The New York State International Training and Research Program (NYS-ITRP), directed by SUNY Downstate Medical Center Distinguished Service Professor Jack DeHovitz, MD, MPH, has received an award from the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the amount of $1.5 million over five years to conduct the “Kazakh National Medical University SUNY HIV Research Training Program.”
NYS-ITRP, an international research training program focused on building HIV and infectious disease research capacity in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, is cooperatively administered by the State University of New York, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and the University at Albany School of Public Health. Their faculty and staff have provided local and global leadership in responding to the HIV epidemic for over two decades, and have implemented training programs in eleven countries from the Czech Republic to Mongolia, including the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, and Russia.
While HIV incidence is declining globally, Central Asia is one of the few regions in the world where HIV infections continue to rise. Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia, has experienced some of the most deleterious effects of the HIV epidemic in the region.
Kazakhstan achieved independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has a population of more than 16 million. Located along the historic Silk Road, one of Asia’s oldest trade routes, it has been impacted by drug trafficking. Drug use and unsafe injecting practices coupled with widespread migration has created an environment resulting in rising rates of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C virus infection. Despite notable improvements in responding to the HIV epidemic, access to antiretroviral therapy remains low and institutional barriers impede access to care by substance users.
The new program will build capacity at the Kazakh National Medical University (KazNMU) School of Public Health to conduct implementation science research addressing HIV treatment cascade gaps in the country. The program aims to decrease the burden of HIV disease through the systematic HIV-related research training of investigators from KazNMU. The training objectives include: 1) the provision of advanced degree training (Master of Science in Epidemiology and Master of Public Health) to qualified investigators associated with KazNMU; 2) the establishment of institutional links between KazNMU and NYS-ITRP to expand implementation science research and strengthen KazNMU’s ability to be a national and regional leader in research addressing the HIV care cascade; and 3) the training of research and public health professionals at KazNMU in population-based research and implementation science research methodologies.
“I look forward to continued collaboration with NYS-ITRP faculty and staff at SUNY Downstate, UAlbany’s School of Public Health, and KazNMU,” Dr. DeHovitz said. “Our lengthy and successful work with the University at Albany in several Central and Eastern European countries over the past 20 years has become a model for innovative approaches to international education and training.”
UAlbany will provide the majority of the training and SUNY Downstate will provide the majority of the research.
The award to NYS-ITRP is from the Fogarty International Center and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number D43TW010046, through the Research Foundation for SUNY. Dr. DeHovitz is principal investigator.
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