PhD research sheds light on aging with HIV
By Phoebe Melvin and Diane Luckow
Growing up in Nigeria, SFU alumnus Oghenowede (Ede) Eyawo dreamed of working in a profession where he could improve people’s health—a dream he has realized now that he is graduating with a PhD from SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS).
Since completing his PhD last fall Eyawo has been working as a post-doctoral fellow at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), an SFU partner organization where he is researching how people with HIV/AIDS are aging.
He developed a keen interest in understanding the impact of HIV/AIDS on peoples’ health during his SFU master’s degree studies, when he co-founded the SFU AIDS Awareness Network.
For his PhD research, he focused on improving our understanding of aging with HIV since antiretroviral therapy (ART), the drugs that treat HIV infection, was introduced in 1996. He wanted to determine whether HIV-positive and HIV-negative British Columbians are experiencing the same illnesses, and aging in the same way.
He found that death rates for people on ART dropped by about 96 per cent between 1996, when the drugs were introduced, and 2011-2012. And he found significant declines over this period in death rates among HIV-positive individuals from HIV/AIDS, liver diseases and drug abuse and overdoses.
“Prior to ART, AIDS was the primary cause of death in the HIV-positive population,” he says.
Today, he says, other diseases have become increasingly relevant. Among these non-HIV-related diseases, non-AIDS cancer is now the leading cause of death in both HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals. As well, he says, HIV-positive individuals face a higher risk of heart attack than those who are HIV-negative.
During his PhD studies Eyawo worked with experts at the BC-CfE (including his supervisor FHS professor Robert Hogg) where he carried out some of his doctoral research. He also spent three months at Yale University as a visiting scholar on a Canadian Graduate Scholarship/Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement.
That visit, and his collaboration with the Yale team, led to publication in a peer-reviewed journal earlier this year. He was the lead author on an article about alcohol and mortality among HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals in the U.S.
Following convocation Eyawo plans to continue his research into HIV and other intersecting illnesses, which he hopes will guide future health care decision-making, both in Canada and abroad.