media release

HIV research to track youth in South Africa

December 16, 2011

Mark Brockman, 778.782.3341;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017/3210;

A team of Simon Fraser University scientists is joining together with counterparts in South Africa to investigate HIV/AIDS in adolescent populations in Durban and Soweto.

The five-year, $3.5 million project will be based at SFU and will use a multidisciplinary research approach that focuses on social, biomedical and ethical issues faced by the younger population. It’s believed that 50 per cent of all new infections are among those 15-24 years of age.

The project is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. Its goal is to conduct vaccine discovery and social research among adolescents, including the development of culturally appropriate strategies to obtain consent from youth willing to participate in HIV research and prevention trials.

On the social front, researchers will investigate social-behavioural determinants of HIV risk and to overcome the barriers to their participation in these trials.

And on yet another level, researchers will work to identify biological factors associated with increased HIV risk and examine the influence of host and virus biology on the natural infection course in youth.

“We anticipate that the team structure will significantly enhance communication between disciplines, and also provide unique opportunities for training Canadian and African researchers,” says Mark Brockman, a principal researcher and one of seven SFU faculty members participating in the project from the faculties of science and health sciences.

Brockman, an associate professor in health sciences, holds a new Canada Research Chair in Viral Pathogenesis and Immunity. The molecular biologist is working to improve our understanding of how some people can naturally suppress HIV – research that could lead to the development of targets for vaccines and new treatments.


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