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Stemming an Epidemic


Tiny Technologies With Titanic Impact 


Tiny Technologies With Titanic Impact 

Robert Hogg focuses on identifying ongoing health inequities among vulnerable
HIV-positive populations to better meet their unique health care needs. 

Since the early 1990s, SFU professor of health sciences Dr. Robert Hogg has been conducting demographic research on British Columbia's HIV-positive population. With an eye towards influencing health policy decisions and improving health outcomes, his work has earned him an international reputation as a leading population health researcher.

More recently, Hogg’s focus has turned to analyzing health trends among marginalized HIV-positive groups. For instance, Hogg was senior author on a first-of-its-kind study this year that found that food insecurity increases the risk of death among injection drug users living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, he investigates how access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) influences sexual practice and infection rates among men who have sex with men, and also examines how the treatment affects those who suffer simultaneously from HIV and age-related diseases such as cancer or heart, kidney or liver problems. The latter is significant as the 50-plus population represents over half of all HIV-positive individuals in North America. The findings will help create new strategies to meet the unique needs of these populations.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has recognized the importance of Hogg’s work by injecting millions in the past two years to allow him to continue his research. This includes $2.7 million granted in 2014 towards the Canadian HIV Observational Cohort (CANOC), the country’s only longitudinal study of more than 10,000 people undergoing antiretroviral therapy in Canada. It also helped him establish the CANOC Collaborative Research Centre, which will expand the cohort and allow a large team of researchers to continue tracking Canada’s HIV positive population and advance understanding of challenges presented by HIV and its intersection with other health factors.

B.C. has been the only Canadian province to show an overall, consistent decline in new HIV diagnoses during the past several years. Sadly, the province’s marginalized communities have been an exception when it comes to experiencing this phenomenon. Dr. Hogg and his colleagues, however, have pledged to focus their research efforts on these communities to address their unique, and too often unmet, needs.

Hogg received a lifetime achievement award from the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C. in 2013, and he was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences this year for research that has led to a paradigm shift in the way HIV positive persons and the disease are perceived.

Says Hogg, “I am engaged to make a difference. By working with the province and with partners around the world, our goal is not only to improve the lives of those with HIV, but to end the AIDS epidemic altogether.”


Dr. Robert Hogg has established a national and international reputation in population health research with emphasis on HIV/AIDS, antiretroviral therapy, and marginalized populations. He directs the Drug Treatment Program at the BC-Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and is the principal investigator of a number of important HIV-related studies, including the Canadian HIV Observational Cohort. This collaboration of national researchers and select databases establishes policy-relevant studies in HIV therapeutics, population, and public health. Hogg is a senior research scientist in the Epidemiology and Population Health program at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and heads the Canadian HIV Observational Cohort (CANOC) Collaborative Research Centre.    

Q & A with Robert Hogg 

What motivates you as a researcher?

My work, like others in this field, is geared towards improving the lives of those living with HIV. When I started there were a lot of setbacks, but now, working together, we can actually see an end to AIDS.

If you could sum up the value of university research in a word, what would it be?

Foundation. Without research there is no university.

SFU bills itself as “Canada’s most engaged research university.” How does your own work exemplify this spirit of engagement?

I am engaged to make a difference, to work with others to improve the lives of those living with HIV. As they say, there is no “I” in “Team” and SFU has taught me that it will take a cohort of men and women working to together to stop AIDS. In British Columbia we are privileged to have the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and SFU collaborating so closely to end this epidemic.

What advice would you give to your younger self on the challenges you faced as a researcher?

Write more grants and never underestimate the hurdles and the impact your research can make.

Putting one’s research out into the world often requires a leap of courage. Where do you derive your courage?

Most times I just leap, but when I need courage I get it from my partner.

What do you see as the most noteworthy emerging trend in the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the next 50 years?

The suppression of AIDS by 2020 through the implementation of UNAIDS’ 90–90–90 campaign: 90 per cent of all people living with HIV should know their status, 90 per cent of all those who are diagnosed HIV positive get on sustained antiretroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of those on sustained antiretroviral therapy having an undetectable HIV viral load in their system.

SFU has much to celebrate on its 50th anniversary. Looking ahead to our 100th anniversary in 2065, what do you think SFU will be most notable for?

SFU should continue to set its self apart, to engage others, and to make a difference. What saddens me is how few people outside of Canada don’t know about SFU and its mission. In 2065, when people outside of this country think of higher learning in Canada, they should think of SFU.