October 31, 2019

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will receive $19.4 million over the next seven years to continue their research on chronic illnesses that often accompany HIV infection, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, diabetes and cancers. Almost half of people with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50 and are more likely to suffer from chronic HIV-related illnesses than infectious complications. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) selected UNC-Chapel Hill as one of the 13 Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study / Women’s Interagency HIV Study Combined Cohort Study (MACS/WIHS-CCS) sites after a competitive application process.

The initiative, which is administered by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and supported by 13 other NIH institutes, builds on previous scientific and clinical research from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) and the Multicenter AIDS Cohorts Study (MACS), the largest and longest-running research cohorts of women and men, respectively, with HIV or at risk for HIV infection in the U.S. Now, the NIH will merge the two studies.

Since 1984, more than 12,000 people have participated in the WIHS and the MACS. These participants’ contributions have provided investigators with rich data to pursue a multitude of research questions, yielding more than 2,300 publications and 70 linked NIH grants. The newly consolidated study will include current participants from the WIHS and MACS cohorts, as well as newly recruited participants from groups that were underrepresented in previous studies, including African-American and Hispanic populations and residents of southern states.  The UNC site will enroll between 200 and 250 participants.

Dr. Adaora Admiora

Dr. Adaora Admiora

Adaora Adimora, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, is the principal investigator of the UNC site.

“The southern U.S. is greatly impacted by the HIV epidemic, so it is essential for studies to include people from this region,” said Adimora, a member of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. “We look forward to working with the many talented investigators at UNC and in the MACS/WIHS to better understand and remedy the comorbidities and diseases of aging that affect so many people with HIV in this phase of the epidemic.”

In addition to strong institutional commitment, the UNC MACS/WIHS-CCS will also benefit from the support of state and local health departments, UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC Health Care System.

Dr. Myron Cohen

Dr. Myron Cohen

“UNC is uniquely poised to lead this effort,” said Myron Cohen, MD, associate vice chancellor for global health and medical affairs at UNC, director of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, and Yeargan-Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Microbiology and Immunology. “The University provides care to thousands of people with HIV across the state and has a long-standing reputation as a national and international leader in HIV research.”

The UNC MACS/WIHS-CCS site will support an ambitious research agenda that encompasses cardiovascular, pulmonar, and cancer comorbidities; neurocognitive and psychosocial function; aging; HIV pathogenesis; oral health and health disparities; as well as development and maintenance of diverse research platforms to facilitate research and career development for early career investigators.

“Since joining the WIHS in 2013, we have gained experience and knowledge that have positioned us to lead high-impact research in key areas, such as HIV pathogenesis, epidemiology methods and health disparities research,” Adimora said.

The UNC team also includes a talented group of advisers who will help guide the scientific agenda of the UNC MACS/WIHS-CCS site: Stephen Cole, PhD, professor of epidemiology, and Kari North, PhD, professor of epidemiology, both at the Gillings School; Joseph Eron, MD, professor of medicine, Alan Hinderliter, MD, professor of medicine, Weili Lin, PhD, the Dixie Lee Boney Soo Distinguished Professor of Neurological Medicine, David Margolis, MD, Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Microbiology and Immunology, and Ronald Swanstrom, PhD, the Charles P. Postelle, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry, all at the UNC School of Medicine; and Angela Kashuba, PharmD, the John and Deborah McNeill, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy and Dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

M. Bradley Drummond, MD, associate professor of medicine, will evaluate the influence of HIV on lung function. Nancie Archin, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, will evaluate the HIV reservoir among women and men. Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque, PhD, DDS, professor of dentistry and microbiology and immunology, will investigate the etiology and pathogenesis of HIV-associated oral disease.

Adimora and Cole, along with Andrew Edmonds, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, and Daniel Westreich, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology – both at UNC Gillings – will examine health disparities among people with or at risk for HIV infection.

The UNC MACS/WIHS-CCS welcomes collaborations with investigators. For information on proposing new studies and analyses, data and the specimen repository, please contact uncmwccs@med.unc.edu

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