Environmental exposures in sub-Saharan Africa have received little attention despite data suggesting high levels of air pollutants and metals. Environmental pollutants are harmful to infants’ developing brains and may lead to poor neurocognitive outcomes into adolescence and adulthood. Dr. Sarah Benki-Nugent (Department of Global Health) is leading the newly launched Kenya Healthy Brain Project, a multi-disciplinary maternal-child environmental health research collaborative housed in the University of Nairobi that aims to build local research capacity, with the idea of moving research into policy practice to reduce exposures that threaten cognitive potential in children.
Congratulations to Dr. Irene Njuguna (PhD Candidate in UW Epidemiology; Infectious Disease Researcher, Kenyatta National Hospital) who is the recipient of the 2019 UW/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Mentored International Investigator Award! Dr. Njuguna’s new two-year project entitled, “Causes and risk factors for death in HIV positive adolescents and youth in Kenya,” aims to fill critical gaps in understanding cause-specific and underlying contributing factors to adolescent and young adult (AYA) deaths. Despite improvements in recent years to link HIV positive AYA to treatment and management to keep viral loads low, they remain at high risk of dying for reasons not well documented at many low-resource health facilities.
In setting with high HIV prevalence, early antenatal care (ANC) visits are vital to optimize HIV testing and prevention services to reduce maternal and pediatric mortality and morbidity. Late ANC attendance limits timely identification and delivery of HIV prevention services including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among pregnant women at high risk for HIV infection. To fill this gap, researchers are looking for ways to encourage pregnant women to seek ANC early and improve maternal and child health outcomes. In Kenya, community pharmacies, also known as drug shops or chemists, are playing an increasingly important role as sources of over-the-counter sexual and reproductive health products, including urine pregnancy tests and HIV self-testing kits. These pharmacies offer important and under-utilized access points to ANC and HIV prevention care for women and have the potential to inform a new innovative PrEP delivery model.
Dr. Melissa Mugambi (Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health, Implementation Science Program) received a National Institutes for Health (NIH) Diversity Supplement Award to lead a study on the feasibility of engaging community pharmacy providers in the distribution of pregnancy tests and subsequent referral of pregnant women to ANC, in order to promote early access to ANC and PrEP.
Last week, Global WACh researchers participated in the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) held in Seattle from March 5-7, 2019. The annual conference brings together top basic, translational, and clinical researchers from around the world to share the latest studies, important developments, and best research methods in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS and related infectious diseases. Our researchers shared their latest findings on testing for HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), tuberculosis (TB), and on PrEP delivery practices. Continue reading for highlights and a list of accepted posters by Global WACh researchers.
Global WACh’s ATTACH team shared scientific findings at the annual Inter-CFAR Sub-Saharan Africa Symposium from January 31st to February 2nd, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. The annual symposium incorporates career development activities targeted to the needs of early career investigators, hold keynote talks addressing scientific topics of interest for African HIV research, and identify novel future research directions. The team’s research posters generated a lot of interest in how adolescents transition from pediatric to adult HIV care, and opportunities to discuss overcoming challenges.
Dr. Grace John-Stewart, MD, PhD
Dr. Cheryl Day, PhD
Principal Investigators, Drs. Grace John-Stewart (Global WACh Director; Professor, Global Health, Epidemiology, Medicine, and Pediatrics) and Cheryl Day (Assistant Professor, Emory University School of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology) received a NIH/NIAID R01 award that supports research to discover changes in immune mechanisms and markers of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the pathogenic bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB), in children exposed to or infected with HIV. As the number of TB cases rise in parallel to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in developing countries, there is an urgent need to understand the complex biological interaction between Mtb and HIV, particularly children with immune systems weakened by HIV. The World Health Organization estimates that there are over one million new cases of TB and 239,000 TB-related deaths every year.
Drs. Anjuli Wagner, PhD (left) and Irene Njuguna, PhDc (right)
Congratulations Drs. Anjuli Wagner (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Global Health) and Irene Njuguna (PhDc Epidemiology; Infectious disease researcher, Kenyatta National Hospital)! They received a CFAR International Pilot Award for their project entitled, “WhatsApp focus group and respondent-driven sampling: novel approaches to engage diverse adolescents,” which aims to test new technology-based approaches to engage adolescents who do not typically seek HIV preventative and treatment services. This one year project will take place in Nairobi, Kenya in collaboration with Kenyatta National Hospital.
Over Fall quarter, Global WACh researchers shared novel research findings from our three scientific priority areas (HIV Through the Lifecycle, Family Planning and Decision Support, and Gut Health and Child Survival) at several international conferences: The HIV Prevention for HIV Conference (HIVR4P), Union World Conference on Lung Health, and American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH). Continue reading for conference highlights and photos!
This week, the “Transitioning from Pediatric to Adult HIV Care in Kenya (ATTACH)” study team held a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss strategies to improve transition of adolescents into adult HIV care. Dr. Kristin Beima-Sofie, Global WACh co-investigator for ATTACH, traveled to Kenya with UW student researchers, Dr. Irene Njuguna (Infectious Disease Researcher from Kenyatta National Hospital in Kenya; current Epidemiology PhD student) and Danae Black (Epidemiology PhD Student). Participants also included members from Kenya National AIDS and STD Control Programme (NASCOP), a unit established in 1987 to lead the Kenya Ministry of Health’s interventions in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The multi-day workshop provided a forum for thoughtful, energizing conversations on ways to collaborate on this important issue.
The International Aids Society hosted the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam from July 23-27, 2018. This year, the conference objectives focused on advancing knowledge of HIV through research findings, promoting evidence-based HIV responses tailored to key populations, activating and galvanizing political commitment and accountability, addressing gaps in and highlighting the critical role of HIV prevention, as well as spotlighting the epidemic and HIV response in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Global WACh faculty, staff, student research assistants, and international collaborators had a strong presence at the conference to share and discuss a number of selected abstracts. In total, 12 members attended, with four selected abstracts for oral presentations and seven poster abstracts at AIDS 2018. Some members participated in the pre-conference event, the 10th Workshop on HIV Pediatrics from July 20-21, where eight selected poster abstracts were featured.
Global WACh researchers at the HIV Pediatrics Workshop, a pre-conference event to the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam. Pictured from top left to right: Grace John-Stewart, Anjuli Wagner, Danae Black, Kristin Beima-Sofie, Irene Nujunga. From bottom left to right: Cyrus Mugo and Dr. Keshet Ronen