As a result of the “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” initiative, which emerged from President Donald J. Trump’s vow during his 2019 State of Union Address to end the HIV epidemic within 10 years, the San Diego Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) at University of California San Diego has been awarded planning grants to help the federal government achieve its goal of reducing new HIV infections in the United States by 90 percent by 2030.
The initiative directs new funding to communities significantly impacted by HIV in a series of phases. CFAR will support implementation of research addressing the initiative’s four pillars: diagnose, treat, prevent and respond.
“The President has outlined a bold initiative to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S., with a focus on counties that have the highest burden of new HIV cases, including San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles,” said Davey Smith, MD, co-director of San Diego CFAR. “New research is needed for these efforts to be successful. As a world leader in HIV research, the San Diego CFAR is ready to support innovative science to eradicate this disease in collaboration with our community partners. The grants will not be enough, but it will help us move in the right direction.”
In total, CFAR was awarded $1.2 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), half of which is devoted to Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative research projects led by four UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers.
- Joel Wertheim, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, will lead a team to develop and implement a protocol based on real-time surveillance of HIV genetic transmission clusters, including transgender women, to better identify HIV-infected persons who are undiagnosed and those at greater risk for HIV.
- Laramie Smith, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, and Jill Blumenthal, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, will lead a team implementing a strategy co-designed by and for transgender Americans to ensure hard-to-reach populations affected by sex work, violence and substance abuse benefit from HIV testing, treatment, prevention and response efforts.
- Kiyomi Tsuyuki, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, will lead a team to identify and address societal barriers that prevent Latino men from accessing HIV and ancillary health care services and to tailor services that improve care and retention.
- Maile Karris, MD, associate clinical professor, and Ankita Kadakia, MD, assistant clinical professor, both in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, will lead a team exploring the impact of multi-clinic collaborations that offer maximum assistance to people living with HIV who are not currently receiving care.
CFAR will work with local U.S. Department of Health and Human Services partners. In addition, it will launch a scientific working group to address the needs of Southern California, which has been identified as a “hotspot” for new HIV diagnoses. Five of the eight counties in the state targeted by the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative are in Southern California.
“As the only NIH-funded CFAR in Southern California, we plan to expand our reach beyond San Diego by partnering with local health departments and community clinics in the high burden areas of Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties,” said Smith, who is also chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
CFAR was established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH, as a regional, collaborative, frontline hub for studying HIV, bringing together multiple institutional partners, including Scripps Research, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. There are 17 regional CFARs across the country.
Approximately 1 million Americans are living with HIV and 700,000 have died since the epidemic was identified in 1981.
In addition to the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative, three other HIV projects were funded by the NIH.
- Marva Seifert, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, will lead a team in developing a tool to identify active tuberculosis using saliva, blood or urine to improve the diagnosis of a significant HIV-associated condition.
- Bryan Briney, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, will lead a team including UC San Diego researchers in designing a method for profiling the immune response to vaccination and infection.
- To meet an expected increase in lab services in response to the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative, the San Diego CFAR will add two additional leading edge genetic sequencing machines.