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India, US to begin joint research on ‘Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases & HIV/AIDS’ soon! – Courtesy (Pharmabiz)
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The Indian Council on Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US, will soon begin collaborative research on ‘Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases & HIV/AIDS’.

One of the Indo-US focus areas of collaboration will be on HIV/AIDS treatment and care continuum under which thrust will be on studies using new and expanding technologies and methodologies (e.g. social media, m-health) to successfully recruit, enroll, and retain high risk groups which may be difficult to reach by other more traditional means for HIV testing, linkage to care, and retain in care; and on testing of point-of-care HIV viral load or resistance tests, diagnostic biomarkers or low cost, rapid assays for HIV or TB detection, including diagnosis of drug resistance.

Another area of focus is on HIV transmission and prevention under which thrust will be on studies to better understand tolerance for and stigma of non-heterosexual relationships, such as men who have sex with men and hijras; and studies to develop and/or test combination prevention strategies for HIV/AIDS for high-risk populations e.g., injection and poly-substance users, men who have sex with men, female sex workers, victims of gender-based violence, rural area dwellers, and migrant and destabilized populations, etc.

The joint research programme will also have thrust on HIV and AIDS-associated co-morbidities. Under this, the focus will be on utilsation of new/enhanced therapeutics for HIV-related co-morbidities such as HCV and their impact on disease outcomes; and enhanced targeted outreach strategies for HCV testing, prevention, and treatment/care engagement; integrated approaches for addressing the complex bio-behavioral factors associated with HCV/HIV.

Under the HIV and cancers, the study will focus on epidemiologic studies to assess cancer burden in HIV positive persons; strategies for optimising diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of HIV-associated cancers; research to understand the pathogenesis of HIV-associated cancers and differences between similar tumors in HIV negative patients; and behavioral health issues such as research that addresses the influence of poverty, alcohol, tobacco and other substance use and abuse, interpersonal violence, and mental health on HIV prevention and treatment, in order to identify efficacious and cost-effective interventions for those at highest risk for infection and/or morbidity and mortality.

Another area of focus is on sexually transmitted infections. Under this, the study will focus on mucosal immunology in the male and female genital tract including mucosal immune responses in normal subjects, those with STIs, and after interventions including topical microbicides and therapeutics; and studies of viral STIs, particularly HPV and HSV, and their interaction with HIV; the impact of these STIs in the acquisition and progression of HIV infection and the role of HIV in alteration of the natural history, diagnosis, or response to treatment of HPV and HSV.

Under translational research, the focus will be on studies to develop and test innovative HIV prevention strategies in young populations, particularly  adolescents; and also on studies to better understand linkages between reproductive health options and HIV infection in men and women.

The ICMR has proposed to initiate the process for the next round of funding for the joint Indo-US proposals under the auspices of the Indo-US Joint Working Group on the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS. In this regard a joint Indo-US workshop is proposed to be held in September 2015 to encourage investigators for the Indo-US collaborative projects.

All Indian universities and institutions who are interested in future research collaborations with U.S. investigators are eligible to apply, however early to mid career investigators and those who have not yet partnered with U.S. scientists, are especially encouraged to apply. An early to mid career investigator is someone who completed his or her terminal research degree or medical residency with minimum 6 to 8 years of experience, and has not yet been awarded a substantial research grant.

This will be an interactive workshop in which participants will present their concept proposal to other participants and programme officers; receive constructive feedback from other Indian participants and Indian and U.S. programme officers to increase the quality of a future application; evaluate goals, objectives, and methods; learn about requirement of various funding agencies; write more effective specific aims and research strategies; and likely to get a link of US collaborator working in the same area.

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