The University of Pittsburgh has received a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center to train researchers in regions of the world most hard-hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The grant, part of the center’s AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP), will allow Pitt to develop a training site in Mozambique, where there are an estimated 750 new HIV infections every day, and to expand programs underway in Brazil and India.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains uncontrolled in many regions in the world,” said principal investigator Lee Harrison, M.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh. “With an ever-growing number of patients in treatment programs, there is an urgent need for well-trained scientists to monitor patients and find out why people develop resistance to anti-HIV drugs.” He said the Fogarty grant will give international researchers the tools and skills needed to do this vital work.
“America has become the leader in advancing prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in developing countries,” said Roger I. Glass, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fogarty International Center. “Training local researchers benefits their own countries and helps U.S. scientists develop new understanding and methods for combating disease.”
The Pitt training program in Mozambique is based on a partnership forged in 2006 with Catholic University Mozambique, the site of one of only two medical schools in the southeastern African country. With 1.8 million people living with HIV and one physician for every 33,000 residents, Mozambique has very limited capabilities for research and few trained investigators, Dr. Harrison said. The growing epidemic disproportionately impacts women, many of them of childbearing age. In the region of Beira, where Catholic University is based, 34 percent of pregnant women are HIV-infected.
In Mozambique, the Pitt team will focus on training researchers in epidemiological methods to better understand the failure of antiretroviral treatment and answer basic questions about HIV prevalence. In Brazil, ranked second in number of reported AIDS cases in the Americas, training will focus on treatment and vaccine trials, tuberculosis research related to AIDS and the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy in public clinics. In India, where there are 2.5 million HIV-infected people, training will center on laboratory studies on the molecular mechanisms of HIV and the development of anti-HIV vaccines using Indian strains.
The University of Pittsburgh received one of seven AITRP grants recently awarded. The AITRP has trained nearly 2,000 researchers overseas, most of whom remain in their countries to continue HIV/AIDS research, train young scientists and provide leadership to their governments on health issues. Co-directing the program with Dr. Harrison is Phalguni Gupta, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
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