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Clinical Trials Day honors all that has been accomplished through clinical trials, as well as the people behind them. The UNC Global Clinical Trials Unit at the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases (IGHID) facilitates high-quality research, with investigators and research coordinators working to address the challenging questions that need answers, that impact the lives of people everywhere. 

UNC Research recently interviewed IGHID researchers Vivian Go, PhD, and Bill Miller, MD, PhD, who are running multiple clinical trials in Vietnam to prevent HIV spread and support people living with the disease. Dr. Go is the country director of UNC Project Vietnam.

Bill Miller and Vivian Go (photo by Alyssa LaFaro)

What is your research focus?

We do research to prevent people from getting HIV, but also help them get the care they need. We often work with people who use drugs or alcohol, helping them limit their risk of HIV or manage their infection if they already have the disease.

Tell us about the clinical trials you’re running.

We have five ongoing clinical trials. All of them are happening in Vietnam.

One that’s about to end focuses on people who inject drugs and are just starting treatment for HIV. We used short counseling sessions to help them receive the care they need and to take the medicines effectively.

Two trials testing investigational drugs are ongoing. These include evaluating a new drug for preventing tuberculosis (TB) and testing a new vaccine for hepatitis B, both in people living with HIV.

And then two new trials are just starting. One tests an intervention that helps people with HIV who drink too much alcohol. We showed previously that this intervention helps these people stay in HIV care and take their medication effectively. Our trial is taking this intervention and scaling it up to 32 clinics in Vietnam. We’re testing whether delivering that intervention using experiential learning for clinic staff helps them deliver it to their patients.

The other trial is using a similar intervention for alcohol reduction among men who have sex with men. The goal is to help them take a medicine called PrEP to reduce their HIV risk.

Have you made any discoveries thus far?

It’s too early in the process for our current trials, but a 2021 study found that long-acting injectable medication to prevent HIV infection was both safe and effective among men who have sex with men and transgender women.

What are your hopes for the future of these trials?

The biggest thing is getting the work we do into the hands of the people who can use it effectively. In our global research, that usually means collaborating with the Ministry of Health to ensure our efforts are sustained and implemented in meaningful ways in the places we are working.

We are thinking about future trials now. One of them will likely focus on helping people who are vulnerable to diseases manage the stigma that they face in their daily lives and within the health care system.

Read more.