For Immediate Release

September 30, 2008

New York, NY – Dr. Anne E. Brisson, Director of Operations for the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia (GHRCCA) and associate research scientist at the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), has been awarded a one-year grant by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.  The study will adapt and pilot an HIV prevention program for injection drug users (IDU) in Kyrgyzstan.

Central Asia is experiencing one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world, primarily driven by (IDU).  Despite ongoing prevention efforts, HIV rates continue to increase among this population, and innovative and cost-effective interventions are needed.  In this study, the research team will adapt an existing intervention model – The   Self-Help in Eliminating Life-threatening Diseases (SHIELD) – that has been successful in reducing HIV risk among injection drug users and their network members worldwide.  The intervention trains injection drug users about HIV risk and how to be a peer educator, so that they can share the information with their personal risk networks, such as peer drug users or sexual partners, about HIV prevention.  In doing so, a wider audience is informed about the risks of sharing injecting equipment or unprotected sex.

“This intervention addresses knowledge, attitudes, and social influences aimed at reducing sexual and drug risk behaviors among IDU and their network members,” says Dr. Brisson. “Our goal in this study is not only to change individual behavior, but also group norms.”

The study will be conducted in the Southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh, where 14% of the IDU are HIV positive and 50% are infected with HCV. Osh is located along a major heroin trafficking route and with limited access to public health clinics, it is estimated that less than half of the IDU in the city are receiving any information about HIV.
 
A joint US-Central Asian research team will implement this study.  The Principal Investigator is Dr. Anne E. Brisson, and study co-investigators and collaborators are Dr. Nabila El Bassel, Ms. Louisa Gilbert and Dr. Elwin Wu (CUSSW), Dr. Carl Latkin (John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health), Dr. Assel Terlikbayeva and Mr. Danil Nikitin (GHRCCA in Central Asia), Dr. Mamasobir Burkhanov (NGO Parents Against Drugs in Osh), the Regional AIDS Prevention Center in Osh, and the Regional Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

To interview Dr. Brisson about the study, please contact Jeannie Hii at jy2223@columbia.edu or 212-851-2327. For more information about GHRCCA, please visit http://www.ghrcca.columbia.edu.

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