Category Archives: Research

Despite Increasing Rates of STIs, Federal Investment Has Been Flat

From nationalacademes.org

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) impose billions of dollars in medical costs in the U.S., but STI prevention and control is chronically underfunded, stigmatized, and siloed from efforts to promote overall health and well-being, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report calls for modernizing national STI surveillance and monitoring systems, bolstering the STI workforce, developing and scaling up structural and behavioral interventions, and accelerating the development of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Taking these strategic actions would also better position the U.S. to respond to COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and future infectious disease outbreaks, the report says.

The prevention and control of STIs requires a more holistic approach that promotes sexual health and expands access to comprehensive prevention and treatment services — rather than focusing on individual behaviors or blaming people who acquire STIs, says Sexually Transmitted Infections: Adopting a Sexual Health Paradigm.

test tube vile labeled S T D test

Despite the economic burden and alarming increase of STI rates over the last 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s STI funding has remained flat. Although HIV is an ongoing and highly significant concern, the mandate of the committee that wrote the report was to focus its recommendations on STIs other than HIV, due to increasing rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. However, the report discusses the interplay between HIV and other STIs, and ways HIV and STI services can collaborate or integrate their prevention, care, and research efforts.

One in five people in the United States will have an STI in a given year. Many cases can be asymptomatic, and therefore go undiagnosed and unreported. Left untreated, STIs can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, miscarriage or newborn death, increased risk of HIV infection, genital and oral cancers, and neurological and rheumatological consequences. The COVID-19 pandemic has also set back efforts to control STIs, the report notes. People are delaying routine STI screenings and may have undiagnosed and more advanced cases. Furthermore, STI clinic staff and resources have been diverted to the COVID-19 response.

The report emphasizes the need for easier access points for STI care. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and state governments should ensure that STI prevention and treatment is available through multiple venues, such as comprehensive sexual health clinics, pharmacies, urgent care settings, and telehealth visits. These settings should also address concerns about confidentiality, particularly among adolescents and young adults on their parents’ health insurance plans.

Read the full article.

Gilead, Merck collaborate to develop long-acting HIV treatment

From Reuters

Gilead Sciences Inc and rival Merck & Co Inc said on Monday they will test a combination of their experimental HIV drugs to develop a long-acting treatment for the infection that affects millions worldwide.

Gilead sign in front of office building

As part of the non-exclusive agreement, the companies hope to develop a therapy that allows for less frequent dosing, compared to the current once-daily treatments available to HIV patients.

The agreement also takes on rival treatments by GlaxoSmithKline’s unit ViiV Healthcare, which recently filed an application to expand the use of its HIV drug Cabenuva to include dosing every two months.

“The market will infer that GSK and ViiV are left out in the cold here, supporting our long-standing concerns over the longer term outlook for GSK’s HIV franchise,” Citi analyst Andrew Baum said.

Gilead and Merck will share global development and commercialization costs 60% and 40%, respectively, while having an equal share of the therapy’s sales until the revenue crosses certain milestones.

The companies will share equal profit until annual sales of the therapy’s oral version hit $2 billion and the injectable version’s sales reach $3.5 billion, following which the revenue will be split 65% for Gilead and 35% for Merck.

1.7 million new HIV infections were reported globally in 2019 and 38 million people were living with HIV, according to the World Health Organization.

Get Involved: Rutgers School of Public Health conducting web-based survey among people with HIV who received COVID vaccine

The Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) at the Rutgers School of Public Health is conducting a web-based survey to understand the thoughts and experiences of COVID-19 vaccination among people ages 18+ living with HIV in the United States.  This is part of our ongoing effort to shine a light on the challenges faced by those living with HIV in this COVID-19. 

covid vaccine bottles

We seek to recruit at least 1,000 participants to take part in the research.  Participants will be entered for a chance to win $60 electronic gift cards. The survey has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at Rutgers University (#Pro2021000063).

The survey link is: https://bit.ly/chibps2

We ask kindly if you could share this email this with you mailing lists or post to your social networking sites.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Dr. Marybec Griffin at mcg197@sph.rutgers.edu.

Study Finds Low Awareness of PrEP, the Highly Effective Medication that Protects Individuals from HIV

From newswise.com

A study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that just under 20 percent of HIV-uninfected patients visiting Baltimore sexual health clinics were aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP), a daily regimen that decreases a person’s risk of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. The paper, published online March 3 in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, highlights the potential of integrating PrEP programs into public clinics that reach more patients with high HIV transmission risk but who often lack access to reliable health care.

For the study, the research team surveyed 1,464 HIV-uninfected patients who visited two public Baltimore City Health Department clinics devoted to sexually transmitted diseases in 2016. Of the participants, only 18 percent, or 258 participants, reported prior knowledge of PrEP. Four percent (10 participants) were already using PrEP. Importantly, 46 percent of the 1,397 patients unfamiliar with PrEP, or 638 participants, indicated they were highly receptive to learning more about PrEP, with interest among the high-risk men having sex with men (MSM) patients even higher at 63 percent.

“We want to ensure these communities have the awareness and resources they need,” says the study’s lead author, Cui Yang, PhD, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society. “Otherwise, the same cycle of investing resources into programs that don’t resonate continues.”

Read the full article.

Fostemsavir: A new treatment option for extensive HIV drug resistance

Scientists Debunk Myth That ‘Patient Zero’ Brought AIDS to America

From PBS.org

For more than 30 years, Gaétan Dugas was blamed for bringing the AIDS epidemic to the United States. A French-Canadian who died in 1984, Dugas was thought to have carried the disease to America and transmitted it to scores of sexual partners while working as a flight attendant.

AIDS protest banner

But this week, scientists finally cleared the name of the man who, in the history of the AIDS epidemic, came to be known as “Patient Zero.”

In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers found that blood sampled from Dugas in 1983 contained the same strain of HIV that was infecting men in New York City as early as 1971 — three years before he arrived in the U.S. as an employee for Air Canada.

“In short, we found no evidence that Patient 0 was the first person infected by this lineage of HIV-1,” the researchers wrote.

The study builds on decades of research that has sought to answer the medical mystery of how exactly AIDS made its way to the U.S.

Read the full article on PBS.org.

If you’re HIV positive, the University of Pittsburgh would like to study your sleep

The SASH study (Impact of Poor Sleep and Inflammation on the Adenosine Signaling Pathway in HIV Infection) seeks to understand how sleep can affect the health of people living with HIV.

man sleepingStudy participants complete questionnaires before and after getting a watch-like device similar to a Fitbit. Subjects wear the device for two weeks, to track their sleep patterns. Subjects also answer a few questions in a diary each morning about their sleep.

The study involves two visits to Montefiore Hospital. Each visit is about one hour in length. Participants will receive up to $100. Parking vouchers and/or bus fare will also be provided.

For more information, call the study team at 412-330-1453, or send an email to healthysleep@pitt.edu.

HIV Prevention Efforts Utilize Salons in Black Communities

From Nurse.com

Researchers from Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, N.C., are turning to a ubiquitous locale — beauty salons — to help raise HIV prevention awareness among Black women in the South. Salons are often considered safe spaces for intimate conversations.

The numbers highlight the stark need: Black women, who make up 13% of the U.S. population, account for 64% of new HIV infections among U.S. women. They also make up 69% of all new HIV infections in the South, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

image of Randolph
Schenita Randolph, RN

Schenita D. Randolph, PhD, MPH, RN, CNE, and her research partner, Ragan Johnson, DNP, APRN-BC, both assistant professors at Duke University, developed a strategy to help prevent HIV spread in their region by focusing on Black women who have not been exposed to the virus.

The strategy involves training stylists to start conversations about HIV, educating women about HIV prevention, and linking them to prevention medication (pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP).

The research team received two-year funding from Gilead Sciences, which manufactures the HIV prevention medication Truvada, to put a pilot program in place.

Randolph explained that 44% of the people who could benefit from PrEP in the U.S. are African American (500,000). However, only 1% in that group have been prescribed PrEP, despite evidence that if taken once a day it can lower a person’s risk for getting HIV through sex by more than 90%.

Read the full article.

Health Alert: Rates of new HIV infection still on the rise among specific groups

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In 2018, 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (US) and dependent areas. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among adults and adolescents. However, annual diagnoses have increased among some groups.

Gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV, with Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino gay and bi men having the highest rates of new infections.

info graphic showing rates of H I V infection with highest rates of infection in 2018
click no image for enlarged view

The number of new HIV diagnoses was highest among people aged 25 to 34.

info graphic showing age range of new H I V infections
click on image for enlarged view

Source: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2018 (updated)HIV Surveillance Report 2020;31.

Use your brain to help people with HIV

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nebraska Medical Center are looking for participants living with HIV, and participants not living with HIV, for a non-invasive brain imaging research study.

The purpose of the first research study is to investigate brain activity, cognitive functioning, and aging in those living with HIV versus those living without HIV. The human brain and cognitive abilities change as people age, and this research study aims to identify those changes.

The purpose of the second research study is to investigate how chronic cannabis use affects brain activity and cognitive functioning differently in people who are living with HIV and those who are not living with HIV.

sculpture of human head and brain
image courtesy of David Matos

To study the brain, researchers will be using a series of brain imaging tests, both of which are completely non-invasive.

There is no cost to you, and you will receive compensation for your time and travel expenses.

You may be eligible if:

  • You are between the ages of 19 and 72
  • You have not had a stroke or been diagnosed with any neurological or psychiatric disorder(s)
  • You are able to complete a series of mental tasks You are not pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • You either regularly use cannabis or do not use cannabis

This research study is sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. For more information, please call 412-246-5590 or send an email to mindscan2019@gmail.com. You can also download the study brochure.