Boston Medical Center Receives Grant to Help Curb HIV Transmission in Russia

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
October 25th, 2006

Contact: Kristen Perfetuo, 617-638-8491 | kristen.perfetuo@bmc.org

(Boston) – Boston Medical Center (BMC) recently received more than $3.1 million from the National Institutes for Health to help reduce HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and alcohol consumption among HIV-infected people who are risky alcohol drinkers in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The grant will enable BMC to collaborate with Russian researchers from Pavlov State Medical University and to conduct the HERMITAGE (HIV’s Evolution in Russia – Mitigating Infection Transmission and Alcoholism in a Growing Epidemic) Study. The research will assess an HIV prevention intervention to reduce risky sex and drug related behaviors and address alcohol consumption among HIV-infected patients with alcohol problems.

Russia has one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. Additionally, Russia has one of the highest levels of per capita alcohol consumption, which has significantly increased over the past decade. While injection drug users have primarily propelled the Russian HIV epidemic up to the present, researchers speculate that HIV-infection transmission to the general population in Russia will increasingly occur via sexual transmission.

“Studies done in the United States show behavior interventions, including those that emphasize the importance of HIV serostatus disclosure to partners, condom use and the development of healthy relationships, can reduce sex risk behaviors among HIV-infected persons,” said Jeffrey Samet, lead investigator and Chief of the Section of General Internal Medicine at BMC. “The HERMITAGE Study will help us determine the effectiveness of an intervention to reduce HIV risk behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases and alcohol consumption among HIV patients with risky alcohol drinking.”

According to Samet, HIV risk reduction counseling is a key HIV prevention strategy and may benefit those in different cultural settings. Currently, HIV risk reduction counseling is not the standard practice in Russia.

“As HIV spreads rapidly in Russia’s young substance abusing population, utilizing effective HIV risk reduction strategies and minimizing alcohol use in HIV-infected persons holds potential to reduce the transmission of HIV,” added Samet.

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