University at Albany, Downstate Medical Combat AIDS Epidemic in Republic of Georgia

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 6, 2016) -- The University at Albany’s School of Public Health is collaborating with SUNY Downstate Medical Center to combat the spread of HIV in the Republic of Georgia. The institutions are partnering with the Tbilisi State Medical University’s International School of Public Health to provide opportunities for Georgian public health professionals to work side-by-side with some of the top HIV/AIDS program specialists and epidemiologists in New York.

The Republic of Georgia reported its first diagnosed case of HIV in 1989. Gaining its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the newly-formed Eurasian country faced many challenges, including economic and civil unrest, as well as a deteriorating health care system. Since then, Georgia has witnessed a rise in illicit drug use and sexually transmitted infections, fueling the rapid spread of HIV.

The program is funded through a $60,480 award from the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center to build the research and leadership capacity of a new generation of epidemiologists in Georgia to combat the disease. The NIH funding is directly supporting the Partnership for Research and Action for Health (PRAH), a not-for profit organization affiliated with Tbilisi State that is mandated to assist public health education and research in the country

Map of the Republic of Georgia
A new initiative is focused on building HIV and infectious disease research capacity in the Republic of Georgia is being administered by Downstate Medical and the School of Public Health.

“The accomplishments of our faculty and colleagues from the NYS-ITRP and SUNY Downstate to build public health and HIV research capacity in the Republic of Georgia is truly a great success story and a model for others to follow,” said School of Public Health Dean Philip C. Nasca.

Tbilisi State will also work with the New York State International Training and Research Program, an initiative focused on building HIV and infectious disease research capacity in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, administered by SUNY Downstate Medical Center and UAlbany’s School of Public Health.

Dr. Mamuka Djibuti, founding dean at Tibilisi’s International School of Public Health and director of PRAH will act at the Principal Investigator for the Planning Grant. “All of the Georgian partners involved in this project are eager to start this new phase of collaboration with the University at Albany and SUNY Downstate, and look forward to working with the experts at the New York State AIDS Institute,” said Djibuti. “With the support of this grant, we are confident that we can take our global partnership with SUNY to new heights.”

To ensure a strong focus on implementation science, the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute will work with Tbilisi State and its partners to develop an internship program that will allow Georgian trainees the opportunity to collaborate with program specialists and epidemiologists at the AIDS Institute.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center Distinguished Service Professor Dr. Jack DeHovitz, who directs the New York State International Training and Research Program, is leading the training efforts in the United States. “The New York State International Training and Research Program has been able to provide graduate level training in public health and epidemiology for more than 30 Georgian health specialists and researchers,” said DeHovitz, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Public Health. “Many of these specialists now serve in high-level public health leadership, education, research, and policy making roles in Georgia. This has all been achieved with the grant support of the Fogarty International Center.”

“At the end of the day, everyone involved in this partnership is particularly proud of the fact that the Georgian students trained have returned to their home country to launch their own schools of public health and less than a decade later, those very same schools are in a position to manage NIH funding on their own,” said John Justino, director of the UAlbany Center for Global Health.

The award to Partnership for Research and Action for Health is from the Fogarty International Center HIV Research Training Program for Low-and Middle-Income Country Institutions (Training Award D71TW10044). Dr. Mamuka Djibuti is Principal Investigator.

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