USF Gets $16 Million Grant To Lead AIDS Education Effort

The Florida/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center will provide targeted education and training programs.

TAMPA, Fla. (June 23, 2010) – Fueled by a $16 million federal grant, the University of South Florida Center for HIV Education and Research will lead a multi-university effort to combat the disease through training of doctors and other health care providers.

Michael D. Knox, director of the center and a Distinguished Professor in the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences, was notified of the five-year grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration late Tuesday.

“I had been hoping for it and would have been disappointed if we didn’t get funding,’’ said Knox. “Our experience since 1988 has paid off.’’

The USF center, located within the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy, was founded by Knox in 1988. Knox has been successful in securing more than $50 million in external funding since coming to USF in 1986.

The latest grant award will be used to operate the Florida/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center (F/C AETC), which will provide targeted, multi-disciplinary education and training programs for healthcare providers treating persons with HIV/AIDS throughout Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

"HIV/AIDS continues to have a devastating impact in Florida, across the United States and globally,’’ said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. “This important work at USF will make a difference for Floridians and for our friends in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean.’’

 

USF, with a contingent of HIV experts from its College of Medicine, where Knox also serves as a Distinguished Professor, will lead a team of faculty from five other universities to provide the training. The other universities serving as local training sites include Florida A&M University, University of Florida, University of Miami, University of Puerto Rico, and University of the Virgin Islands. 

 

Knox sees this new five-year grant as key to improving the quality of care provided to HIV-infected persons and increasing the number of healthcare professionals capable of diagnosing and treating HIV throughout this region.

 

“Treatment of HIV/AIDS is complex, and frequent developments in medical guidelines, as well as new drugs, require clinicians to receive continuous education,’’ said Knox.

 

The center will provide training for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, dental hygienists, and medical case managers.

 

“We will continue our efforts to increase early diagnosis and encourage testing,’’ said Dr. Jeffrey Beal, Medical Director of the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of HIV/AIDS.

 

As a specialist in HIV medicine and Clinical Director of the F/C AETC, Beal will provide medical leadership on this new grant.

 

We know that most individuals will change risky behaviors that lead to the transmission of HIV when they are aware of their HIV status,’’ Beal said. “Late diagnoses are missed opportunities for prevention of disease progression.’’

 

Knox said early intervention is the key to education and “ultimately reduces healthcare costs, which only underscores the importance of providing healthcare professionals access to university experts in HIV prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.’’

 

F/C AETC will employ faculty with broad experience as clinicians, as well as excellent teaching abilities and communication skills. The faculty will also contribute to the design and implementation of chart review tools, charting forms, clinical pocket guides and other online resources. 

 

According to Knox, the new funding will allow the center to improve treatment capacity and increase primary care providers’ skill levels throughout the Florida/Caribbean region.

 

“We are assembling an excellent multi-disciplinary faculty to make this possible,’’ said Beal.

 

Populations in Florida and the Caribbean have been significantly affected by HIV/AIDS.  AIDS rates in Florida (21.7) and Puerto Rico (21.5) are almost twice the national rate (12.5) and rates in the U.S. Virgin Islands (31.4) are two-and-a-half times the national rate per 100,000 population. All three areas rank among the top 10 states/territories affected by the epidemic (http://www.statehealthfacts.org).

 

“The regional impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic calls for continued provision and expansion of HIV/AIDS care and treatment services and increased access to healthcare, especially for the minority population affected,’’ said Knox.  “Our training will reach a diverse group of healthcare professionals, with a special focus on those who serve minority patients, rural communities, incarcerated persons and other underserved populations.’’

 

The F/C AETC Central Office will be housed at the USF Center for HIV Education and Research.  Associate Director Kim Molnar will be responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and act as liaison with training site coordinators.

 

Knox and his team wrote the 80-page grant proposal in February, and it was reviewed by an outside team of experts that recommended federal funding. The program kicks off July 1.

 

Knox said there are 40,000 to 50,000 new cases of HIV infection each year in the U.S. and more focus on prevention is needed to decrease those numbers. People infected with HIV who receive the proper education and treatment, Knox said, “can achieve a normal life expectancy.”