Top 10 Accomplishments of USAID’S Office of HIV/AIDS Research in 2017

Content From: Benny KottiriPublished: December 04, 20175 min read


Cross-posted from USAID Newsroom  

male scientist handling chemicals
USAID's HIV/AIDS research programs provide technical assistance to labs like this one in Chennai, India, to strengthen local capacity to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Photo credit: Anirban Dutta/IAVI

A key mandate of USAID's Office of HIV/AIDS (OHA) Research Division is to support the development, demonstration and deployment of novel and innovative products, tools and approaches for HIV prevention, care and treatment. USAID's HIV/AIDS research programs are designed and monitored based on the priorities set forth by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and activities implemented in partnership with our implementing partners, in-country institutions, host governments, university collaborators, industry partners and, perhaps most importantly, local communities.

As we commemorate World AIDS Day 2017, I wish to highlight accomplishments from across our three portfolios (Microbicides, HIV Vaccine and Implementation Science) to build upon this year's U.S. Government theme of "Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability and Partnerships."

So without further ado, here is our Top 10:

1. Simpler, Safer and More Affordable HIV Treatment through Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Optimization
On September 21st, a breakthrough ceiling price agreement for "TLD" – the first dolutegravir-containing, single-pill HIV treatment available for use in low- and middle-income countries – was announced. USAID is proud to contribute to the efforts of a wide range of stakeholders working to make TLD and other optimized ART available, including through its support of the OPTIMIZE consortium. These efforts are poised to transform HIV treatment through a range of benefits – from more rapid rates of viral suppression, to lower rates of resistance, increased tolerability for patients and lower costs for programs.

2. First Long-acting Female-controlled HIV Prevention Product
Through USAID support, the International Partnership for MicrobicidesExit Disclaimer (IPM) filed for regulatory approval of the 30-day dapivirine vaginal ringExit Disclaimer as the first microbicide, a biomedical prevention tool for women.

3. Oral PrEP Roll-out
Through the Microbicide Product Introduction InitiativeExit Disclaimer, USAID supports the accelerated introduction of and access to oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) through technical assistance and innovative toolsExit Disclaimer for HIV prevention. In 2017, these tools supported analyses of health system needs, simulation modeling, demand generation and end-user research. The Plan 4 PrEP: Toolkit for Oral PrEP ImplementationExit Disclaimer supported national planning for oral PrEP rollout. Kenya recently launched their oral PrEP program and utilized these tools to support country-level planningExit Disclaimer [PDF, 7.8MB].

4. Microbicides Product Pipeline
Innovative HIV prevention products for women were advanced through USAID-supported research with particular focus on product acceptability and feasibility in resource-limited settings where we work. These new products include a 6–12 month biodegradable implant, dermal patches that deliver long-lasting drugs through the skin and vaginal rings for both HIV and pregnancy prevention.

5. People Living with HIV Stigma Index
USAID-supported Project SOAR, working alongside UNAIDS, GNP+, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, and community stakeholders, coordinated a revision and update for the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) Stigma IndexExit Disclaimer [PDF, 522KB], a tool developed in consultation with PLHIV for PLHIV to document experiences with perceived and enacted stigma and discrimination and how these experiences affect access to HIV services, including HIV testing and life-saving HIV treatment. The revised Stigma Index will be used to inform HIV programs and policies.

6. Innovative Approaches for Reaching "90-90-90"
Project SOAR conducts implementation science studies on a variety of important aspects of HIV programming, such as HIV self-testing, enhanced linkage to care, differentiated service delivery models and the impact of community-based adherence groups. These studies support PEPFAR country programs toward achieving the "UNAIDS 90-90-90 targetsExit Disclaimer ."

7. HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials
Through a cooperative agreement with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) called ADVANCE [PDF, 569KB] (Accelerate the Development of Vaccines and New Technologies to Combat the AIDS Epidemic), two novel HIV vaccine candidates (the conserved mosaic collaboration with Oxford and the HPX 2003Exit Disclaimer /2004Exit Disclaimer collaboration with Janssen) were tested in clinical trials across three East African clinical research centers in conjunction with academic and industry partners.

8. Vaccine Immunology Science and Technology for Africa (VISTA) Program
With USAID support, IAVI developed the VISTA programExit Disclaimer to strengthen and expand an international consortium of African scientists and investigators to address gaps in HIV vaccine design. Among other tools, the program applies computational and mathematical modeling to study the complex interactions between the virus, host and environment, and their implications for HIV vaccine design.

9. IAVI's Data Warehouse Project
The ADVANCE program established a publicly-accessible biobanking and bioinformatics platform to enable the sharing of specimen samples and clinical data from both completed and ongoing vaccine clinical trials and epidemiology studies. This platform enables extensive data sharing by researchers and institutions and facilitates data-driven scientific collaborations across clinical research centers in Africa, India and globally.

10. Research Capacity Strengthening
More than 20 HIV/AIDS research programs supported by OHA's Research Division helped strengthen both individual and institutional capacity for implementation science and HIV biomedical research across Africa. Specific activities included research partnerships with local researchers and institutions, master's and doctoral training, proposal writing workshops, research literacy training for advocacy groups, young investigator-initiated research awards and laboratory training.

I wish to gratefully acknowledge the essential contributions of the OHA Research team, our research partners, collaborators, fellow U.S. Government agencies, other donors, host governments, research advocates and local communities in these accomplishments. Our work truly reflects this year's World AIDS Day theme of "Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability and Partnerships." These key stakeholders and partners make our work possible; together, we can strive for epidemic control and a future without HIV/AIDS.