Fogarty Fellow Uses Training at UNC China Site to Improve Health of African Migrants

Brian Hall

Brian Hall, PhD (Photo courtesy University of Macau)

Fogarty Fellow Brian Hall spent a year at our UNC Project-China site studying the social and health challenges facing African migrants. Learn how this experience prepared him for his research role at a university in China and read The Lancet article is research produced.

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Podcast Series: HIV Matters

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Introduction to Malawi and Chichewa: A Workshop on Chichewa Language and Malawi Culture

Spring-2017-Introduction-to-Malawi-and-Chichewa-Language-WorkshopThis four-part workshop will focus on introductory Chichewa greetings and linguistics, medical interview vocabulary, and cultural sensitivity in health services for UNC students, staff and faculty planning research, service or internships in Malawi.  Workshop sessions cover elementary language construction, health and cultural training, as well as brief presentations on the history, geography, politics and economy of Malawi.  Participants will be provided soft copies of readings and basic language material. Dinner will be provided. Attendance at a minimum of 3 sessions is required.

When: Wednesdays/Thursdays – March 28 and 29, April 4 and 5 from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Beard Hall, Room 116

Space is limited – please register by emailing Mamie Harris at malawi@unc.edu. Also contact Mamie for additional questions or concerns.

This workshop is sponsored by the UNC African Studies Center and the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.

Researchers Identify Patterns of HIV Risk among People Who Inject Drugs in Vietnam

Kumi Smith, PhD, investigates HIV in Asia.

Kumi Smith, PhD, investigates HIV in Asia.

People who inject drugs (PWID) in Vietnam are disproportionately affected by HIV. While HIV prevalence among the general population aged 15-49 is 0.4 percent, the prevalence of HIV among people who inject drugs is a staggering 11 percent, according to UNAIDS.

In an effort to combat new infections among PWID, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted the first study to explore how this population mixes together. Their results were published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

“There is a severe epidemic in Vietnam of HIV among people who inject drugs,” said Kumi Smith, PhD, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. “Risk of HIV infection is not uniform throughout a population, and depends greatly on the patterns of social contact within a population. We looked at these patterns to see if we could figure out who we should prioritize for prevention services, given that resources are limited.”

Smith and her colleagues studied men who inject drugs at UNC Project-Vietnam’s site in Thai Nguyen, about 40 miles north of the capital of Hanoi. They found that mixing was assortative in terms of age; that is, these men tend to share needles to inject drugs with other men of the same age. By pairing this information with what they knew about HIV infection rates in each age group, the research team was able to dig deeper to identify which combination of age groups led to the most new infections.

RIGHT: A depiction of the contact patterns by age group in the Thai Nguyen cohort of people who inject drugs. LEFT: The corresponding estimates of the numbers of new HIV infections expected to be acquired (solid line) or transmitted by (dotted line) each age group, based on observed mixing and HIV prevalence patterns.

LEFT: A depiction of the contact patterns by age group in the Thai Nguyen cohort of people who inject drugs. RIGHT: The corresponding estimates of the numbers of new HIV infections expected to be acquired (solid line) or transmitted by (dotted line) each age group, based on observed mixing and HIV prevalence patterns.

“We are really good at saying who is at risk for acquiring HIV, but we are not good at pinpointing who is transmitting HIV,” Smith said. “By looking at how these age groups shared needles, we discovered which groups were most at risk for becoming infected and which were most at risk for transmitting HIV.”

The findings from this study can be used to help clinicians identify people who inject drugs who would benefit from pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is a once daily pill to prevent HIV. The results can also inform those living with HIV who should be linked to care and could be prescribed treatment. Treatment not only improves the health of the person living with HIV, but it makes them less contagious to partners with whom they share needles.

“We hope that this information assists health authorities in resource-constrained settings, like where our research took place, make difficult decisions about optimal allocation of limited resources for treatment and prevention of HIV,” Smith said.

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Podcast Series: HIV Matters – Prevention, Treatment and Cure Research at UNC