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Dance Club Reunion Yields $3K Donation to UNC’s Hope Fund

David Currin, center, presents a check for the UNC ID Clinic's Hope Fund to the clinic's Medical Director Dr. Claire Farel.

David Currin, center, presents a check for the UNC ID Clinic’s Hope Fund to the clinic’s Medical Director Dr. Claire Farel.

Heading out for a night of dancing in downtown Durham is not the same as it was nearly 30 years ago for members of the LGBT community. Back then, club and show bar The Power Company was in its heyday as the place to hear the best DJs in the state mix dance hits and to showcase top female impersonators for weekly shows, and city and state pageants.

By 2000, The Power Company closed. But this past winter, a Facebook alumni page helped spark a reunion and fundraiser. Any money raised above the costs to hold the event was split between the Raleigh LGBT Center and the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic’s Hope Fund.

“For many of us, The Power Company was a place of freedom in which we could be ourselves, and find ourselves. It was a place of love and acceptance in the midst of an otherwise misunderstanding world,” says David Currin, who helped organize the reunion, and who works as a nurse and researcher in the UNC Division of Infectious Diseases. “I thought of this idea to donate to the LGBT Center and the Hope Fund not just for those of us who remember the wonderful nights at the club, but also in memory of those who have gone before us, who danced with us and beside us, but who weren’t fortunate enough to live long enough to see how far we have come as a community.”

Currin presented ID Clinic Medical Director Claire Farel, MD, MPH, with a check for $3,190 to support the Hope Fund. Farel says the fund seeks to remove any obstacles to care people living with HIV face.

“The Hope Fund allows us to show patients that we see them as complete people,” says Farel. “We know that getting healthy and staying healthy involves more than just medical visits and medications. There are a lot of things in life that are difficult and stressful and the Hope Fund lets us partner with our patients in a small way to work to reduce barriers to good health. The importance of this gift cannot be understated. The Hope Fund makes an enormous difference in people’s lives and its existence represents a hand extended to our patients.”

ID Clinic social worker Ellen McAngus, LCSWA, says several dozen patients benefit from the Hope Fund annually. The money is for emergency uses only, including payment of utility bills, rent, parking fees, gas and food.

“We try to ensure that our patients’ physical needs are met so we can focus on their health care,” says McAngus. “This donation is so helpful because it replenishes this fund.”

To donate to the Hope Fund, contact the ID Clinic at 984-974-7198 and ask to speak to clinic manager or social worker. Checks should be made out to UNC Hospitals and designated for the ID Clinic Hope Fund.

Mail checks to:
Attn: UNC ID Clinic Hope Fund donations
UNC ID Clinic
101 Manning Drive
First Floor Memorial Hospital
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7030

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Gail Henderson to Advise Federal Agencies on Human Genome Initiatives and to Present at HIV Conference in Thailand

Gail Henderson, PhD, is headed to Thailand where she will present at an HIV conference.

Gail Henderson, PhD, is headed to Thailand where she will present at an HIV conference.

The new year is proving fruitful for Gail Henderson, PhD. The professor of Social Medicine and Director of the Center for Genomics and Society at UNC has been confirmed for a four-year term as a member of the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, and asked to speak at the 19th Bangkok International Symposium on HIV Medicine.

“Serving on the Advisory Council is a distinct honor,” said Henderson.

In her new role, Henderson will work with other council members on advising the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) about genetics, genomic research, training, and programs related to the human genome initiative.

Since 1990, the National Human Genome Research Institute has supported research on ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genomics, and UNC has become a major center for this work. For Henderson, this began in 1999 with funding to study how researchers and study participants understood the possibilities of new, cutting-edge genetic technology—in gene therapy trials. Since then, UNC investigators from the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Law, and Arts and Sciences have pursued ELSI issues in genomics as investigator-initiated grants and larger consortia. And more than a decade ago, the Center for Genomics and Society at UNC was funded to support research and training on ELSI issues now and in the future.

Henderson has served as director and principal investigator of the interdisciplinary Center for Genomics and Society at UNC since 2007. In 2013, the Center was renewed for another five years, to conduct “GeneScreen” – a study of the harms and benefits of screening asymptomatic adults for rare, medically actionable mutations.

Research Focuses on Study Volunteer Behavior
In mid-January, Henderson will travel to Thailand to present during the 19th Bangkok International Symposium on HIV Medicine. Her talk is titled “Why Do People Join or Decline HIV Cure Research?” The talk is based on data from a recently awarded, four-year R01 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) that explores decision making for HIV remission trials taking place in Bangkok.

This award is part of a special NIAID Program Announcement for research on ethical and social issues in HIV research. In this work, colleagues at UNC, RTI, the U.S. Military HIV Research Program/Henry Jackson Foundation, and the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre are collaborating on a longitudinal study of HIV remission trial joiners and decliners.

“We are collecting empirical data on how people in actual, ongoing HIV remission trials come to these decisions and why,” Henderson said.

Anemia Protects Children from Malaria

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Malaria Parasite Evades Detection

Jonathan Parr, MD, MPH, stands on the banks of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Jonathan Parr, MD, MPH, stands on the banks of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has one of the highest rates of people living with malaria. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) account for more than 70 percent of diagnostic testing for malaria in Africa. Most rapid test diagnostics rely on the detection of histidine-rich protein 2 (HRP2), an antigen specific to Plasmodium falciparum malaria. However, one of every 15 children infected with Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites in the DRC is infected by a pfhrp2-deleted mutant, producing a false-negative result when an RDT is used, investigators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found. Their results were published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases and discussed during a recent World Health Organization meeting during the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual conference in Atlanta.

“This is the first nationwide study to demonstrate the presence and estimate the prevalence of malaria caused by pfhrp2-deleted P. falciparum in asymptomatic children,” said Jonathan Parr, M.D., M.P.H., the study’s lead author and a researcher within UNC’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab. “Because most rapid diagnostic tests in the DRC are HRP2-based, they will fail to detect these parasites. Their spread would represent a serious threat to malaria elimination efforts.”

Samples were collected from children under the age of 5 during the 2013-2014 Demographic and Health Survey in the DRC. The UNC team focused on 783 samples with opposing rapid test diagnostic test and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results. PCR testing showed positive results for malaria where rapid diagnostic testing did not.

“We identified 149 P. falciparum isolates with a deletion of the pfhrp2 gene, representing a country-wide prevalence of 6.4 percent,” Parr said. “This proved that pfhrp2-deleted P. falciparum is a common cause of rapid diagnostic test negative, but PCR positive malaria test results among asymptomatic children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Surveillance for these deletions is needed and alternatives to HRP2-specific rapid diagnostic tests may be necessary.”

The WHO and UNC coordinated a meeting Tuesday morning in Atlanta to address these parasites. The meeting brought together leading researchers, policy makers, commercial diagnostic developers, and representatives from diverse national malaria control programs to review what’s known and to formulate a response. Alternate rapid diagnostic tests will be deployed in settings where they are found to be common, and further research into their clinical impact and distribution throughout Africa will be undertaken.

The DRC project resulted from an NIH-funded study of malaria transmission led by Steven Meshnick, M.D., Ph.D., professor and associate chair of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Meshnick emphasized the need for a measured response.

“It is important to note that these mutated parasites have only been found in a small number of places in the world,” Meshnick said. “HRP2-based rapid tests continue to play a key role in malaria control and elimination efforts.”

The team is actively investigating these parasites through applied genomics studies recently funded by the Thrasher Research Fund and the ASTMH/Burroughs Wellcome Fund and ongoing NIH-funded epidemiological studies in Kinshasa Province, DRC.