"We are in the process of demonstrating that through collaboration, rather than self-interest, greater HIV/AIDS research resources may be attracted to the state," said Spencer Lieb, MPH, HIV/AIDS Research Coordinator for The AIDS Institute, "The aim is to discover new evidence-based interventions for HIV prevention and treatment, and to approach the discovery of cures and a vaccine that work, through collaborations that cross traditional boundaries."
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A week ago, the Florida Consortium for HIV/AIDS Research (FCHAR) conducted its second annual summit in Orlando. Sixty prominent researchers from around the state gathered to advance a collaborative HIV/AIDS research agenda. Seventeen expert presenters participated in four audience-interactive panels covering ethics and three types of HIV/AIDS studies; clinical trials, epidemiological/behavioral investigations and basic science research.
As explained by Jeffrey Beal, MD, co-founder of FCHAR and Clinical Director of the Florida/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center, “These are ambitious but achievable goals, given enough talent and will, which are clearly in abundance in this group.”
FCHAR is the scientific arm of The AIDS Institute, a nonprofit organization founded in Florida, with a focus on policy, research, advocacy and education. The Consortium currently comprises 116 members who account for more than 400 recent and ongoing HIV-related studies. The researchers represent seven universities and 12 other research entities across the state, which include researchers from the private sector.
An Executive Advisory Committee and four working subcommittees have been addressing and resolving barriers to effective research collaboration, both natural and man-made. Several innovative, multi-agency study protocols are in the process of being developed. A statewide HIV/AIDS Research Inventory has been compiled, and is in the process of becoming a more comprehensive, web-based document to facilitate and expedite recruitment of participants into research studies. Patient focused brochures have been drafted to inform prospective study participants about the nature, benefits and risks of clinical trials and other HIV research studies.
In addition, a training program has been developed to aid in the education of study participants and health professionals about how to interpret basic epidemiological data. The program will be disseminated via a series of Internet webinars. Another program is being developed to provide information on the interpretation of complicated lab reports. A member survey on hard-to-reach populations and hard-to-obtain biologic specimens has revealed a number of common challenges and new solutions to be disseminated.
“In this economic environment, it makes sense for the research community to work together towards a common goal and to share data, resources and talent within Florida,” said Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. ”The AIDS Institute is proud to take the steps necessary to ensure the success of this amazing group of researchers who are committed to ensuring that Florida continues to be on the cutting edge of HIV research and expanding our understanding of prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS.”
The group is calling to those who are interested in joining FCHAR, and those wanting more information about the group can contact Spencer Lieb, MPH, at SLieb@TheAIDSInstitute.org or call to 850-408-4512. Visit the FCHAR website at www.FCHAR.org, and The AIDS Institute website at www.TheAIDSInstitute.org.
Genetic research indicates that HIV originated in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) was first recognized by the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981 and its cause, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was identified in the early 1980s.
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