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BC prof to head first Canadian HIV/AIDS antiretroviral research network

Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Robert Hogg has been tapped to head Canada’s first nationwide HIV/AIDS antiretroviral research network.

The Canadian Observational Cohort will study the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS treatment.

The internationally known researcher believes the work will significantly improve treatments for the 58,000 people living with HIV in Canada.

Hogg is currently the director of the Drug Treatment Program at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver.

He says that despite major funding commitments from government agencies, Canada has a limited understanding of HIV/AIDS treatment.

Currently, he says, meeting the healthcare needs of HIV-positive people in Canada will cost up to $42 billion over their lifetimes.

 “Until now, there has been no national network of researchers to provide a big picture of how antiretroviral drugs affect different populations and what could be the best therapy regimen for them,” he says.

The work is being funded with a $2.5 million grant over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The team brings together 31 HIV/AIDS clinicians and researchers in BC, Ontario and Quebec.

They will pool the results of their studies of six groups of 18,000 HIV-positive Canadians receiving antiretroviral treatment.

Their goal is to establish an internationally recognized research program in HIV treatment that will better inform doctors and persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Hogg says the aim is to provide a pool of data so that governments and health agencies can fill current gaps in knowledge, treatment outcomes and regional trends.

“The collaboration will also better inform best-practice guidelines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS within various populations, including the gay community, injection drug users and First Nations people.

Central to the goals is to investigate why 40 percent of people eligible for antiretroviral therapy are not accessing that care.

It will also rear a new breed of health practitioners with a deeper understanding of how compounding problems such as mental illness and addiction undermine the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs, Hogg says.

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS will oversee and coordinate many aspects of the collaboration.

It is seeking funding from other national and American agencies to finance additional study sites outside of BC, Ontario and Quebec.