An HIV/AIDS center at Yale University that fosters research to improve HIV prevention and care programs from New Haven to Africa has received a new federal grant that will fund its initiatives for the next five years.
Paul Cleary, dean of the Yale School of Public Health and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA), announced the award from the National Institute of Mental Health for $8.75 million. The grant will fund CIRA’s many research activities and programs through mid-2018.
“Given the persistent challenges of the global epidemic, we are elated to have this opportunity to continue to support and advance HIV prevention and care research here in the United States and other parts of the world, including Russia, China and South Africa,” said Cleary. “There is a substantial body of knowledge of what works to stem transmission and optimize health outcomes for those with HIV/AIDS that requires adaptation and implementation in the field to achieve the desired effect. This implementation science will be our primary focus in the next five years.”
Since its inception in 1997, CIRA has supported a portfolio of interdisciplinary research in diverse settings, contributing significantly to scientific knowledge of HIV risk and transmission and the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of HIV interventions. It now has 150 affiliated research scientists and research partners who represent 27 disciplines and various AIDS service and health care provider organizations. Over the years CIRA scientists have published some 2,000 papers on HIV/AIDS care and prevention. The Center currently provides support to 49 active HIV research and training projects funded by external grants valued at near $73 million dollars.
Despite some tangible gains against the pandemic, serious challenges remain for HIV scientists, public health officials and care providers who aim to end the threat posed by HIV/AIDS. In the United States alone, some 1.1 million people are living with the virus, many of whom are unaware of their infection. Worldwide, there are about 2.5 million new infections each year and some 34 million people are infected. The virus is increasingly concentrated in communities of color and impoverished areas of the world where life-saving drugs are unavailable or severely limited. In 2011 alone, close to two million people died from the disease
“HIV disparities, a resurgence of HIV in men who have sex with men in the United States, the rise of HIV co-morbid conditions, and the aging of those with HIV disease, are just some of the current issues that underscore the continued importance of CIRA’s mission and work,” said Cleary.
With the new grant, CIRA’s mission will be adjusted to better address the current challenges posed by the disease. The Center will support innovative and interdisciplinary research that combines behavioral, social and biomedical approaches, focused on the implementation of HIV prevention and treatment and the elimination of HIV disparities. While CIRA will continue to support basic science, its updated mission will drive the work of the center with an accelerated emphasis on rigorous, relevant and practical research.
As part of its new domestic research agenda the center will create a regional network of HIV researchers and service providers focused on implementation research in smaller urban centers with high HIV infection rates such as Providence, R.I., and New Haven. This initiative will complement ongoing research to address impediments to the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. by supporting the development and implementation of effective HIV interventions tailored to smaller cities with high HIV prevalence.
CIRA’s revised mission will be implemented through the coordinated effort of five core components: administration, development, community research and implementation, clinical and health services research and interdisciplinary research methods. Each of these cores will have a role in supporting implementation science and building capacity to conduct research in small urban centers with high HIV prevalence.
The grant will also allow CIRA to continue disseminating its research findings to the scientific community and the public. Among other things, the Center hosts mini-conferences on a variety of timely HIV research topics for scientists and community partners engaged in HIV prevention and care services. It also prepares publications that describe HIV research findings in clear terms to increase the use of the findings in practice. Other dissemination activities include the Yale AIDS Colloquium Series (YACS) featuring research presentations and an electronic bulletin.
In the next five years the Center will leverage the extensive and multi-disciplinary expertise of its many affiliated scientists and partners, including the Institute for Community Research in Hartford, Conn, UConn/CHIP, and new partnerships with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Brown/Tufts/Lifespan Center for AIDS Research and others to have a greater impact on the local, national and global epidemic.
The Center will also heighten its support of interdisciplinary HIV research education and training programs to diversify and replenish the field of HIV research with an emphasis on trainees from underrepresented race/ethnic groups.
CIRA is the only NIMH funded AIDS Prevention Research Center in New England.
“CIRA has made significant contributions to our knowledge and response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the years, and the remarkable advances in HIV science overall hold great promise for the future,” said Elaine O’Keefe, CIRA’s executive director. “The challenge ahead is to apply that knowledge within the context of different communities and HIV prevention and care systems, and in sustainable ways. Our new mission focuses on these research implementation and adaptation issues. We are confident that turning our attention to these areas will have a greater impact on the ultimate goal of ending the epidemic.”
This Article was submitted by Denise L Meyer, on Friday, June 28, 2013.