Vanderbilt researchers are partnering with the Chinese government and a large volunteer organization to test combination methods for reducing the spread of HIV—the AIDS virus—among gay men in China.
Thirty years into the global HIV pandemic, it is apparent that no single strategy will stop the spread of the virus. However, a growing number of interventions are yielding promising results, including knowledge of HIV status, use of condoms, needle exchanges for illegal drug users, and other behavioral risk reductions. Combining these interventions into packages tailored to specific populations might have a significant impact on prevention.
The study will develop and pilot-test a package of Test and Link-to-Care (TLC)-based interventions in Beijing. “If found to be successful, TLC will provide us with additional means to prevent HIV by reducing an individual’s level of infectiousness to others,” says Dr. Sten Vermund, director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) and professor of pediatrics, preventive medicine, medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology. “We expect this method will reduce transmission and save lives.”
Vermund is principal investigator of the study, which is supported by a four-year, $2 million Methods for Prevention Packages Program grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Han-Zhu Qian, assistant professor of medicine in the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center and a VIGH faculty member, will be the program director.
Qian will work with the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention in China, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Chaoyang Chinese AIDS Volunteer Group, which provides outreach, education and testing services to 50,000 HIV-positive gay men.
The study will use a series of short text messages and social networking to reach out to gay men, the largest population of HIV-positive individuals in China, to encourage them to get tested. Those who test positive for HIV will be linked to clinics or programs for care and to receive antiretroviral treatment, which potentially can reduce their risk of infecting others.
The University of Connecticut and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine also will participate in the study, which if successful will lead to a randomized clinical trial involving up to a dozen Chinese cities.