-Weidman, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine and principal investigator of the Behavior and Technology (BAT) Lab at UNC. “For youth at risk of becoming infected with HIV, we will develop apps that aim to increase HIV testing, and use of and adherence to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV. For youth who test positive for the virus, we will develop electronic health interventions to engage them in care and improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy.”

Click here to learn more about Hightown-Weidman’s background in mobile technology and health interventions.

Click here to learn more about iTech, one of three U19 applications funded by the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to support the new Adolescent Medicine Trials Network (ATN).

Tar Heels go viral: UNC researchers featured on “This Week in Virology” podcast

Virologists with the UNC School of Medicine participated in last week’s on-campus recording of a popular virology podcast.

With a listening audience of millions people around the world, Dr. Vincent R. Racaniello, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, drew quite a crowd last week when he recorded two podcasts from the UNC School of Medicine.

Blossom Damania, PhD, Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Vice Dean for Research at the UNC School of Medicine, invited Racaniello to Chapel Hill to record his podcast, “This Week in Virology” (TWIV). Damania appeared on “TWiV” last year, when Racaniello hosted her as a seminar speaker at Columbia University.

“Vincent is a leader in the field of science communication and has been producing virology and other science podcasts for many years,” Damania said. “It was a real honor to have Vincent visit UNC Chapel Hill and feature the amazing virologists we have at UNC on his twin ‘TWiV’ shows.”

Featured researchers included: Dirk DittmerNat MoormanCary MoodyJennifer Webster-CyriaqueLishan SuNancy Raab-TraubRalph BaricMark HeiseKristina DeParisHelen LazearTal Kafri, and David Margolis.

Watch the two-part podcast here.

UNC HIV Cure Seminar: Understanding mechanisms of HIV persistence using virus sequence analysis in HIV controllers

A talk by Eli Boritz, M.D., Ph.D.
NIAID Clinical Fellow
National Institute Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

Targeted HIV cure strategies require definition of the mechanisms that maintain the virus. We tracked HIV replication and the persistence of infected CD4 T cells in individuals with natural virologic control by sequencing viruses, T cell receptor genes, HIV integration sites and cellular transcriptomes. Our results revealed three mechanisms of HIV persistence operating within distinct anatomic and functional compartments. In lymph node, we detected viruses with genetic and transcriptional attributes of active replication in both T follicular helper (TFH) cells and non-TFH memory cells. In blood, we detected inducible proviruses of archival origin among highly differentiated, clonally expanded cells. Linking the lymph node and blood was a small population of circulating cells harboring inducible proviruses of recent origin. Thus, HIV replication in lymphoid tissue, clonal expansion of infected cells, and recirculation of recently infected cells act together to maintain the virus in HIV controllers despite effective antiviral immunity.

Refreshments will be served.

Publication of HPTN 052 Final Results: HIV Treatment Offers Durable Prevention of HIV Transmission in Serodiscordant Couples

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.

Dr. Kevin Robertson honored for his work to understand the neurological effects of HIV

fb842458-2788-4812-b4c4-612385ac37fcKevin Robertson, PhD, is a professor of neurology and the director of the AIDS Neurological Center. He has led global research initiatives, and trained clinicians and researchers all over the world to establish research centers in Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria, India, Thailand, Peru, and Zimbabwe. This summer, Robertson was recognized for his role in training the next generation of AIDS researchers across the globe by the American Psychological Association as the 2016 Distinguished Leader in Psychology and AIDS.

Robertson shared, “Even in 1987, there was a real interest in establishing an infrastructure here in infectious diseases and other disciplines. Things really took off when the Global HIV Prevention and Treatment Clinical Trials Unit was established to test the drugs that were in development and determine how effective they were.

Joe Eron led a number of those studies, and he’s just been a great collaborator and wonderful scientist and clinician and researcher. Mike Cohen has always been very supportive of my research in HIV in the brain. There’s always been really wonderful, collaborative, cutting-edge, leading scientists here at UNC doing this work. And it shows.

It shows in Mike Cohen’s work – showing that the virus can be suppressed and not transmitted to partners if you’re taking your antiretrovirals –  and Ron Swanstrom’s work. Dr. Swanstrom, who’s head of the Center for AIDS Research, and I have had a long collaboration, as well, studying virus in the brain and comparing that to systemic virus and looking for compartmentalization.”

Read more here…

Dr. Eron Receives Red Ribbon Award

Bruce Curran, right, serves on the board of the NC Community AIDS Fund. He presented Joe Eron, MD, with the group’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

Dr. Joseph Eron is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC and the Director of the UNC Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Clinical Core. The North Carolina Community AIDS Fund bestowed its outstanding achievement award to him this spring in recognition of “outstanding individual effort and personal sacrifice” for serving “in a variety of roles helping individuals in NC who are HIV positive and living with AIDS.”

“The North Carolina Community AIDS Fund Red Ribbon Award was given to Dr. Eron in celebration of the 20th anniversary of his New England Journal of Medicine paper that was published on the first combination therapy study with AZT/3TC in treatment naive patients,” says Bruce Curran, member of the NCCAF Advisory Board. “That publication was one of the major turning points in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Read more here…