This month, Pregnancy & HIV/AIDS: Seeking Equitable Study (PHASES) team members travel to Durban, South Africa, for a series of consultations with local experts, and to facilitate and attend multiple events related to the AIDS 2016 conference.
The PHASES project, on which KIE director Maggie Little is a co-principal investigator, is a joint effort by researchers at four major US universities to find ethical solutions to advance research on HIV prevention, treatment, and management, as it intersects with women’s reproduction. This multi-year, multi-site project is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIAID).
Grant team members Carleigh Krubiner, Kristen Sullivan, and Sappho Gilbert will undertake a number of efforts related to the project while in Durban.
Among these are a presentation by Gilbert on two years of consultations with field experts conducted by the PHASES team, at the AIDS 2016 conference, a premier international gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic.
The 62 experts formally consulted included researchers from University of North Carolina, Johns Hopkins University, FHI, and investigators and clinicians in the US and South Africa. Findings to date have helped the PHASES team identify several research priorities: treatment, prevention, diagnostics, vaccines, coinfection/co-morbidity, and a series of cross-cutting leads of interest to many of the intersecting research parties present. Further, the team has identified several barriers to research on HIV & pregnancy, ranging from ethical considerations of the burden of participation on pregnant women, to logistical conflicts which increase exclusion and disenrollment of pregnant women from care.
Team members have also organized a “discussion over dinner” on HIV, Pregnancy, and Research Ethics. This intimate, invite-only gathering of experts in the field welcomes them to network and exchange ideas on how to usher in a new era of progress in ethical HIV pregnancy research. Krubiner will moderate the evening’s conversation.
Finally, Sullivan, Krubiner, and Gilbert will conduct a series of “engagement sessions” with local and international clinicians, researchers, and other experts on the challenges they face and the opportunities they see from their on-the-ground perspective.
“We are meeting with HIV investigators, clinicians and related professionals at AIDS 2016 to gain a better understanding of two things,” say core team members. “What are the evidence gaps, if any exist, in managing or preventing HIV in women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant? And what are the current challenges of including pregnant women or women who may become pregnant in HIV research trials?”
Moving forward, PHASES investigators will continue their work to identify and fill these critical research gaps. Clearer guidance is needed to navigate the complex legal, regulatory, and ethical landscape, but the benefit is clear: evidence-based advancement of women’s health at the intersection of pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.