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School of Public Health Partners with Downstate Medical Center to Conduct HIV Research and Training in Kazakhstan

The new program will build capacity at the Kazakh National Medical University to conduct research addressing HIV treatment gaps.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 10, 2016) -- The University at Albany and Downstate Medical Center will partner on a five-year project to conduct HIV research and training for the country of Kazakhstan.

Despite global declines in HIV incidence, infections continue to rise in Central Asia. Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia, has experienced some of the most deleterious effects of the HIV epidemic in the region.

UAlbany's School of Public Health will provide the majority of the training while SUNY Downstate will conduct the research through its New York State International Training and Research Program (NYS-ITRP), directed by SUNY Downstate Medical Center Distinguished Service Professor Jack DeHovitz, MD, MPH.

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 UAlbany’s School of Public Health. Together their faculty and staff have provided local and global leadership in responding to the HIV epidemic for more than 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.

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 the:

  • Provision of advanced degree training (Master of Science in Epidemiology and Master of Public Health) to qualified investigators associated with KazNMU;
  • 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
  • Training of research and public health professionals at KazNMU in population-based research and implementation science research methodologies.

The "Kazakh National Medical University SUNY HIV Research Training Program" will be supported by a $1.5 million award from the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As the world's ninth largest country, Kazakhstan achieved independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. 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.

Principal investigator DeHovitz said, "I look forward to continued collaboration with NYS-ITRP faculty and staff at SUNY Downstate, UAlbany's School of Public Health, and KazNMU. 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."

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school. For more information, visit www.downstate.edu.

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.

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