AIDS research center earns $7.5 million grant renewal

August 11, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) has won a $7.5 million grant to continue its work in the research, prevention and treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health confirms UAB's place among an elite group of 20 CFARs nationwide in which doctors and scientists are engaged in basic, clinical, epidemiologic, behavioral and translational research to boost detection and treatment of HIV. HIV infects more than 30 million globally; during the past year more than 2 million worldwide died from AIDS, which is caused by the virus.

"This award enables us to keep moving forward into those areas, projects and techniques used to fight HIV and adapt to and explore projects that I consider leading-edge or uncharted," said Michael Saag, M.D., director of the UAB CFAR. "Our center has excelled in the basic science of HIV, and now we're doing the same in terms of patient care -- advancing the message of HIV testing and prevention and taking our successes and care model into the developing world."

The $7.5 million grant enables investigators to focus, expand and pursue their research goals and explore new ideas through multi-disciplinary collaboration and shared resources available to center researchers and HIV teams. It will support CFAR's nine cores, or shared projects: administrative, biostatics, virology, clinical, developmental, DNA sequencing, flow cytometry, international, and behavioral science and prevention.

The center supports research on disease prevention and treatment in AIDS patients and also strengthens the capacity for HIV research in developing countries, said Saag, who is chair-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America's HIV Medicine Association.

The UAB CFAR also is the lead institute on a nine-member CFAR consortium that combines secured data to track diagnosis and treatment outcomes, monitor quality-of-life measurements and link these data to a repository of clinical specimens.

"One of the areas we plan to study is how HIV-infected patients are living longer -- almost a normal life span when they are on effective therapy -- but their aging seems accelerated," Saag said. "Infected patients are getting dementia or heart disease or having heart attacks and other problems sooner in the aging process than we normally find in non-infected patients. That is going to be a big focus of the CFAR heading forward -- evaluating the complications of living with HIV for a long time."

Another focus for the UAB CFAR is prevention and detection. When HIV is detected early, treatments are less expensive, more effective and help lower the probability of spreading the disease to others, Saag said.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

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