Public Release: 

Global Health Project targets reducing AIDS among India's adolescents

NIH Fogarty International grant to expand University of South Florida's research training partnerships in India

University of South Florida (USF Health)

Tampa, FL (Sept. 12, 2007) -- The University of South Florida's global health initiative to help India build an infrastructure to fight AIDS has been strengthened with a $1.36-million research training grant from the National Institutes of Health.

USF Health received the five-year grant Sept. 11 from the NIH's Fogarty International Center to create an interdisciplinary training program focused on the biomedical, behavioral, cultural and ethical aspects of detecting, treating and preventing HIV/AIDS among adolescents in India. USF will partner with Vadodara Medical College in Gujarat, India, to teach Indian physicians, scientists, nurses, and other health professionals how to conduct and evaluate community-based HIV clinical studies for this vulnerable population.

"This program represents another exciting opportunity for USF to shine in the international health arena and to broaden the scope of our HIV research and training partnerships in India," said USF pediatrician Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, principal investigator for the project. "It will enhance new knowledge in the area of adolescent health and benefit USF and the local communities in India."

India ranks second worldwide, following South Africa, in the number of HIV and AIDS cases. In some places in India, half of all new HIV infections occur in adolescents and young adults. Young people are at greater risk for HIV for several reasons, including girls' increased biological susceptibility and a tendency for risky behaviors like unprotected sex and IV drug use, Emmanuel said.

India has made some significant inroads in committing resources to the pressing public health problem of AIDS. But, a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that to curb the spread of the HIV epidemic, the developing nation must meet several challenges, including increasing the number of patients treated, improving the monitoring of therapy, caring for patients with tuberculosis coinfection, and reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS.

"We expect to train more home-grown investigators who can confront these barriers by addressing research questions specific to the HIV epidemic in India," Emmanuel said.

The new grant - the latest of three NIH Fogarty International awards to USF faculty -- was spearheaded by USF Health's Signature Interdisciplinary Program in Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Disease (SPAIID) and the USF-India Center for Health, HIV/AIDS Research and Training (CHART-India). Emmanuel will work with co-principal investigators Dr. Shyam Mohapatra and Dr. Eknath Naik.

The grant will expand the existing HIV infrastructure built by CHART-India. Since 1999, USF medical and public health faculty have established several CHART centers across India to care for people with HIV/AIDS, train staff and conduct research.

The Fogarty project will draw upon the expertise of USF's nationally-recognized Tampa Bay Adolescent Medicine Trials Unit. The unit, directed by Emmanuel, is one of 15 NIH-funded clinical sites across the country providing comprehensive services to HIV-infected adolescents. Emmanuel oversees a large team of researchers and clinicians who work with both adolescents and children -- educating youth at high risk for HIV in an effort to prevent AIDS, offering new treatments, and evaluating barriers to clinical trial enrollment and retention.

"This prestigious grant is a national recognition of our strategic efforts to create an effective network for the globalization of translational and clinical research," said Dr. Abdul S. Rao, senior associate vice president for USF Health. "It also underscores the efforts of our interdisciplinary signature program in allergy, immunology and infectious diseases, which was established last year to facilitate such activities."

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USF Health is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida's colleges of medicine, nursing, and public health; the schools of biomedical sciences as well as physical therapy & rehabilitation sciences; and the USF Physicians Group. With $310 million in research funding last year, USF is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of Florida's top three research universities.

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