Boston, MA A new four-year, $20 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will enable Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers to evaluate the impact and cost-effectiveness of a unique combination of HIV prevention strategies in Botswana. The CDC grant is part of a U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative that commits $45 million to examine the effectiveness of combination approaches to HIV prevention over four years. The largest evaluation of its kind, the research initiative is poised to help partner countries strengthen their efforts to prevent new HIV infections and save lives. For more information about the combination prevention initiative, visit: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/09/172389.htm.
Principal investigator Max Essex, professor of health sciences and chair of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative, and co-principal investigator Victor De Gruttola, professor of biostatistics and chair of the Department of Biostatistics at HSPH, predict that their prevention strategies can reduce HIV infection by at least 50 percent.
Notably, one aspect of the study includes a focused effort to prevent HIV transmission by individuals with a high viral load. "This is the subset of people most likely to transmit the virus," said Essex.
He and his colleagues believe that targeting those mostly likely to transmit HIV can greatly reduce disease incidence and be cost-effective. Essex noted that some researchers have advocated supplying all HIV-positive individuals in a particular group with antiretrovirals, but covering all infected people in populations with high rates of infection can be prohibitively expensive for governments in developing countries.
Another unique aspect of the HSPH study is that researchers will study viral gene signatures (the genomic fingerprint of a viru
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Harvard School of Public Health