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Taking the pulse of the AIDS battle

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November 27, 2008

Updated Dec. 1, 2008

Accountability is on the minds of many people as they prepare to recognize the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day on December 1. Once again, the theme is Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise – Leadership.

Several SFU experts from a variety of disciplines in the faculty of health sciences are available to reflect on the multitude of questions and issues that will arise. For example, are we reaping enough knowledge from 20 years of research? Are some affected populations being ignored to the peril of everyone?

Professor Robert Hogg, an expert on infectious diseases and the director of the Drug Treatment Program at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BCCfE), heads a new network aimed at improving treatment in Canada. The Canadian Observational Cohort will follow 5,000 people, who started on antiretroviral medication in 2000, for the next five years.

Robert Hogg, 604.377.8606, 778.782.7629,

Adjunct professor Krisztina Vasarhelyi, a genetic epidemiologist, leads a group of researchers at SFU’s Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Centre (IRMACS) who are developing mathematical models to study HIV epidemiology. The highly interdisciplinary group involving researchers from the BCCfE and SFU’s Complex Systems Modelling Group meets bi-weekly to brainstorm about preventing HIV transmission, controlling the spread of aids and developing better treatments.

Krisztina Vasarhelyi, 604.812.9189,

Cari Miller, an assistant professor and political scientist, looks at how the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS is affecting vulnerable adolescents in North America, such as First Nations youth. Miller is working on a project aimed at increasing adolescents’ access to HIV testing and knowledge of how socio-cultural beliefs affect sexual health in Soweto, South Africa.

Cari Miller, 778.782.8652,

John O’Neil, a professor and medical anthropologist, researches extensively the impact of HIV/AIDS on First Nations people and the prevention of disease spread in China, India and low- to middle- income countries. O’Neil is the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and sits on the Advisory Board of the National Collaborating Centre on Aboriginal Health at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

John O’Neil, 778.782.5361,

Jamie Scott, a professor with a joint appointment between the FHS and the department of molecular biology and biochemistry, is a molecular immunologist. A Canada Research Chair in Molecular Immunity, Scott is trying to create a protective vaccine that will elicit broadly-neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1.

Jamie Scott, 778.782.5658,

Jeremy Snyder, an assistant professor and public health ethicist, investigates society’s moral obligations to vulnerable populations, such as those with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Synder can comment on how contentious issues such as access to essential medicines, human exploitation and the lack of pharmaceutical testing in developing countries are prolonging the battle to control the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Jeremy Snyder, 778.782.3258,

Ralph Pantophlet, an assistant professor with a background in medical microbiology, has been researching HIV vaccine design since 2000. He is investigating antibody responses to HIV and other viruses of biomedical interest in the hopes of helping to develop universally applicable strategies for vaccine design.

Ralph Pantophlet, restricted availability 1 to 1:30 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. on World AIDS Day, 778.782.8648,

SFU World AIDS Day activities

SFU will hold its first-ever day-long event (featuring Robert Hogg as speaker) to recognize World AIDS Day at its Burnaby campus on December 1.


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