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Upstate partners with area universities on project to fight the spread of HIV

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Upstate’s Immune Health Services Medical Director Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, MD, MS, has joined experts from Syracuse University and the University of Rochester in executing a project aimed at learning more about how to prevent HIV infection in at-risk men.

The project centers around a one-year study involving PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV,  and was recently awarded $74,211 from the National Institutes of Health. IRB approval is pending.

“The study is geared toward people in the community who are at high risk for HIV and are candidates for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis but are not currently taking it,” said Asiago-Reddy.

Asiago-Reddy says while there are many different types of individuals at risk for HIV who might benefit from PrEP, this study specifically focuses on young men who have sex with men, and young transgender women who have sex with men, ages 15 to 25. The incidence of HIV is highest in these groups.

Once approved, the study will be rolled out in two phases. Investigators seek to enroll 30 participants for the first phase and 75 for the second phase.

The first phase will focus on in-depth interviews on participants knowledge about PrEP, feelings about their risk for HIV, pros and cons of current and future PrEP options.

“We are trying to break down the essential elements of PrEP, such as mode of delivery, cost, effectiveness and accessibility. What does the ideal HIV prevention program look like to participants?” Asiago-Reddy says.

Data from phase-one interviews will be used in the creation of a Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE), phase two of the study, showing participants two distinct options for PrEP. Results from phase two will help researchers tailor PrEP options to attract more individuals from high-risk groups.

“If we are not offering PrEP and HIV prevention options that are attractive and feasible for these individuals, we will not be making adequate progress in the fight against HIV,” said Asiago-Reddy.

Enrollment in this study will begin once IRB approval has been granted. Once approved, study information will be available in multiple locations throughout Syracuse, including the Onondaga County STD clinic at the Civic Center, ACR Health, Southwest Community Center and the Syracuse University and Upstate Medical University campuses.

Asiago-Reddy joins Andrew London, PhD, professor of sociology at Syracuse University; John McPeak, PhD, professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University; and Theresa Senn, PhD, assistant professor of clinical nursing at University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research, in this team effort.

The project is sponsored by the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research,