UNC research to be featured at world’s largest AIDS conference

Research from every corner of the UNC campus will be represented at the International AIDS Conference, to be held July 22-27 in Washington, D.C.

Media contact: Lisa Chensvold, 919-843-5719 or lisa_chensvold@med.unc.edu

Thursday, July 19, 2012

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is home to one of the highest ranked HIV/AIDS programs in the country, with dozens of researchers working toward new prevention strategies, reducing stigma, and finding a cure in the global fight against AIDS. Their expertise and wide-ranging findings will be showcased at the XIX International AIDS Conference, to be held July 22-27 in Washington, D.C.

Research from every corner of the UNC campus will be represented at this global conference, whose theme this year is “Turning the Tide Together.” The conference attracts delegates from nearly 200 countries every year, including 20,000 to 25,000 scientists, policy makers, and others committed to ending one of the greatest infectious disease challenges of our age.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a complex problem that requires multi-pronged, multidisciplinary solutions,” said Charles van der Horst, MD, professor of medicine and director of the infectious disease fellowship program at the UNC School of Medicine. “UNC faculty and students from across the campus have once again stepped up to the challenge. With more than 100 abstracts, they are presenting the results of research studies and implementation of new care models in a plethora of papers on all aspects of the AIDS pandemic.”

In the 30 years since the first AIDS patient was admitted to UNC hospitals in 1981, the University has been involved in battling the epidemic, building a robust and diverse research and clinical care program that reaches across North Carolina and around the world. The research being presented at the upcoming conference was conducted in more than ten countries, including the Dominican Republic, China, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia.

Van der Horst has been at UNC since the early days of the epidemic. In Washington, he will present ongoing clinical findings of a five-year study on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, also known as the BAN Study.

Sudanshu Handa, PhD, professor and chair of public policy, will present an oral abstract on the effects of a cash transfer program on HIV risk behavior in Kenya. Anna Cope, a doctoral student in epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, will present on high-risk sexual behavior in people diagnosed with acute HIV. David Wohl, MD, an associate professor of medicine, will participate in a satellite session on HIV in the corrections system. And new data from the landmark HPTN 052 study, which examines the HIV treatment as prevention strategy and is chaired by Myron Cohen, MD, J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and Public Health, will also be presented in Washington.

This year marks the first time in 22 years that the conference has been held in the United States, explains van der Horst. The International AIDS Society voted to hold the conference in the United States after President Barack Obama lifted entry restrictions of people living with HIV.

“The return of the International AIDS Conference to the US is an historic occasion, a time for celebration of achievements made, and reflection on the hurdles that remain,” said van der Horst. “We should all be proud.”

For the complete list of UNC abstracts, click here. For the full conference program, click here.

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