APA and the Friends of NIDA host congressional briefing on HIV/AIDS and substance abuse

APA member Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot presented her research on the expansion of HIV testing among vulnerable populations, including text messaging interventions with teens

On July 18, the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in conjunction with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus hosted a congressional briefing titled “Treatment as Prevention: HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse,” organized by the APA Science Government Relations Office. The briefing, seventeenth in the Charles R. Schuster Congressional Briefing Series, was co-sponsored by 20 member organizations of the Friends of NIDA coalition and drew an audience of over 70 including 19 congressional staff. The briefing featured presentations by NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow and three other scientists whose research is funded by the institute. 

Dr. Nora Volkow presented on the shift in direction of HIV/AIDS research (PDF, 1.5MB) since the 2011 breakthrough discovery that early antiretroviral therapy prevented transmission, likely by suppressing HIV viral load. She presented statistics on the prevalence and the outcomes of treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), including that injection drug users are much less likely to receive the treatment than other HIV positive patients. The Institute currently supports research on new therapeutics for injection drug users, including long lasting medications to improve compliance, medications not based on opioid substitution, and vaccines and other immunotherapies, as well as on implementation of Seek, Test, Treat and Retain (STTR) mode of care for high risk, hard to reach drug abusing groups who have not been recently tested for HIV. 

APA member Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot, co-director of the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies and director of the Technology and Information Exchange Core at the UCSF Department of Medicine, presented her research on the expansion of HIV testing among vulnerable populations (PDF, 832KB), including text messaging interventions with teens.  Dr. Lightfoot, a counseling psychologist whose research has also included HIV prevention work in the juvenile justice system and runaway and homeless youths in Los Angeles, has served on APA’s Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA) and will receive the APA 2012 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest (Early Career) at APA’s Annual Convention in August.

Next, Dr. Frederick Altice, professor of medicine and of epidemiology microbial diseases at Yale University and director of the HIV in Prisons Program, presented his research on STTR in the criminal justice system (PDF, 926KB) and highlighted problems including insufficient access to antroretroviral therapy after incarceration. Last, Dr. Carlos Del Rio, professor and chair of the Rollins School of Public Health Hubert Department of Global Health and professor of medicine at the Emory School of Medicine’s Division of Infection Diseases, presented on the cascade of care in HIV treatment (PDF, 856KB), emphasizing that the three biggest problems with HIV treatment and prevention in the U.S. are delays in testing, delays in care and early dropout. Dr. Del Rio discussed the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goals for 2015 and new clinical guidelines.

For more information on drug abuse and HIV, see NIDA’s research report series (PDF, 2.4MB) and drug facts Web page.