HIV, the AIDS virus (yellow), infecting a human cell

This human T cell (blue) is under attack by HIV (yellow), the virus that causes AIDS. The virus specifically targets T cells, which play a critical role in the body's immune response against invaders like bacteria and viruses. Image courtesy of Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer and Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Part of the exhibit Life:Magnified by ASCB and NIGMS.

Since the first diagnosis in the United States in 1982, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has gone on to become a global pandemic with over 35 million people around the world now living with the infection, including more than 1 million people in the US. 

Yale School of Public Health has a long history in research on the disease starting with pioneering efforts in the late 1980s that led to the establishment of one of the first needle exchange programs in the US to stem transmission of the virus through intravenous drug use. In the department, Professor Robert Heimer and Associate Professor Kaveh Khoshnood, were among the team that was involved in the program’s launch. 

Dr. Heimer continues to study HIV and other infections (hepatitis B and C) in the context of the health of injection drug users using a combination of laboratory, operational, behavioral and structural analyses to evaluate interventions to reduce the harms associated with injecting both in the US and in Eastern Europe. Dr. Khoshnood continues his work on the health of drug users in the US and abroad, but his research focuses on a broader range of at risk populations including prisoners, and examines the relationship between HIV, ethics and human rights. 

Research to understand the structural and social determinants of risk for HIV, including mass incarceration, housing instability, and subsidized housing policies is a focus of the work of Professor Linda M. Niccolai and her research methods include surveillance, behavioral epidemiology, and qualitative approaches. She is also the Director of the Development Core for Yale School of Public Health’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA). 

As part of YSPH’s robust public health modeling concentration, Professor Alison P. Galvani and Associate Professor Ted Cohen, focus their research on mathematical modeling of HIV and other infectious diseases. Dr. Galvani’s research focuses on integrating epidemiology, evolutionary ecology and economics in order to generate predictions about HIV that could not be made by these disciplines alone. Dr. Cohen’s work focuses on the interaction between HIV and tuberculosis (TB) and combines mathematical modeling, fieldwork, and analysis of programmatic data to understand how TB drug-resistance and medical comorbidities such as HIV frustrate current efforts to control epidemics. 

Associate Professor Luke Davis' HIV-related research projects use implementation science to advance integrative models of care for persons living with HIV and related pulmonary complications, especially diagnostic evaluation, case finding, and linkage to care for TB. Capacity-building is built into these projects wherever possible through a Fogarty International Center Pulmonary Complications of AIDS Research Training Grant.

YSPH Dean Sten H. Vermund is another early pioneer in AIDS research and one of the world’s leading experts on HIV prevention. In the mid-1980s, Dean Vermund helped establish the first adolescent health clinic that provided some of the earliest care to HIV-infected youth in New York City. His early showed that HIV was a risk factor for cervical cancer, which motivated routine cervical cancer screening for HIV-infected women worldwide. In 2000, he founded the Centre for Infectious Disease Research, now one of Zambia’s largest NGOs, which currently supports more than 330 clinics that play an instrumental role in the prevention of maternal-fetal HIV transmission and the implementation of antiretroviral therapy. 

Assistant Professor Gregg S. Gonsalves’ research focuses on the use of quantitative models for improving the response to HIV. He is also co-director of the Yale Law School/Yale School of Public Health Global Health Justice Partnership. For more than 20 years, he worked on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues with several organizations, including the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, the Treatment Action Group, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa. 

Debbie Humphries, clinical instructor, is interested in how community research capacity can strengthen prevention and intervention efforts to address the HIV epidemic, whether globally or in the United States. She is currently working on developing a tool to assess community research capacity, and has piloted the tool in collaboration with CIRA (Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS).

Lauretta Grau, Research Scientist, is also using qualitative and mixed methods studies of the HIV Care Continuum, technology-based interventions to assist in smoking cessation and substance abuse treatment, and the epidemiology of opioid-involved fatalities. She has also led qualitative studies on such topics as the quality of healthcare delivery, repeat medical hospitalizations and access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

There is an extensive group of research scientists, faculty with secondary appointments in the department and volunteer and adjunct faculty with interests in and doing research on HIV.