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Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center Secure $16 Million NIH Grant to Study HIV/AIDS in Women

July 30, 2013 – (BRONX, NY)Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center today announced they received a $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the impact of HIV and AIDS on women. The funds allow Montefiore and Einstein to continue as a scientific and clinical site for the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), a multi-center, prospective, observational study of women who are either HIV-positive or at risk for HIV infection. The study is now entering its 21st year.

The principal objectives of the grant support research into strategies to defeat HIV. Those include identifying naturally occurring immune factors in the female genital tract that protect women against HIV infection, understanding how the virus is transferred from person to person on the cellular level, and identifying factors that predict which women will respond well to treatment. The grant will also allow researchers to investigate whether epigenetic changes that the HIV virus genome (known as the provirus) undergoes might present potential targets for curing the disease.

“Anti-retroviral medications have transformed HIV infection from a deadly disease to a chronic condition for the entire world,” said Kathy Anastos, M.D., the principal investigator on the grant at Einstein and Montefiore. “Information on the long-term effects of infection and treatment and predictors of a favorable response to treatment are critical for effective care.” 

Dr. Anastos has served as one of the study’s six principal investigators since WIHS was established in 1993. Her team has recruited over 800 participants (of the 3,800 in the study nationally) and is currently seeing some of them for their 38th six-month visit. Over the past two decades, Dr. Anastos has built a biorepository with over 400,000 samples from participants, available for research purposes.

Her research accomplishments include partnering with researchers at Einstein and Montefiore as well as with other institutions around the country to determine the clinical care HIV-positive women should receive for HPV, implementing an electronic records system to collect and analyze data on patients receiving antiretroviral therapy in Central Africa, and developing clinical services and building research capacity in Rwanda.

Dr. Anastos is attending physician, medicine, Montefiore and professor of medicine, of epidemiology & population health and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein. She is also co-director of Einstein’s Global Health Center and director of the clinical and translational core of Einstein’s Center for AIDS Research. (The NIH grant number is U01AI035004.)