The Campbell Foundation is fighting AIDS in its own backyard: South Florida, which is the epicenter for new HIV cases in the country. Specifically, the Fort Lauderdale–based nonprofit is awarding $25,000 fast-track grants to scientists at the University of Miami, Florida International University and Broward Health.
“All three projects are timely, extremely relevant and can directly affect, not only people living with HIV (and those at high risk for becoming infected) but also those who will be caring for them and conducting crucial HIV research into the future,” said Campbell Foundation executive director Ken Rapkin, in a press release.
“While many of our research funding goes outside of Florida, there are labs right here conducting research projects that may have a deep, lasting impact on reducing HIV, not only in South Florida, the epicenter for new HIV infections, but around the world,” added foundation trustee Bill Venuti. The statement describes the three grant areas as:
Preventing Future Cases of HIV
HIV prevention is the goal for researchers at Broward Health Comprehensive Care Center in Fort Lauderdale, which provides primary care services to those infected and affected by HIV. The Campbell grant will be used to get high-risk HIV negative women on Truvada as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily HIV prevention pill.
Grant recipient Farouk Meklat, PharmD, points out that in order to eradicate the virus, people must be prevented from getting infected in the first place. “We want to prevent those who are most vulnerable and at risk from becoming HIV positive,” Meklat said.
Mentoring Future Researchers
At the Miami Center for AIDS Research at the University of Miami, infectious disease physician Maria L. Alcaide, MD, is spearheading a mentoring program for young investigators into the field of HIV research. The Campbell grant will help create a workshop designed to provide tools for mentors and mentees from academic institutions in South Florida.
“South Florida is unique, and we have a lot of challenges. Creating a pool of young investigators who focus on research in our region is crucial to ending the HIV epidemic in our area,” said Alcaide.
Enhancing HIV-Medication Adherence
Remembering to take HIV meds daily can be difficult—especially for those who are older or experiencing neurocognitive impairment—but adherence is important because missing doses can result in resistant strains of the virus and poorer health. Grant recipient Rahul Jayant, a researcher at the Center of Personalized Nanomedicine at Florida International University, is looking to develop a long-lasting antiretroviral medication in which a single-dose formulation can release antiretroviral drugs for up to one month.
“Many HIV patients tend to lose memory due to neurocognitive impairments during HIV infection. This is especially true for older HIV patients or those who abused drugs. The hope is that a longer-lasting medication will help with adherence.”