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Back To Vidyya NIH Announces New International Network To Study HIV Prevention Strategies

The International HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the formation of the international HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) to develop and test promising non-vaccine strategies to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The global initiative will explore alternative measures, besides AIDS vaccines, that may be able to block or reduce infection with HIV. The HPTN will constitute NIH's largest comprehensive multicenter network dedicated to this task, comprising core operational, data and laboratory centers, as well as research sites located worldwide in Africa (Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe), Asia (China, India and Thailand), Europe (Russia), South America (Peru) and the United States.

"We must investigate all potential strategies to stop HIV transmission, including microbicides and other biomedical and behavioral interventions," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the network's lead sponsor. "The HPTN strengthens our capability to discover new and better measures to protect people, especially children and women, from HIV infection."

Along with NIAID, other NIH components co-sponsoring the HPTN include the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Funding for the first year of the project totals slightly over $30 million.

HPTN studies will focus on six key areas of prevention research:

  • drugs and/or vaccines that are practical and easy to use to prevent mother-to-infant HIV transmission;

  • microbicides, substances designed for vaginal or rectal use, to prevent sexual transmission of the virus;

  • interventions to reduce behavior that exposes people to HIV;

  • programs to check the spread of HIV through reducing intravenous drug abuse;

  • measures to control other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and thereby decrease the risk of co-infection with HIV;

  • antiretroviral therapy that may protect high-risk uninfected adults before they are exposed to HIV, as well as emergency therapy to treat victims of sexual assault.

HPTN researchers will conduct clinical trials of a broad array of promising interventions for HIV, alone and in combination. In addition, HPTN scientists will explore fundamental questions about the virus and factors related to the risk and mechanics of HIV infection in the context of testing promising intervention strategies.

Previously, NIAID's HIV prevention research program was centered in the HIV Network for Prevention Trials (HIVNET), made up of domestic and international organizations. HIVNET investigators competed with other scientists worldwide in applying for inclusion in the HPTN through a peer-reviewed evaluation process.

"HIVNET's studies set a high standard of scientific and medical excellence from which the HPTN will evolve and expand into new areas," explains Jack Killen, M.D., director of NIAID's Division of AIDS. HIVNET researchers achieved several breakthrough discoveries, such as demonstrating the effectiveness of a simple regimen, using the low-cost drug nevirapine, to prevent mother-to-infant HIV infection. Another HIVNET study identified viral load in a person's blood as a critical factor governing the likelihood of heterosexual HIV transmission, suggesting that strategies which lower this level may play a role in prevention. "The HPTN will include many of the most experienced and talented HIV prevention experts around the world."

The hub of the new network comprises 1) the Core Group/Operations Center, led by Ward Cates, M.D., M.P.H., of Family Health International in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park; 2) the Central Laboratory, headed by Johns Hopkins University investigator Brooks Jackson, M.D., in Baltimore; and 3) the Statistical and Data Coordinating Center, led by Thomas Fleming, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

According to Dr. Cates, "The HPTN establishes a strong foundation of scientific collaboration among the world's leaders in HIV prevention research. This will be an exciting environment in which we can do truly progressive studies with a potential public health impact worldwide."

The following investigators will lead the U.S. sites participating in the HPTN:


  • University of Alabama at Birmingham - Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D.


  • Los Angeles County Department of Health - Peter Kerndt, M.D., M.P.H.
  • University of California Los Angeles - Yvonne J. Bryson, M.D.
  • University of California San Francisco - Tsungai Chipato, MBChB


  • Yale University, New Haven - Robert Ryder, M.D.


  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore - Robert C. Bollinger, M.D., M.P.H.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore - David Celentano, Sc.D., M.P.H.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore - Laura Guay, M.D.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore - J. Brooks Jackson, M.D., M.B.A.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore - Taha E. Taha, M.D., Ph.D.


  • Fenway Community Health, Boston - Kenneth H. Mayer, M.D.
  • Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston - Wafaie Fawzi, M.D., Dr.P.H.


  • Columbia University Health Sciences, New York - Maria Wawer, M.D.
  • Columbia University Health Sciences, New York - Wafaa El-Sadr, M.D., M.P.H.


  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia - David Metzger, Ph.D.


  • Harborview Medical Center, Seattle - Connie Celum, M.D., M.P.H.

The following investigators will lead the international sites participating in the HPTN:


    • Malawi College of Medicine, Blantyre - George Liomba, M.D.


    • South African Medical Research Council, Durban - Salim Karim, MBChB, Mmed, Ph.D.


    • Muhimbili University, College of Health Sciences, Dar Es Salaam - Gernard Msamanga, M.D., DSc.


    • Makerere University School of Medicine, Kampala - Francis Mmiro, MBChB
    • Makerere University School of Medicine, Kampala - Nelson Sewankambo, M.D.


    • Lusaka District Health Board and University Teaching Hospital - Moses Sinkala, M.D./Chewe Lou, M.D., MSc.


    • University of Zimbabwe, Harare - Tsungai Chipato, MBChB


    • National Center for AIDS Prevention and Control, Beijing - Yiming Shao, M.D., Ph.D.


    • IHI/YRG Care, Chennai - Suniti Solomon, M.D.
    • National AIDS Research Institute (NARI), Pune - Sanjay M. Mehendale, M.D., MBBS, M.P.H.


    • Chiang Mai University - Chirasak Khamboonruang, M.D., Ph.D.


    • St. Petersburg State University - Andrei Kozlov, Ph.D.


    • Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima - Jorge Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H.

In addition, NIAID anticipates establishing a site in Brazil within the next few months.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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