Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, HIV, NEJM / 06.08.2015

Dr. Salim Abdool Karim at CAPRISA Doris Duke Medical Research Institute South AfricaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Salim Abdool Karim at CAPRISA Doris Duke Medical Research Institute South Africa Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Globally, Herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) is among the most common sexually transmitted infections and is the leading cause of genital ulcers. Available global estimates indicate that approximately 417 million sexually active adults between the ages of 15 and 49 years had an existing prevalent HSV-2 infection in 2012. Current interventions to prevent HSV-2 infection, including condoms, circumcision, and antiviral treatment among heterosexual, HSV-2-discordant couples, have demonstrated protection levels ranging from 6% to 48%. This study showed that peri-coital tenofovir gel reduced HSV-2 acquisition in women by 51%, rising to 71% in high gel-users.
Author Interviews, HIV, PLoS, UC Davis / 31.07.2015

Dr. Satya Dandekar PhD Professor and Chair Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology UC DavisMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Satya Dandekar PhD Professor and Chair Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology UC Davis Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Dandekar: Current anti-retroviral therapy is effective in suppressing HIV replication and enhancing immune functions in HIV infected individuals. However, it fails to eradicate the latent HIV reservoirs. Therapy interruption leads to a rapid viral rebound in these patients.  Eradication of latent HIV reservoirs is essential to achieve HIV cure. A “shock and kill” strategy for HIV cure has been proposed that involves reactivation of latent viral reservoirs using latency reversal agents (LRA) and eradication by the immune response. This highlights the need to identify potent LRAs to optimally activate latent HIV reservoirs so that immune surveillance and clearance mechanisms can be effectively engaged in the process of viral eradication. We have found that ingenol-3-angelate (PEP005), an anti-cancer drug can effectively reactivate latent HIV. It is a protein kinase C agonist that activates NF-kB and stimulates HIV expression. In combination with another compound, JQ1, a previously known p-TEFb agonist, the efficacy of PEP005 for HIV reactivation is markedly increased. In addition, ingenol-3-angelate decreases the expression of HIV co-receptors on immune cells, which potentially will help preventing further spread of the virus. The use of ingenol-3-angelate in combination with other latency reversal agents provides an excellent opportunity to optimally activate latent HIV reservoirs and target them for eradication.
Author Interviews, HIV, Sexual Health, UCSD / 05.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Martin Hoenigl Center for AIDS Research University of California, San Diego Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hoenigl: Although men who have sex with men (MSM) represent a dominant risk group for human immunodeficiency Virus, the risk of HIV infection within this population is not uniform. Characterizing and identifying the MSM at greatest risk for incident HIV infection might permit more focused delivery of both prevention resources and selection of appropriate interventions, such as intensive counseling, regular HIV screening with methods that detect acute infection (ie, nucleic acid amplification test), and antiretroviral preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP). By using data collected at a single HIV testing encounter from 8326 unique MSM were analyzed, including 200 with AEH (2.4%), we were able to create the San Diego Early Test (SDET) risk score. The SDET score consist of four risk behavior variables which were significantly associated with an AEH diagnosis (ie, incident infection) in multivariable: condomless receptive anal intercourse (CRAI) with an HIV-positive MSM (3 points), the combination of CRAI plus 5 or more male partners (3 points), 10 or more male partners (2 points), and diagnosis of bacterial sexually transmitted infection (2 points), all as reported for the prior 12 months. The SDET risk score is deployed as a freely available tool at http://sdet.ucsd.edu.
Author Interviews, CDC, HIV / 04.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sandra Schwarcz, MD Senior HIV epidemiologist San Francisco Department of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Schwarcz: AIDS opportunistic illnesses continue to occur despite effective antiretroviral therapy. Although previous studies examined survival following a diagnosis of an opportunistic illness, there are few recent reports that are population-based. The San Francisco Department of Public Health has the only population-level data on the occurrence of and survival following opportunistic illnesses and use of antiretroviral therapy among persons reported with HIV in the United States. By measuring survival following the occurrence of opportunistic illnesses, we were able to document that survival following opportunistic illnesses has improved with better HIV treatment. However, opportunistic illnesses continue to occur and carry substantial mortality risk. Even in this era of effective HIV therapy, we found that 35% of persons who developed an opportunistic illness died within five years of their diagnosis and some opportunistic illnesses such as brain lymphoma and  progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy remain highly lethal.
Author Interviews, HIV, NYU, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Sexual Health / 22.05.2015

Perry N Halkitis, Ph.D., M.S., MPH Professor of Applied Psychology Global Public Health, and Population Health/Medicine New York University.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Perry N Halkitis, Ph.D., M.S., MPH Professor of Applied Psychology Global Public Health, and Population Health/Medicine New York University. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Halkitis: The P18 Cohort Study is a prospective cohort study of gay, bisexual and other young men who have sex with men (YMSM) which seeks to examine the development of health behaviors as these young men transition from adolescent to adulthood. Officially named “Syndemic Production among Emergent Adult Men”, this study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse from 2009-2014 and renewed on March 1, 2014 for an additional five years. The original aims of the study were as follows:
  • 1) to develop and test theoretically informed measurement models of the covariance of illicit drug use, unprotected sexual behavior and mental health burden (multiple overlapping epidemics known as a syndemic) among emergent adult HIV-negative YMSM within and across time;
  • 2) to delineate the risk and protective bases- physical factors (e.g., pubertal onset, HIV status, etc.), relational and structural factors (e.g., family history of psychopathology, current romantic relationships, peer support, neighborhood factors, etc.), and psychosocial factors (e.g., sexual identity, internalized homophobia, hyper-masculine conceptions, etc.) that predict the development of syndemics; and
  • 3) to determine the extent to which the development of a syndemic varies by race/ethnicity, social class, and homelessness/housing instability.
  • In this current five year continuation we also seek
    • 1) to describe the social and sexual networks of YMSM, and to examine the relationship between social and sexual network-level structural characteristics, social support and normative influences on syndemic production (illicit drug use, unprotected sexual behaviors, and mental health burden) in YMSM, singly and in combination with the physical, psychosocial, and relational predictors, both within and across time;
    • 2) to describe the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in YMSM, specifically, urethral and rectal gonorrhea and chlamydia, pharyngeal gonorrhea as well as syphilis serology; and to determine the extent to which physical, relational, and psychosocial factors explain STI acquisition as part of the syndemic model within and across time.
    • A third exploratory aim was also added: 3) to describe HIV clinical treatment markers (i.e., HIV viral load, ART uptake and adherence, HIV care) among HIV+ YMSM, and to assess the extent to which physical, relational, and psychosocial factors are associated with differences in these clinical markers among HIV+ YMSM, both within and across time. The study is led by Drs. Perry N Halkitis and Farzana Kapadia at New York University’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies.
Potential participants were recruited through both active (e.g., approaching individuals to solicit study participation) and passive (e.g., flyer posting, website advertisements) methods from June 2009 to May 2011. Eligibility criteria included being 18-19 years old, biologically male, residing in the NYC metropolitan area, having sex (any physical contact that could lead to orgasm) with a man in the last 6 months, and reporting a seronegative or unknown HIV status at baseline. We ensured the diversity of our sample by setting a fixed recruitment quota for participants in each targeted racial/ethnic group, such that African Americans, Latino (across race), Asian-Pacific Islander (API), and mixed race men comprised the majority of the sample. All participants provided written, informed consent before data was collected and were compensated for their time and effort upon completing the baseline assessment. The New York University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved all study protocols and a federal Certificate of Confidentiality protects these data. A total of 2,068 participants were screened for eligibility to participate in the study, and 600 participants completed the baseline assessment in the first wave of the study. In 2014, we began the second wave and opened to cohort to recruit a baseline sample of 650 YMSM who will now be between the ages of 22-23; recruitment of participants is still underway. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Halkitis: Numerous publications have been generated from the P18 Cohort Study and can be accessed at www.chibps.org.  A recent publication, “Incidence of HIV infection in Young Gay, Bisexual, and other YMSM: The P18 Cohort Study” became available in the May 2015 of JAIDS, the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. This paper reports that over a 36 month follow-up period, during the first wave of the study, 7.2% of study participants seroconverted, with Black and Hispanic men much more likely to seroconvert over this time frame than White men. This finding aligns with epidemiological trends for HIV infection at the national and local, NYC, levels. Also, men reporting a lower familial socioeconomic status were more likely to seroconvert than men reporting high familial socioeconomic status, and Black men were more likely to report a lower socioeconomic status.  Moreover, the Black young men who seroconverted were more likely to reside in neighborhoods with higher area-level poverty and higher area-level HIV prevalence. Additionally we found that men who reported anal sex without a condom in the 30 days prior to assessment were no more likely to seroconvert than those who reported sex with a condom.  However, an earlier age of sexual debut was a predictor of HIV seroconversion.
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Endocrinology, HIV, Infections, JCEM / 18.05.2015

Kevin Yarasheski, PhD Assistant Director, Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Research Facility Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology & Physiology, Physical Therapy Washington University School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kevin Yarasheski, PhD Assistant Director, Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Research Facility Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology & Physiology, Physical Therapy Washington University School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Yarasheski:   People living with HIV and taking combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) have successfully reduced the amount of HIV virus in their blood and have partially reconstituted their immune system (CD4+ T-cell count >250 cells/µL).  Despite this, many still experience residual immune cell activation and inflammation that is believed to increase HIV morbidity (non-AIDS conditions e.g., CVD, T2DM, obesity, liver fat, bone loss, dementia) and mortality.  Scientists are seeking safe and effective interventions for residual immune cell activation and inflammation, that have the potential to reduce non-AIDS complications that threaten quality and quantity of life among HIV infected adults. We have been testing the safety and efficacy of sitagliptin in people living with HIV; a dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitor that is FDA approved for treating T2DM, and appears to have favorable anti-inflammatory and immune modulatory properties that might specifically benefit people living with HIV and experiencing cardiometabolic complications associated with residual immune cell activation and inflammation. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Yarasheski:   In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled 8-wk trial, we found that sitagliptin had beneficial anti-inflammatory, immune regulatory, hematopoietic progenitor cell mobilizing, and glucose lowering effects in cART-treated virally suppressed HIV adults with impaired glucose tolerance.  Sitagliptin improved glucose tolerance (a risk factor for CVD), reduced circulating and adipose-specific inflammatory markers (risk factors for obesity, T2DM, liver fat accumulation, and CVD), and increased the number of blood stem cells that can repair damage and inflammation in the vascular walls.
Author Interviews, Compliance, HIV, NYU / 06.04.2015

Marya Viorst Gwadz, Ph.D Senior Research Scientist Director, Transdisciplinary Methods Core Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) New York University College of Nursing New York, NY 10010 MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Marya Viorst Gwadz, Ph.D Senior Research Scientist Director, Transdisciplinary Methods Core Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) New York University College of Nursing New York, NY 10010 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Gwadz: HIV is a major success story in that the tolerability, convenience, and efficacy of antiretroviral medications have improved dramatically over the last decade. A number of years ago in the course of another research study with vulnerable individuals infected with HIV in New York City, and we noticed that a substantial proportion of study participants were medically eligible for HIV medications, and had access to medications, but had declined or stopped taking them. We then turned our attention to understanding why this is the case, that is, to identify the individual, social, and structural barriers that persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) experience to antiretroviral therapy. We focused in particular on African American/Black and Latino/Hispanic PLHA, because the overall emphasis of our research group at the NYU College of Nursing is the development and evaluation of culturally targeted intervention approaches to address health disparities. Around 2011, studies of the “HIV cascade of care” began to emerge, which highlighted the problem of poor engagement in HIV care and antiretroviral therapy nationally. The ultimate goal of HIV treatment is viral suppression, but at present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that we have achieved that goal with only 30% of PLHA. Medical Research: What kind of intervention approach that emerged from these background findings? Dr. Gwadz: We found that barriers to HIV medication are complex and multi-faceted for PLHA from African American/Black and Latino/Hispanic backgrounds. In particular, PLHA experience serious emotional barriers to the uptake of HIV medications, such as fear of side effects, stigma, and disclosure of HIV status. Further, high rates of substance use and mental health distress, and barriers to accessing services for these concerns, impede medication uptake. Moreover, PLHA who are wary of HIV medication tend to avoid HIV primary care, often because they do not want to feel pressured to take medications, or explain to their providers why they are not taking them. So poor engagement in HIV care, which is very common among PLHA, and low uptake of HIV medication are actually related problems. With funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (grant #R34MH093352), and in collaboration with Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, we developed a multi-component culturally targeted intervention grounded in the Motivational Interviewing approach that included three individual sessions, 12-24 weeks of patient navigation (as needed), up to five support groups with other PLHA who had declined medication, which were co-led by a “successful” peer who was engaged in HIV care and were taking HIV medication with good adherence. One novel aspect of the intervention was its focus on emotional barriers to HIV medication, and the program’s “no pressure, no judgment” stance, congruent with the Motivational Interviewing approach, was key to engaging participants into the study to talk about these difficult issues.
Author Interviews, HIV, JAMA, Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania / 02.04.2015

Elizabeth Lowenthal, MD MSCE Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Children's Hospital of PhiladelphiaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Elizabeth Lowenthal, MD MSCE Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lowenthal: Between 2005 and 2012, HIV related deaths declined by 30% worldwide. However, during the same time period, HIV related deaths increased 50% among adolescents. Over 90% of HIV-infected children and adolescents live in sub-Saharan Africa and HIV is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa. Treatment is available that can allow babies born with HIV to live to be healthy adults. However, strict adherence to these medicines is necessary and often becomes a great challenge during adolescence. In our study of 300 adolescents (ages 10-19) in Botswana, my team found that adolescents who come to clinic without a parent or guardian have a 4.5X greater odds of failing their HIV treatment.
Author Interviews, HIV, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 31.03.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Catherine R. Lesko, MPH Department of Epidemiology UNC School of Global Public Health Chapel Hill, NC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There is a lot of evidence out there that HIV-infected minorities, and in particular, African Americans, experience higher morbidity and mortality than do their white, HIV-infected counterparts. This study looked at whether there were still differences in mortality among treated, HIV-infected adults, which was a crude attempt to control for differences in access to HIV-testing, HIV-care, and antiretroviral therapy - all things previously shown to contribute to racial disparities among people infected with HIV. Even among people who had initiated HIV therapy, we still found that black patients had a 10-year risk of mortality that was 8 percentage points greater than white patients. Hispanic patients did marginally better than white patients, but not as much better as their non-HIV-infected counterparts.
Author Interviews, CDC, HIV, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Sexual Health / 05.03.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Cyprian Wejnert Center For Disease Control MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Cyprian Wejnert: Men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the risk group most severely affected by HIV in the United States, accounting for approximately two-thirds of new infections each year.  Understanding racial and age disparities among MSM is critical to tailor effective prevention efforts. Our study examined data from CDC’s National HIV Behavioral Surveillance system (NHBS) from 20 U.S. cities. We assessed changes in HIV prevalence, awareness of infection, and risk behavior among MSM, by age and race, from 2008 to 2011, finding that: o   Among black Men who have sex with men, 30 percent were HIV-infected overall, and 1 in 5 black MSM aged 18-24 were infected with HIV. Compared to 14 percent and 4 percent among white MSM. o   In all age groups younger than 40 years, black Men who have sex with men were significantly more likely to be HIV-positive compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. o   Disparities in HIV prevalence between black and white MSM were greatest among the youngest MSM, and increased between 2008 and 2011. o   Black MSM were less likely to be aware of their infection than their white counterparts (54 vs. 86 percent). o   Black Men who have sex with men did not report higher levels of condomless sex overall or condomless sex with partners of discordant or unknown HIV status.
Author Interviews, CDC, Gender Differences, HIV, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 05.03.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Ndidi Nwangwu-Ike Center Disease Control MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: CDC data has shown encouraging signs of a decrease in new HIV infections among black women in recent years.  However, African American women continue to be far more affected by HIV than women of any other race or ethnicity, with a rate of new infection 20 times that of white women and nearly five times that of Hispanic women.  Ensuring people with HIV are diagnosed and remain in care is key to controlling HIV in the nation. When used consistently, antiretroviral medication can keep HIV controlled at very low levels in the body (known as viral suppression), allowing people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives and reducing the likelihood they will transmit HIV to others. Our study finds that viral suppression among women diagnosed with HIV is low, with young women and black women the least likely to achieve viral suppression. Specifically, we found that: o   Of women newly diagnosed with HIV in 2012, 83 percent were linked to care within three months of diagnosis. o   Retention in care varied by age and race/ethnicity; overall, just over half of women (52 percent) diagnosed and living with HIV in 2011 received ongoing HIV care. o   Overall, only 44 percent of women diagnosed and living with HIV in 2011 had a suppressed viral load.
Author Interviews, HIV, Nature, Scripps / 04.03.2015

Dr. Michael Farzan PhD Vice Chairman Department of Immunology and Microbial Science Florida Campus The Scripps Research InstituteMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Michael Farzan PhD Vice Chairman Department of Immunology and Microbial Science Florida Campus The Scripps Research Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Farzan: The key points are that HIV-1 needs two receptors – CD4 and CCR5 – to infect cells.  CD4’s primary job is to initially bind the viral entry protein, which upon CD4 binding, uncloaks its CCR5 binding site.   A number of years ago we observed that CCR5 had an unusual modification that was really important to HIV-1.  We later showed that antibodies – protein your body makes to protect from pathogens – mimics CCR5 by incorporating this modification.  We develop a peptide from one of these antibodies that mimics CCR5. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Farzan: By combined a soluble form of CD4 with this CCR5-mimicking peptide, we created a protein that neutralizes all HIV-1 isolates tested, including the hardest-to-stop viruses, as well as distantly related viruses found in monkeys.  It does so better than the best HIV-1 antibodies.  We expressed this protein using a commonly used gene-therapy vector, and showed that after a one-time inoculation we could protect from doses much higher than most humans are likely to see, and we did so 34 weeks after the inoculation.
Author Interviews, Hepatitis - Liver Disease, HIV, JAMA, NIH / 28.02.2015

Shyamasundaran Kottilil MBBS, PhD University of MarylandMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Shyamasundaran Kottilil MBBS, PhD Division of Infectious Diseases, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland, Baltimore Laboratory of Immunoregulation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kottilil:  Due to shared routes of transmission, almost half of all HIV-infected patients also have HCV infection. Traditionally, interferon based therapies have resulted in lower cure rates of HCV in HIV-infected subjects. Treatment for HCV is rapidly changing from an injection (interferon) based therapy to oral well tolerated pill based therapy for a shorter duration.Our intention was to test whether a treatment regimen without the use of interferon and ribavirin can be effective in HIV/HCV infected patients. Our study demonstrated that HIV/HCV connected patients without cirrhosis can be effectively treated with ledipasvir and sofosbuvir in 12 weeks. Overall 98% of patients were cured.
Author Interviews, CDC, HIV, Sexual Health / 14.02.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kristen Hess  ORISE Fellow Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Response: Men who have sex with men (MSM) of all races continue to be the risk group most severely affected by HIV in the United States. CDC’s most recent HIV incidence data show that the number of new infections among MSM increased 12 percent between 2008 and 2010, with an even steeper increase among the youngest MSM. These data clearly show the urgent need to better understand the factors that affect their risk and to develop effective prevention interventions. One specific factor is excessive alcohol use, which is responsible for 88,000 deaths in this nation each year, and cost the U.S. about $224 billion in 2006. Binge drinking (consuming ≥5 drinks for men on an occasion; ≥4 drinks for women) is the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption. The association between excessive alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, and risky sexual behaviors among MSM has had mixed results in the literature with some studies finding an association and others not. One limitation of previous work is that the definition of excessive alcohol consumption varies between studies, so results are not easily compared between studies and populations. Our study examines the relationship between binge drinking and sexual risk behaviors among MSM who are current drinkers and who were either HIV-negative or unaware of their HIV status. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Response: We assessed the prevalence of binge drinking, using a standard definition, among a sample of MSM recruited from 20 cities across the U.S. We also examined the association between binge drinking and several risky sexual behaviors. The findings show that 6 in 10 MSM reported binge drinking. Those who binge drank, in comparison to non-binge drinkers, were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors such as sex with an HIV-positive or unknown status partner and exchange sex for money or drugs at last sex, as well as more likely to have concurrent partners and more condomless sex partners in the past year. We also found that the likelihood of risky sexual behaviors went up with increased frequency of binge drinking. In fact, MSM who reported 10 or more binge-drinking episodes in the past month were more likely to report risky behaviors. This is a critical point, especially given that, among those who binged, 22 percent reported 10 or more binge drinking episodes in the past month.
HIV, Kidney Disease, NEJM, Transplantation / 11.02.2015

Elmi Muller, M.B., Ch.B., M.Med. University of Cape Town–Surgery Groote Schuur Hospital Observatory Cape Town Cape Town, South Africa MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Elmi Muller, M.B., Ch.B., M.Med. University of Cape Town–Surgery Groote Schuur Hospital Observatory Cape Town Cape Town, South Africa Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Muller: South Africa currently offers dialysis and transplantation as a treatment option for patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). However, dialysis is not freely available to everyone, but severely limited and only available to a selected group of patients. This means that patients get assessed when they present with ESRD and they only get accepted onto a dialysis programme if they fulfill certain criteria. These criteria are criteria to assess the patient’s medical fitness in general as well as social criteria to assess whether the patient will be compliant with follow-up.  In most state hospitals, patients will only be accepted onto a dialysis program if they are also fit to receive a transplant in the long run.  The idea is that dialysis programs should naturally feed into transplant programs. Therefore a patient who is not a suitable transplant candidate will normally be turned down for dialysis. In 2008, when the HIV positive-to-positive program started, patients with ESRD and HIV would be turned down for dialysis. The reason was that they were seen as unfit for transplantation and therefore not suitable dialysis patients. This meant that anybody with HIV and ESRD was doomed to die. This situation remained unchallenged for a number of years, especially as the rollout of antiretroviral therapy was quite slow in the state sector. Because of very high HIV rates in the country, more and more HIV positive brain-dead donors presented to the Groote Schuur Hospital Transplant team. These donors were mostly braindead people who were worked up for organ donation (after consent was obtained from the family) and who then turned out to be HIV positive. In 2008 it made sense to try and marry this supply of donors with the group of HIV positive patients without any treatment options in the country.
Author Interviews, CDC, HIV, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 06.02.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Azfar-e-Alam Siddiqi, MD, PhD Associate Chief of Science (Acting) HIV Incidence and Case Surveillance Branch Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sidiqqi: African Americans remain the population most affected by HIV in the United States -- accounting for almost half (44 percent) of all new infections and more than a third (41 percent) of people living with HIV, despite representing just 12 percent of the U.S. population. We also know that far too many African Americans living with HIV do not get the medical care and treatment they need to stay healthy and protect themselves and others. In fact, less than half (40 percent) of African Americans living with HIV are engaged in care and only one-quarter (28 percent) have the virus under control through treatment. To better understand mortality among African Americans with HIV, our team analyzed data from the National HIV Surveillance System for 2008 through 2012. Because immune suppression caused by HIV infection can result in fatal co-illnesses, our analysis estimated deaths due to all causes, rather than limiting their analysis to deaths resulting directly from HIV infection. This method allowed us to capture the fullest picture of mortality among African Americans with HIV. According to our new analysis, from 2008-2012, the death rate per 1,000 blacks living with HIV decreased 28 percent, more than the overall decline (22 percent) observed among all persons living with HIV and more than declines observed among other races/ethnicities (13 percent for whites and 25 percent for Hispanics). Despite substantial declines in mortality, the death rate per 1,000 blacks living with HIV in 2012 was 13 percent higher than the rate for whites and 47 percent higher than the rate for Hispanics.
Author Interviews, CDC, Cost of Health Care, HIV / 05.02.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ya-lin (Aileen) Huang, PhD. Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA, 30329 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Huang: With an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections each year in this country, and no vaccine or cure available yet, prevention is critical. Maximizing the impact of all available prevention strategies could significantly reduce new infections in this country. The purpose of this study is to provide evidence for the cost effectiveness of the interventions recommended under the funding announcement and to highlight where more cost-effectiveness studies may be needed. We limited our scope to the four interventions required under the health department funding announcement, including HIV testing, prevention with HIV-positives and their partners, condom distribution and efforts to align policies with optimal HIV prevention, care and treatment. Our review provides an updated summary of the published evidence of cost-effectiveness of four key HIV prevention interventions recommended by CDC: HIV testing, prevention with HIV-positives and their partners, condom distribution and policy initiatives. Models suggest that more than 350,000 HIV infections have been avoided because of the nation’s HIV prevention efforts. In addition to lives saved, HIV prevention has also generated substantial economic benefits. For every HIV infection that is prevented, an estimated $402,000 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23615000) is saved in the cost of providing lifetime HIV treatment. It is estimated that HIV prevention efforts have averted more than $125 billion in medical costs since the beginning of the epidemic.
Author Interviews, Hepatitis - Liver Disease, HIV, Lancet / 05.02.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof Jean-Michel Molina Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales, Hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris France MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof Jean-Michel Molina Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales, Hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris France Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Molina: Treatment of co-infected patients is complicated by drug drug interactions with HIV drugs, and the news DAAs are not very potent on HCV G2 and 3 infections.
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cost of Health Care, HIV, NEJM / 30.01.2015

Douglas B. Jacobs B.S., MD/MPH Candidate Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Douglas B. Jacobs B.S., MD/MPH Candidate Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: In May 2014, a formal complaint submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services contended that four Florida insurers were structuring their formularies in a way that discouraged enrollment from HIV positive beneficiaries. These insurers placed all HIV drugs, including generics, on the highest cost-sharing tiers. This formal complaint served as the impetus for this research. We wanted to discover if this was a phenomenon that was isolated to Florida, or if it was national in scope, and what the implications would be for HIV positive beneficiaries. As such, we analyzed what we called “adverse tiering”—in which all drugs for certain conditions are placed in the highest cost sharing tiers—in 12 states in the federal marketplace. We compared cost-sharing for a commonly prescribed class of HIV medication, called Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, or NRTIs.
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, HIV / 27.01.2015

Sophie Cohen MD, PhD Student Department of Pediatric Haematology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Emma Children's Hospital, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Cairns Base Hospital Australia MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sophie Cohen MD, PhD Student Department of Pediatric Haematology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Emma Children's Hospital, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Cairns Base Hospital Australia Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Since combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has become widely available for HIV-infected children, the incidence of severe neurological complications has decreased drastically from 30-50% to less than 2%. Unfortunately, even in cART-treated HIV-infected children a range of cognitive problems have been found, such as a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) and poorer visual-motor integration. Importantly, while most HIV-infected children in industrialized countries are immigrants with a relatively low socioeconomic status (SES), cognitive studies comparing HIV-infected children to SES-matched controls are very scarce.  Understanding the prevalence and etiology of cognitive deficits in HIV-infected children is essential because they may result in more pronounced problems, and influence future intellectual performance, job opportunities and community participation. Also, early detection of cognitive impairment might trigger the development of early intervention strategies. In this study we aimed to compare the neuropsychological profile of HIV-infected children to that of healthy controls, matched for age, gender, ethnicity and SES. Also, we aimed to determine the prevalence of cognitive impairment in the HIV-infected group and detect associations between HIV/cART parameters and cognitive performance. We found that the HIV-infected group had a poorer cognitive performance compared with the healthy children on all tested domains (including intelligence, information processing speed, attention, memory, executive- and visual-motor functioning). Using a novel statistical method called Multivariate normative comparison (MNC), we detected a prevalence of 17% with cognitive impairment in the HIV-infected group. Lastly, we found that the center for disease control (CDC) clinical category at HIV diagnosis was inversely associated with verbal IQ (CDC C: coefficient -22.98, P=0.010).
Author Interviews, Dermatology, HIV / 22.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Sophie Grabar, MD, PhD Unité de Biostatistique et Epidémiologie (Aile B2-5ieme étage) Groupe Hospitalier Cochin Broca Hôtel-Dieu PARIS Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Grabar: We took advantage of a large cohort, the French Hospital on HIV-ANRS CO4 cohort, of more than 100 000 HIV-infected patients to study the incidence trends and risk factors of Herpes Zoster since the advent of cART (combination antiretroviral medications)that have been discrepantly reported in the literature. Also, because Herpes Zoster has been associated with Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome, we studied the early impact of cART initiation on the risk of Herpes Zoster and finally evaluated the risk with regards to the risk in the general population that has never been reevaluated in recent years. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Grabar: We found that the incidence of Herpes Zoster has significantly declined with the arrival of cART and continue to decline probably owing to the immune recovery induced by cART. The risk in HIV-infected patients is globally 3-times higher to that of the general population, and 6-times higher between 15-45 years. Among cART naive patients, we found that the risk of Herpes Zoster increases in the first months of cART initiation but only moderately while it sharply decreases after 6 months of cART.
Author Interviews, HIV, Johns Hopkins, Kidney Disease / 06.01.2015

Alison G Abraham PhD Associate Scientist Department of Epidemiology Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Alison G Abraham PhD Associate Scientist Department of Epidemiology Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Medical Research: What was the motivation for this study? Dr. Abraham: HIV-infected individuals are at higher risk for kidney dysfunction compared to the general population.  Prior to effective antiretroviral therapy, very aggressive forms of kidney disease were described primarily among black HIV-infected individuals.  While effective therapy and increasing viral suppression rates have made HIV-associated nephropathy rare, some of these same drugs have nephrotoxic effects.  In addition, the reduction in AIDS and mortality has led to HIV-infected individuals living long enough to experience age-related chronic diseases, which are also risk factors for kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.  Thus we wanted to know how these competing forces were affecting end-stage renal disease risk in the well-treated HIV-infected North American population over time.  Are we seeing more ESRD as a result of nephrotoxic drugs and chronic disease, or less ESRD as a result of better viral suppression and large reductions in HIV-associated nephropathy? Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Abraham: We found that end stage renal disease rates have been steadily falling over the past 10 years coincident with notable improvements in viral suppression prevalence.  However a large racial discrepancy in ESRD risk has persisted even though HIV-associated nephropathy cases are now rare.  While ESRD cases among blacks in our study tended to have higher viral loads and lower CD4 counts compared to non-black ESRD cases, suggesting less effective HIV treatment, we found that the racial discrepancy in ESRD risk persisted even among the well-suppressed subset, i.e. those who had undetectable viral loads for 90% of their follow-up time.
Author Interviews, Hearing Loss, HIV, JAMA, UCSD / 27.12.2014

dr-peter-torre Dr. Peter Torre III PhD Associate Professor, Audiology Director, Recreational Noise Exposure and Hearing Lab San Diego State UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Peter Torre III PhD Associate Professor, Audiology Director, Recreational Noise Exposure and Hearing Lab San Diego State University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Torre: The primary purpose of our study was to evaluate hearing sensitivity in HIV+ and HIV- adults. And subsequently, in HIV+ adults only, to examine whether HIV disease variables or treatment was associated with hearing sensitivity. The main findings were that HIV+ adult had poorer hearing for both the lower and higher frequencies compared with HIV- adults, although we did not find any significant associations between HIV variables and treatment variables with hearing loss.
Author Interviews, HIV, JAMA / 26.12.2014

Jared Baeten, MD PhD Professor, Departments of Global Health and Medicine Adjunct Professor, Department of Epidemiology University of Washington Seattle, WA 98104MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jared Baeten, MD PhD Professor, Departments of Global Health and Medicine Adjunct Professor, Department of Epidemiology University of Washington Seattle, WA 98104 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Baeten: The medication tenofovir disoproxil fumarate is used widely for the treatment of HIV-1 infection and, more recently, as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to protect against HIV-1 infection for at-risk HIV-1 uninfected persons.  Its use has been associated with declines in the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) when used as part of antiretroviral treatment by HIV-1 infected persons, but limited data are available for risk when used as PrEP for HIV-1 prevention. Using data from the largest randomized, placebo-controlled trial of PrEP, among heterosexual women and men in Africa, eGFR changes were assessed during prospective follow-up in those receiving pre-exposure prophylaxis and compared to those receiving placebo.  PrEP use resulted in a small (-1.59 mL/min/1.73m2, 95% CI -2.44, -0.74) but statistically significant decline in eGFR that was non-progressive over a median of 18 months and a maximum of 36 months of follow-up.  PrEP use was not accompanied by a substantial increase in the risk of clinically relevant (≥25%) eGFR decline.
Author Interviews, HIV, Nature, UCLA / 22.12.2014

David Gerberry PhD Center for Biomedical Modeling, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CaliforniaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: David Gerberry PhD Assistant Professor Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In an attempt to control the spread of HIV, governments in sub-Saharan Africa are considering providing antiretroviral drugs to people who do not have the virus but are at risk for becoming infected. Such drugs are known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.  Given the cost of PrEP, an important question is how to maximize the impact of interventions given a fixed level of prevention resources. A common strategy is to target resources to the individuals that are at the highest risk for infection.  This group of people is often referred to as the "core group" and can be thought of as sex workers, clients of sex workers and other individuals that are at very high risk for infection.  While targeting this core group is ideal and would result in the most cost-effectiveness interventions, being able to identify these individuals is difficult in practice and they are often unwilling to participate in the intervention; take pre-exposure prophylaxis or change their behavior for example.  From a mathematical perspective it is also very difficult to quantify their increased level of risk.  For example, is a sex worker at 5 times, 25 times, 100 times or 1000 times the risk for HIV infection?  Without this quantification, it is impossible to estimate the cost-effectiveness of a targeted strategy. In our work, we build an intervention strategy based on geographical targeting.  This takes advantage of the fact that HIV incidence is much higher in certain geographical locations than others.  Therefore, individuals in these areas are at increased risk for HIV infection.  Most importantly, such an intervention is feasible because reliable data exists across much of sub-Saharan Africa for the severity of the HIV epidemic in different regions.  To illustrate our ideas we used mathematical modeling to consider resource allocation in South Africa and found that targeting the provinces with highest HIV incidence would prevent 40% more infections than a plan that ignored geographic variation while using the same amount of resources.
Author Interviews, CDC, HIV / 26.11.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Heather Bradley, PhD Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bradley: The key to controlling the HIV epidemic is controlling the virus.  When used consistently, antiretroviral medication can keep HIV controlled at very low levels in the body (known as viral suppression), allowing people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives and reducing the likelihood they will transmit HIV to others. Yet, only one-third of the 1.2 million people with HIV in the U.S. have the virus under control.  Among those who did not have the virus under control, approximately two-thirds had been diagnosed but were not in HIV medical care. Young people were least likely to have the virus under control.  Only 13 percent of 18 – 24 year olds were virally suppressed, primarily because half don’t know they are infected.  To close this gap among young people, increased HIV testing is critical. The study did not find statistically significant differences in viral suppression by race or ethnicity, sex, or risk group.
Author Interviews, HIV / 15.11.2014

Prof. Dr. Jan Münch Institute of Molecular Virology Ulm University Medical Center Ulm, GermanyMedicalResearch.com Interview with Prof. Dr. Jan Münch Institute of Molecular Virology Ulm University Medical Center Ulm, Germany Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Münch: Most anti-HIV microbicides have potent antiviral activity in vitro but were largely inactive in clinical trials. Here we set out to explore whether the HIV infection enhancing activity of amyloid fibrils in human semen interferes with the antiviral efficacy of microbicides and antiviral drugs