CHAPEL HILL Dozens of UNC researchers are heading to Vienna, Austria to participate in the world's preeminent AIDS conference this week.
The International AIDS Society conference brings together top scientists, advocates and government officials to discuss progress and chart a course for stemming the spread and impact of AIDS. Speakers including President Bill Clinton will address an estimated 25,000 attendees at this year's event.
"HIV is all about treatment and prevention. This conference is to share all the results from the past year that could help achieve those goals," said Dr. Myron Cohen, director of the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. "I think this year there's going to be a lot of good morale."
UNC ranks in the top ten programs for HIV/AIDS in the United States, with a robust research program and ongoing public health efforts in North Carolina and around the world. More than 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide.
Cohen will speak on the use of antiretroviral drugs to simultaneously treat HIV infection and prevent its spread. "The notion is you find people early, treat them aggressively, and it can be better contained," explained Cohen. Recent studies indicate that certain antiretroviral drugs can be useful in preventing the transmission of HIV from infected to non-infected individuals, but researchers are still investigating the magnitude of the effect and how it would play out in the real world.
UNC pharmacologist Dr. Angela Kashuba will present results of a trial of tenofovir, a topical gel that may help block HIV transmission. Nearly nine hundred South African women participated in the trial. Preliminary results indicate that more HIV-negative women had detectable tenofovir concentrations compared to HIV-positive women.
Other UNC research to be presented at the conference includes:
- Findings from studies conducted at UNC Project-Malawi. Researchers will present on community outreach efforts, peer education programs and door-to-door counseling and testing. Kim Powers, a doctoral student in epidemiology, will present results of a mathematical model applied to the Lilongwe population, which showed the benefit of targeting intervention programs at people who recently contracted HIV, in addition to the chronically-infected. Recently-infected individuals account for nearly 40% of HIV transmissions in Lilongwe. UNC has been conducting HIV/AIDS research in Malawi since 1990.
- Findings from "humanized" mice studies. Dr. Paul Denton, research instructor in the School of Medicine will present results from studies using mice that have fully functioning human immune systems. Denton used the humanized mice to test HIV drug responses and drug resistance.
- Public health efforts in the Caribbean. Dr. Clare Barrington, assistant professor of health behavior and health education, will report findings from a series of studies on condom use and HIV prevention in the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago. Studies evaluated the effectiveness of condom promotion programs and explored factors influencing condom use among younger populations.
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