December 1, 2011 – As World AIDS Day is commemorated, researchers from Georgetown and institutions across Washington, D.C., are continuing to work together to reduce the city’s high rate of HIV/AIDS.
“There’s a bad epidemic in Washington, but with that has come an influx of research dollars that allows us to collectively fight against HIV and AIDS,” says Dr. Mary Young, assistant professor of medicine.
Young is among a collective of professors and researchers from Georgetown, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Children’s National Medical Center, Howard University, the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a number of local community-based clinics.
They work together through a center on clinical, epidemiologic, behavioral and translational HIV/AIDS research.
Using a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the collective established a Developmental Center for AIDS Research (D-CFAR) in D.C. last year to better serve the 3.2 percent of the city’s adults and adolescents who are diagnosed with HIV. The World Health Organization defines a 1 percent infection rate as an epidemic.
The center works to provide the scientific leadership and institutional infrastructure to promote HIV/AIDS research and to develop the next generation of HIV/AIDS scientists in the region.
“Through the D-CFAR, we’ve been able to award small grants to junior and minority researchers for further investigation of the virus and disease,” says Young, who also directs the HIV Women’s Program at Georgetown.
The Georgetown professor has been doing her part in the fight for years, serving as the principal investigator for the NIH-sponsored Women’s Interagency HIV study (WIHS).
The study has been observing women with HIV and women at risk of becoming infected since 1994. Young examines how reproductive aging and the newer antiretroviral treatments affect the course of HIV and its associated conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic abnormalities and changes in neurocognitive function.
“When I began, there was very little information about women who were HIV infected,” Young says. “That’s because, in part, less than 10 percent of participants in clinical trials of new agents were female.”
Today that number has increased to 30 percent or higher.
“That may not sound like a big increase, but it is,” she says. “Now, the NIH mandates that women be included in treatment studies if at all possible.”
With D-CFAR in place, Young and other GUMC researchers have better access to researchers and research facilities at other local institutions.
“Everyone will know more about what others are doing because there will be an educational and communications infrastructure,” she says.
Young also shares her WIHS cohort and database with other researchers, and believes this may spur novel research projects.
“It is a major coup to have a D-CFAR in the District,” she says. “Our hope is that our patients benefit in ways we could not have imagined years ago.”