Hawaii Grant Helps AIDS Research Program Recover After Losing Federal Funding
The Hawaii AIDS Clinical Research Program has raised more than $20 million to support research and care for HIV-positive people since 2007 when the state Legislature allocated $1.2 million to the program after it lost a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases because some clinical trial units were closed, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports.
Cecilia Shikuma, director of the program and a professor of medicine at the University of Hawaii, said the program lost access to data management and other services when it lost federal funding and has "had to reinvent for our site how to do all those things." Shikuma said that although it has been "hard work" to adjust to the funding changes, program officials are "very pleased" with the outcome. She added that the program is "still financially shaky but it's allowing us to survive."
According to the Star-Bulletin, the program is designed to create and maintain an HIV research program that is nationally competitive and to provide access to and improve health care for people living with HIV/AIDS. There are more than 2,700 HIV-positive people living in Hawaii, and the clinic provides services for about 439 patients on Oahu and the neighboring islands. According to Shikuma, a "needs-assessment" study conducted by the program to examine how HIV care can be maintained in areas that lack HIV specialists found that Hawaii "faces particular problems in maintaining an adequate HIV medical care delivery system" because of the "relatively small" and "geographically segment[ed]" population of people living with the virus, the aging of physicians in the community who provide HIV care and the "lack of interest in HIV specialization among young physicians." The program recommended a system that allows people living with HIV, particularly in rural areas, to recover from the departure of a physician and to offer multiple patient care options.
According to the Star-Bulletin, the program is one of eight university sites funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to examine the effects of HIV on cardiovascular risk and study ways to decrease the risk. The program also conducts HIV training and research in Southeast Asia in partnership with the South East Asia Research Collaboration with Hawaii and trains Vietnamese military physicians to address HIV/AIDS cases through the Vietnam President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program. Shikuma said the program plans to apply for a new federal grant from NIH in 2009 (Altonn, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 12/24/08).