UAB to team with MCHD in project to help end HIV epidemic

September 30, 2022

UAB to team with MCHD in project to help end HIV epidemic

MOBILE, Ala. — The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Division of Infectious Diseases will work with the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) and Family Health – its primary care division – to adapt tools that promote HIV testing, linkage to care, and rapid antiretroviral therapy to push five counties in Alabama closer to meeting targets to end the HIV epidemic.

Two UAB faculty members – Associate Professors Aadia Rana, M.D., and Lynn Matthews, M.D. – have received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to help end HIV in Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Monroe, and Washington counties. They were joined by fellow UAB staff Larry Hearld, Ph.D.; Bernadette Johnson; Emily Levitan, Sc.D.; and Mariel Parman; who came to Mobile this week to discuss the project with Mobile County Health Officer Kevin Michaels, M.D., and his team.

“Our partnership with UAB Center for AIDS Research and new funding from the NIH will further promote MCHD efforts to reduce HIV infections in Mobile County by increasing testing and access to lifesaving treatment,” said Rendi Murphree, Ph.D., director of MCHD’s Bureau of Disease Surveillance and Control.

UAB will be working closely with MCHD’s STD Surveillance & Control team and Family Health’s Ryan White program to implement a rapid start HIV antiretroviral therapy program and determine if it shortens the time to viral suppression. This will be latest collaboration for the Ryan White program, which provides special care services through Infections Disease physicians from the University of South Alabama.

The results of this research will lay the groundwork for a larger implementation trial. The trial will include a rigorous evaluation of implementation strategies to integrate three evidence-based interventions to promote testing, linkage, and viral suppression into clinical and public health systems to meet the Ending the HIV Epidemic targets.

“The Mobile County Health Department model of care with an urban-centered public health clinic network providing satellite care to rural areas is mirrored throughout Alabama’s seven other public health districts, six of which are directly administered by ADPH,” Rana said. “We hope the proposed intervention, if successful, could be adapted throughout Alabama’s, and other similar rural state, public health networks.”

According to Rana, while some of the highest-burdened counties in Alabama have seen some decreases in HIV diagnosis rates over the past five years, Mobile County experienced a 32 percent increase in the HIV case rate in 2019 and consistently experiences the lowest rates of viral suppression statewide.

“As part of the federal plan to End the HIV Epidemic, Centers for AIDS Research are tasked with partnering with local organizations and public health agencies to develop, evaluate and implement interventions to improve HIV prevention, testing, linkage, and adherence to care and treatment,” Matthews said. “We are thrilled to partner with the Mobile County Health Department, Alabama Department of Public Health, and UAB CFAR collaborators in data science, epidemiology, and implementation science to conduct this work.”