February 2018

February 2018

Dear UCSF ARI Community,

I hope you’ve all had a healthy and productive start to 2018. Here at the ARI, the holiday season and beginning of the new year were full of events, exciting research news, and the promise of further developments in the field of HIV and with our partners.

Kicking off the calendar year with a banner event, the Center for AIDS Research's 10th East Africa Collaborative Research Symposium was held in Kampala, Uganda, from January 17th – 18th. Dedicated to innovative research presentations from East African young investigators, the symposium has also historically served as a networking opportunity for teams in the region. Our full conference report is now on the ARI site, which showcases some of the conference’s thematic highlights and also details the history of the institutional partnerships driving this landmark event.

Speaking of conferences… UCSF plans on making another strong showing at CROI, taking place in Boston, from March 4th – 7th. With a variety of clinical, basic, and social science research presented by UCSF researchers, I'd like to mention some of the work that will make an impact. This includes a follow-up of Dr. Sheri Lippman’s project exploring HIV self-test kits (HIVST) in South African communities, recently profiled on the ARI site. The novel findings are foundational for future network-based studies looking for best practices and innovative interventions in home-based HIVST – including those of high-risk young women in South Africa who serve as test ambassadors for their partners and networks – research of Lippman's which will be revealed at the conference.

Also at CROI will be work recently published by Dr. Elvin Geng, along with colleagues from Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities and the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), who were driven to discover true mortality rates are among those on antiretroviral treatment in a developing country context – information that has remained elusive despite routine monitoring. This makes regional assessments of the impact of services difficult to discern – so Geng and colleagues utilized information from over 165,000 patients as they sought to assess this true mortality, characterize the extent of underreporting of mortality in routine health information systems in Zambia, and identify drivers across locations and over time in 64 clinic sites in 4 Zambian provinces. I won’t spoil the results, but look for them and related findings the week after CROI here on the ARI site.

Close by in Kenya and Uganda, Dr. Carol Camlin and team published a study poised to turn perceptions of HIV test counselors on their heads. Explored more deeply in our Research News, the article showed that unexpected leaders in test and treat campaigns in East Africa are emerging as some of the greatest champions for getting vulnerable populations involved in the care cascade.

Sharing our research successes is important here at ARI, but we are also interested in showcasing the unique backgrounds and interests of our dedicated HIV investigators. In January, we launched what will be monthly professional profiles of those in our community, and I'm excited to introduce Drs. Satish Pillai and Carina Marquez as our inaugural portrayals of the ARI team.

Back here in San Francisco, our investigators have not slowed their pace in terms of awards, the publication of research with an impact, and wide recognition for their work. In the Division of HIV, Infectious Disease, and Global Medicine, Dr. Diane Havlir received the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award from Duke University School of Medicine, and Dr. Annie Luetkemeyer received the 2017 Clinical Champion Award from California Hepatitis Alliance. The latter is presented to a healthcare provider who shows outstanding leadership in addressing viral hepatitis through clinical services and patient advocacy – her impressive work in this field was also celebrated in The Week last December.

This research, of course, does not come cheap! And ARI leadership recognizes that the funding environment is becoming increasingly stringent. In order for our clinicians and researchers here at UCSF to continue pursuing this innovative work, we have launched our Annual Strategic Support Awards, to help with gaps in funding coverage. Applications are being accepted through March 16th, and all submissions are reviewed by the ARI Leadership Committee.

As always, I encourage you to check out our News and Events pages, as well as our social media channels, to stay abreast of what’s happening now at the ARI as well as what’s to come.

I look forward to sharing further updates in the Spring and welcoming you to this season’s events.

Paul Volberding, MD

Director, AIDS Research Institute