UNC Receives $2.7 Million NIH Grant to Continue AIDS Research Training Program

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received $2.7 million from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health to train HIV/AIDS researchers in China, Malawi, and Cameroon.

The training program, which is entering its 11th year, supports long- and short-term HIV/AIDS research training and is run by UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. UNC works with international partners to recruit trainees who will be hired at partner institutions in their home countries after they leave the program.

The funds are awarded under the Fogarty International Center’s 20-year-old signature AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP), which has trained nearly 2,000 foreign researchers. Most remain in their countries to battle the epidemic, train young scientists, and move into government health leadership.

One of the major barriers to reducing the epidemic in developing countries is a shortage of personnel specially trained for HIV treatment, care, and prevention. In China, for example, there are as many as 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS. While this figure represents only a fraction of China’s population, the high prevalence of infection among certain high-risk groups has the potential to fuel a greatly expanded epidemic. And while China has a well developed medical system, very few providers care for HIV patients and those who do are located in areas far away from the epidemic.

“UNC has been working in these countries for decades,” says Myron Cohen, MD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health and Director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. “And we have seen very tangible benefits of this and similar training programs.” Cohen is also the J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology in the medical school, and of Epidemiology in the public health school.

UNC partners in the AITRP program include: China CDC National Center for STD Control in Nanjing, Kamuzu Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi, and University of Buea in Cameroon. Most of the training is done at UNC in the Schools of Medicine and Global Public Health.

Ada Adimora, MD, professor of medicine in the UNC School of Medicine is principal investigator and director of the program. “The UNC AITRP's mission is to train scientists in our partner countries to help end the global pandemic, Adimora says. “This funding is critical to our mission.”

Graduates of the UNC AITRP program have become government leaders and policy makers, directors of public health programs, and academic faculty who are themselves training young HIV researchers.

The Fogarty International Center, the international component of the NIH, addresses global health challenges through innovative and collaborative research and training programs and supports and advances the NIH mission through international partnerships.

Other recipients of the Fogarty AITRP grants were State University of New York, Buffalo, Emory, University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt.

Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases contact: Lisa Chensvold, (919) 843-5719, lisa_chensvold@med.unc.edu

Filed under: