Fellowships for outstanding research in drug use and HIV

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The International AIDS Society (IAS) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) today announced the recipients of their second annual joint research fellowships. Recipients of the prestigious awards will receive US$75,000 each to advance the scientific understanding of the linkage between illicit drug use and HIV, while fostering multinational research.

Young researchers from Russia, South Africa, China, Indonesia and Canada will be awarded fellowships to pursue groundbreaking research in the field.

IAS/NIDA research fellowships are awarded to junior scientists for 18-months for post-doctoral training and to well-established HIV researchers for eight-months of professional development, both at institutes excelling in research on illicit drug use and HIV. Presentation of the IAS/NIDA fellowships will take place on 23 July 2010 at the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) at the Reed Messe Wien in Vienna, Austria, during the session “Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS Among Drug Using Populations: A Global Perspective.” (11:00-12:30).

“The innovative research projects that will be implemented by these talented scientists in different disciplines ? biology, epidemiology, public health, behavioral and social sciences – cover multiple areas of knowledge needed to create better combination prevention strategies targeting HIV infections related to drug use,” noted IAS Acting Executive Director Mats Ahnlund.

Use of contaminated injection equipment during drug use accounts for more than 80% of all HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and is a major entry point for HIV epidemics in countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South and South-East Asia and Latin America. In addition, use of other illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, even without injection, is also associated with increased HIV risk behaviors.

Drug use is a global epidemic that brings with it greatly increased risk for HIV infection. UNAIDS estimates that more than 4.5 million people in Asia, 1.8 million people in the Russian Federation, 2 million Latin Americans and nearly nine million people in the Middle East and North Africa inject drugs. HIV infection rates among injection drug users are estimated at 43% in Kenya, 30-50% in Thailand, 52% in Indonesia, 39-50% in Ukraine and 72% in Estonia. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, injecting drug use accounts for more than two thirds (67.5%) of reported HIV cases.

The intersection of drug use and HIV is an area of tremendous importance in tracking, responding to and slowing the global HIV epidemic. ” The ongoing partnership between NIDA and IAS seeks to support and highlight outstanding research efforts that will bringus closer to effective and humane responses to these closely linked epidemics, ” NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow commented.

“Improving research on HIV and drug use is key to building a more-informed understanding of drug using behaviours and reducing their vulnerability and that of their partners and family members to HIV,” said IAS President Julio Montaner. He added that, “Policy-makers need to pay attention to the fact that drug use treatment has a substantial impact on HIV treatment adherence and outcomes, and this impact can be multiplied by the roll-out of HIV treatment among HIV infected drug users, given the preventive effect of antiretroviral treatment.”

Background Information

The 2010 IAS/NIDA Joint Research Fellowships are awarded to:

Elena Dukhovlinova of Russia, who will study genetic divergence of transmitted HIV-1 strains among newly and recently infected injection drug users of St. Petersburg, Russia under the guidance of Ronald Ivar Swanstrom, Professor at the Center for AIDS Research, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Jonathan Claude Ipser of South Africa, who will work on the executive function and frontostriatal deficits related to HIV and methamphetamine use under the guidance of Igor Grant, Professor and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego.

Shusen Liu of China, who will prepare an evaluation of AIDS/STD transmission risks among patients in methadone maintenance treatment clinics in China under the guidance of Zunyou Wu, Director of China’s National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention.

Brandon Marshall of Canada, who will examine structural vulnerabilities to injection drug use and HIV infection among marginalized young people using complex systems modeling and social epidemiology under the guidance of Sandro Galea, Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor and Chair, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

Adhi Nurhidayat of Indonesia, who will study risky behaviors and psychiatric symptoms among HIV infected drug users at three hospitals in Jakarta, Indonesia under the guidance of David Metzger, Associate Professor of Psychiatry of the Penn Centre for AIDS Research.

Source: International AIDS Society, Switzerland

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