University of Florida News (10.04.12)
Aids Weekly Plus
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has awarded the University of Florida (UF) a $2.5 million grant to support studies on HIV infection and high-risk alcohol consumption. Through this new grant, the Southern HIV Alcohol Research Consortium (SHARC) will be able to establish an administrative and research support arm to expand research sites across Florida, provide research training support, create partnerships with Florida county health departments and HIV clinics, and facilitate new research studies. Dr. Robert Cook is the consortium administrative director and is an associate professor of epidemiology and medicine at the UF College of Public Health & Health Professions and the College of Medicine. Cook stated that the ultimate goal of the work is to put into practice the research findings in clinical and public health settings, help people reduce high-risk alcohol consumption, and improve health outcomes in persons with HIV infection.
Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are ranked first and second, respectively, in the United States in terms of HIV infection rates per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Florida Department of Health study of HIV occurrence within the state found that nearly 20 percent of African-American men who have sex with men are living with HIV/AIDS. Cook said that HIV infection also is an issue in rural areas, as well as for older adults. Over the past 10 years, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Florida has increased the most among residents age 50 and older.
The SHARC was established in 2011 to bring together research teams at the UF, Florida International University, the University of Miami, and Rush University in Chicago that are conducting National Institutes of Health-funded research on alcohol consumption in people with HIV. Previous studies have shown that 50 percent of men with HIV and 20 to 30 percent of women with HIV consume high-risk levels of alcohol. Such behaviors can lead to adverse health effects such as increased risky sexual behavior and lower medication adherence. As a result, persons with this behavior have higher levels of HIV virus in the body and more rapid disease progression. Cook leads a study that evaluates whether a prescription medication used to curb alcohol cravings can help women with HIV reduce their alcohol consumption, and improve their overall health.
The new administrative and research program will support the ongoing consortium studies and facilitate new projects. Researchers will have access to resources such as statistical analysis services, central data management, and pharmaceutical and laboratory support, in addition to new participant populations that more fully represent Florida’s diverse population. The administrative core also will fund research training and mentoring opportunities.