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Peer groups may help HIV patients maintain treatment regimens

Feb. 10, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR) has received a two-year, $400,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health to study whether social support improves care attendance and treatment adherence for people in Russia infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Yuri A. Amirkhanian, PhD, and Jeffrey A. Kelly, PhD; are the principal investigators of the grant. Dr. Amirkhanian is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine and director of CAIR’s International Research Core. Dr. Kelly is the senior vice chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, and director of CAIR at MCW. CAIR’s multidisciplinary team of researchers focuses on the development, conduct and evaluation of novel strategies for HIV prevention.

Russia is a country with a growing incidence of HIV infection. Many of those affected are either not in treatment for the disease or do not adhere to their antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens—both of which could potentially increase the incidence of HIV infection in that region of the globe.

This grant will fund efforts by CAIR and a collaborating research team at St. Petersburg State University Medical Faculty to test a new intervention strategy for improving treatment attendance and adherence among people with HIV. The goal of the project is to use the peer groups of HIV-positive persons to encourage and support them in seeking care and maintaining their medical regimens. A unique aspect of the study is the recruitment of fellow HIV-positive persons already within a patient’s social network to help with the intervention.

In addition to the NIH funding, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research is also providing funding to Russian collaborators working on this project.

“This type of collaborative funding speaks to the importance of this project, and to the great progress that has been made between our nations over the past several decades,” said Dr. Kelly. “Global health requires exactly this type of collaborative effort, and we are very excited to work with our colleagues in Russia.”

This study aims to improve the overall health of people living with HIV and reduce the incidence of infection not only in Russia, but also in other regions of the world in which this strategy could be implemented.

The Center for AIDS Intervention Research at MCW is one of five HIV prevention research centers in the United States funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. CAIR’s missions are to conceptualize, conduct, and scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of new intervention strategies to prevent HIV infection in populations vulnerable to the disease. CAIR’s research also develops improved strategies to promote health and alleviate adverse mental health consequences among persons living with HIV. CAIR is committed to disseminating its findings both to the scientific community and to public health providers so they benefit from Center research.

This project is funded by NIH grant 1R21MH102193-01.

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