UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention studies marks 20 years

November 2, 2006
Jeff Sheehy

Established in 1986 in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) is marking its 20th anniversary and its evolution as a national and global leader in designing and testing HIV prevention interventions.

“When properly implemented, these interventions can stop the spread of HIV--the virus that causes AIDS--and many that are now established as effective, proven interventions were developed and tested in toto or in part by CAPS researchers over the last 20 years,” said Steve Morin, PhD, CAPS director and UCSF professor of medicine.

The interventions include condom promotion, needle exchanges, safe sex social marketing campaigns, voluntary counseling and testing, community building, and prevention counseling for HIV positives.

In addition to prevention research, CAPS is a global leader in training prevention scientists. Its postdoctoral program for Traineeship in AIDS Prevention Studies (TAPS) has graduated 63 scientists, 40 percent of whom are from underrepresented communities, and its Collaborative HIV Prevention in Minority Communities Program has mentored 31 scientists. The CAPS International TAPS program (I-TAPS) has trained 130 visiting scientists from 37 countries.

“TAPS scholars have produced more than 850 scientific papers, and some have taken up positions in government, including the CDC and NIH. I-TAPS scholars have not only published 168 papers and completed 94 pilot projects, but they also have become leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS in their countries,” said Morin.

CAPS epidemiologists developed the Urban Men’s Health Study, the first large scale household survey of gay and bisexual men. And, a multidisciplinary team led by CAPS researchers completed a five-year study of the risk of oral acquisition of HIV from performing oral sex and found that oral sexual practices are very low risk.

“CAPS has also conducted groundbreaking research on pill-taking by HIV patients, policy research focused on the effectiveness of federal HIV/AIDS healthcare programs, and ethical research covering issues from clinical trial conduct to HIV testing and counseling,” said Morin.

Among research initiatives in the pipeline is a multidisciplinary effort to understand superinfection, which is infection that occurs with a second strain of HIV following initial infection. Other projects will focus on incarcerated persons and tailoring existing proven interventions to settings in the developing world where the epidemic has spiraled or is threatening to spiral out of control.

UCSF CAPS was founded through a five-year National Institutes of Health grant in 1986 under the leadership of Stephen Hulley, MD, MPH, emeritus chair of the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Thomas J. Coates, PhD, now director of the UCLA Program in Global Health. UCSF CAPS is the first and largest NIH funded HIV/AIDS prevention center, and its grant has been renewed every five years with the latest occurring this year.

CAPS has 43 principal investigators and supports over 100 research and training grants. In response to the changing epidemic, over 40 percent of CAPS research is now international, according to Morin.

The UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies is a program of the AIDS Research Institute (ARI) at UCSF. UCSF ARI coordinates all of the HIV/AIDS research, treatment, and prevention activities at UCSF. Combining the best basic science, bench-to-bedside research, behavioral studies, direct care services, and policy development, the ARI at UCSF is one of the premier HIV/AIDS medical, education, and research institutions in the world.

UCSF is a leading university that is advancing health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.

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