Emory Report
September 22, 2008
Volume 61, Number 5



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22, 2008
HIV Clinical Trials Unit to test high-risk groups

By Carolina Ibarra

The Emory HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Unit has been selected by the National Institutes of Health to join the HIV Prevention Trials Network and to participate in new clinical prevention studies.

The HIV epidemic in the United States continues to grow. According to information released at this year’s International AIDS Conference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of new HIV infections in the United States each year has been significantly underreported. The annual infection rate is 40 percent higher than previously estimated — 56,300 people became infected with HIV in 2006.

A new two-year prevention Women’s HIV SeroIncidence Study is expected to begin enrolling volunteers this fall. Its main objective will be estimating the overall HIV incidence rate among 2,000 women in the United States from CDC-defined geographic areas determined to have high HIV prevalence and poverty.

Today women account for 26 percent of new HIV cases in this country. There is a strong racial disparity in the distribution within women — 80 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in women occur in blacks and Hispanics. And 80 percent of HIV acquisition in all U.S. women is due to heterosexual contact.

The study will enroll women who reside in high-risk areas and who have never been tested for HIV. Those who do test positive will be referred to HIV care. During the study, participants will be placed in focus groups and risk-reduction counseling in order to prevent infection and will be tested for HIV at each appointment.

By developing a study that focuses recruitment on women who reside in defined high-risk communities, participating sites around the country will be able to track sexual behavior, alcohol and drug use, prevalence of domestic violence, and mental health indicators of women at risk of HIV acquisition. This will lead to a better understanding of the at-risk population around the nation and will allow for better prevention programs.

Emory’s HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Unit is one of the few sites in the country to be part of the three major clinical trials networks — the HPTN, AIDS Clinical Trials Group and the HIV Vaccine Trials network. Through these networks, Emory’s Center for AIDS Research will be able to focus not only on new medication for clients, but also on prevention efforts that are greatly needed in the U.S. today.