With great sorrow, we share the news that Timothy Ray Brown passed on September 29, 2020. Timothy, who was previously known as the “Berlin Patient,” was the first person cured of HIV when he received bone marrow and stem cell transplants to treat his leukemia. The return of that cancer caused his death. To read more about Timothy please click here. To read the NY Times article on him click here.
October 2, 2020 Spotlight
July 1, 2020 Spotlight
Congratulations to ACTG REPRIEVE, study A5332, for receiving a ViiV Global HIV and COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund grant! ViiV included REPRIEVE as one of 109 grantees out of over 400 grant applications.
June 23, 2020 Spotlight
ACTG recently announced that it has stopped enrolling A5395, our clinical trial evaluating whether hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19. This action was taken when it was determined that the rate of participant enrollment was insufficient for the trial to meet its objectives in a timely manner. No safety concerns were associated with the trial. ACTG remains highly involved in efforts to address COVID-19, having been asked to lead a Master Adaptive protocol under the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccine (ACTIV) Operation Warp Speed. This trial (ACTG 5401 or ACTIV-2) will evaluate multiple monoclonal antibodies and other small molecules for outpatient COVID treatment. The trial is set to open at the end of July.”
June 2, 2020 Spotlight
The ACTG leadership has watched with sadness and horror the recent racially motivated violent events, including the deaths of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery when out for a jog in South Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in her own home by police in Louisville, Kentucky. These devastating events are taking place in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downfall, both of which have disproportionately affected racial/ethnic minorities in the United States. The ACTG mourns these brutal deaths and recognizes the structural racism in the United States that has paved the way for these unjust murders and facilitated the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black and brown communities. We understand and empathize with the anger and frustration that is being felt and expressed across our nation about these senseless deaths and the injustice they represent. The ACTG and the HIV/AIDS community are committed to social justice and eliminating these disparities. Now is the time for us to all stand together and do our part to support efforts to dismantle structural racism, injustice, and brutality in the United States.
Long-acting injectable cabotegravir is highly effective for the prevention of HIV infection in cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with menMay 18, 2020 Spotlight
The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) announced today results from HPTN 083, a global randomized, controlled, double-blind study that compared the safety and efficacy of long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB LA) to daily oral tenofovir/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) (Truvada) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The study showed that CAB LA lowered HIV incidence among cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with men. During a planned review of study data, an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) recommended that the study results be announced as soon as possible. The study sponsor, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, agreed with this recommendation.
A companion study, HPTN 084, is comparing the efficacy and safety of CAB LA to daily oral TDF/FTC for PrEP among women in sub-Saharan Africa. This study, which began approximately a year after HPTN 083, was also reviewed by the DSMB and was recommended to continue as planned.
This information was provided by HPTN. To read more about this please click here.
April 3, 2020 Spotlight
We are writing to share the sad news about the passing of one of our very dearest colleagues, Gita Ramjee. The cause of death is from complications of COVID-19. Words cannot express the sorrow we feel. Gita was a tremendous force within the field and was part of the MTN family from day one. As you all know she directed the MRC CTU in Durban for many years, and in May 2019 refocused her efforts toward spending more time with her sons living in London and enjoying her grandson who is about 6 months old. Gita had a tremendous passion for HIV prevention and she cared deeply about addressing the disparities in HIV incidence in young women. It wasn’t too long ago that she wrote in an email, “It has been a long road with many ups and downs but we have forged along with strong determination.” She was always impeccably dressed. She always had a beautiful manicure. She always had a big smile. We will always appreciate her role in the MTN family.
We will miss Gita and wish her family comfort during this time of unfathomable loss.
This information was provided by MTN.
August 31, 2019 Spotlight
Katie Fitch, MSN, FNP, has been involved with the ACTG Network since 2014, but her connection to HIV/AIDS goes back over two decades. Upon completing her undergraduate degree in International Studies and Spanish at the University of Washington, Katie worked at the 45th Street Community Clinic in Seattle and later at the Washington State Department of Public Health. While at the Washington State DPH, Katie was responsible for collecting HIV/AIDS surveillance data via face-to-face interviews. It was through these experiences that Katie came to understand firsthand the marginalization and stigmatization that people living with HIV/AIDS face daily. These experiences, coupled with her education, motivated her to become more informed regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Latin America. To that end, Katie accepted a position with a small NGO, Educación Popular de Salud in Santiago, Chile. During this time, her main responsibility was working with lay healthcare workers in marginalized neighborhoods outside of Santiago to develop HIV prevention education strategies.
“From a young age I was exposed to a variety of cultures and I believe this laid the foundation for my work with vulnerable populations including individuals living with HIV/AIDS,” said Katie. “I have always been fascinated by the history, culture as well as contemporary politics of Latin America, so being able to help prevent the spread of HIV in that part of the world was quite fulfilling.”
When she returned to the US, Katie decided to pursue a Master of Science Degree in Nursing to become a Nurse Practitioner. She felt this degree would be the best way to fully develop her commitment to improve health for vulnerable populations. Through her different experiences, both domestic and abroad, Katie became a strong force in leading the way in HIV/AIDS patient education, as well as disease prevention, which she views as important foundations in the nursing profession.
In 1998, Katie was accepted into the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions that offered a direct entry to practice program. To support her graduate studies, she received a National Health Service Corps Scholarship that allowed her to work in medically underserved areas upon receiving her Nurse Practitioner license. After graduation, Katie worked with Boston Health Care for the Homeless providing primary care in several Boston area shelters as well as a medical respite setting. It was in this setting that Katie worked with many patients living with HIV who were noticing adverse effects from antiretroviral medications. At the time, these adverse effects, such as body fat redistribution (lipodystrophy) and abnormal cholesterol levels, were not well recognized or understood. This led Katie to the Program in Nutritional Metabolism at MGH, where Dr. Steven Grinspoon, who is now one of the Co-Principal Investigators of REPRIEVE, was studying these conditions.
“I have worked with Katie since she came to MGH over a decade ago and I have found that she is one of the most dedicated healthcare professionals around,” said Dr. Grinspoon. “When I became a Principal Investigator for the REPRIEVE study, I knew Katie would be the ideal Project Manager for REPRIEVE due to her research background and innate abilities to coordinate and manage, which are essential for such a large and complex clinical trial. “
Katie enjoys being the Project Manager of REPRIEVE not just because the study will provide much needed data about cardiovascular disease prevention in HIV, but also because of the myriad of responsibilities involved with the job. From educating site staff and potential study participants to managing various components of site start-up, overall trial operations and problem solving are what she enjoys the most. Given the size of the study (currently 118 clinical sites and nearly 5000 participants), Katie notes that every single day is different. In addition, she has had the unique opportunity to promote REPRIEVE in the media by authoring several articles including “Stopping A Silent Killer” and “The REPRIEVE Trial: The Last Word on Cardiovascular Disease in HIV-positive Persons (Hopefully)”.
Outside of work, Katie enjoys spending time with her family, and taking part in a variety of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and skiing. She is also an avid cyclist and braves the New England weather throughout the year on her commute to work. Katie and her family also love art and food, and they have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time during the summer in Italy, a place where both these interests are present in abundance. Katie is uniquely connected to the arts, being married to a professional artist and also due to the strong bond between the artist community and early HIV/AIDS activism.
“The arts and HIV/AIDS community have had a longstanding relationship; not only have we lost so many brilliant artists to the epidemic, but also art continues to offer a platform for activism for the greater HIV/AIDS community,” said Katie. “This activism and determination has been essential to bring HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and treatment where they are today. I am often amazed that we can say things like ‘over 50% of people living with HIV are over the age of 50’ or ‘people living with HIV have almost the same life expectancy as someone without HIV’.”
Katie believes prevention and treatment efforts are where they are at today because people living with HIV have gotten behind the illness and worked to improve care. They did this not only for themselves, but for so many other people affected by HIV— and she notes that their participation in clinical trials is evidence of this. With that in mind, one important goal Katie plans to achieve is to make sure that the HIV/AIDS community is aware of the findings from REPRIEVE. Planning and carrying out this effort is of the utmost importance to her.
In closing, Katie has an important message regarding the REPRIEVE trial:
“The HIV community critically needs strategies to prevent heart attacks and strokes, which are likely to be seen with increasing frequency as the HIV population ages worldwide. REPRIEVE is a major effort to fill a critical gap in the management of people living with HIV, and improve the health of the HIV population. On behalf of the REPRIEVE study team, please know that we greatly appreciate and need the support and contributions of both the ACTG Network and study participants to promote participation in this important trial.”
July 28, 2019 Spotlight
Anna Benbrook, MS, CHES began her career as a college heath educator working to promote healthy behaviors around fitness, nutrition, sexual health, tobacco cessation, and alcohol. When she moved to Tallahassee, FL in 2012 to work at Florida State University in the role of Sexual Health Educator, she earned a second MS degree, allowing her to transform her role into a Communications/Sexual Health Educator. In 2016, Anna joined our ACTG Network Emory University site in Atlanta, GA serving as a Health Educator where her main duties and focus are centered on recruiting study participants. She does this by being active in the local Atlanta HIV community and by providing health education, as well as information, about HIV in general.
“When recruiting for a study that is looking at reducing inflammation, for example, I work with the team at Emory to create and develop programs that help to explain inflammation and how it affects individuals living with HIV,” said Anna. “Our goal is to inform and educate all possible audiences, so this ranges from presenting at national conferences attended by healthcare providers all the way to intimate one-on -one discussions with potential volunteers in the clinic.”
What Anna enjoys most about her role is connecting and collaborating with the local HIV community and having the opportunity to speak with small groups about research being conducted at Emory. She has discovered that small group settings allow for powerful discussions because people feel open to be vulnerable and to ask questions that might seem obvious, but have never been answered for them previously.
“I have found that Emory University has a trusted and established reputation among the local HIV community and this provides us with a chance to collaborate and really come together to fight this epidemic,” said Anna. “Also, the clinicians who work at Emory consistently impress me with not only their passion for HIV research, but their passion and compassion for those living with HIV – for example Dr. Carlos del Rio recently spoke with Pope Francis about how HIV/AIDS is a worldwide social justice issue that needs to be addressed. How impressive is that?”
Anna is not just passionate about her work within the ACTG Network; she is also passionate about a unique hobby – roller derby! She has participated in roller derbies for the past four years, with this past year as a member of the Atlanta Rollergirls. She finds roller derby to be incredibly empowering and falls more and more in love with the sport with every hit she takes and every apex she jumps.
“As a Jammer for the Atlanta Rollergirls, I skate past the opposing team’s Blockers to score points and this requires quick thinking and teamwork,” said Anna. “In order to play our best, the team needs to listen to each other and to work as a collaborative unit to maximize everyone’s strengths.”
And it is collaboration that Anna utilizes to maximize her social media efforts for recruitment. By partnering with other like-minded local groups, or individuals who have large, committed followings, she has found that messages go significantly further and sometimes even saturate other networks and organizations. She notes that being active on social media serves to expand the reach outside our walls and can assist in engaging with communities that are difficult to reach. It can also be a way to connect with younger people in the HIV community to educate and inform them about research.
Her colleagues appreciate her passion, commitment and dedication to her work as well.
“Anna is someone who is always enthusiastic and never gives up. Knowing that she is a roller derby player probably explains why she is not afraid of challenges,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, Emory University Investigator and Ponce de Leon Center CRS Lead.
Anna’s message to clinicians across the ACTG Network again highlights collaboration:
“Clinicians need to not only be an advocate for their HIV communities, but also immerse themselves in the community and focus on collaboration. To do this, clinicians should consider being active on social media, showing up to community events, speaking out at public hearings when policy is being created, and most importantly – listen to your community.”
In closing, she wishes to thank the countless study participants who have taken part in ACTG Network trials over the past three decades:
“Without these strong and dedicated individuals taking part in ACTG Network clinical trials, there would be no advancement of medicine, no advancement of treatment and no advancement of prevention. We would be absolutely stagnant. This is why clinical trials mean so much to me. It is also really exciting to be a part of clinical trials as we are moving toward the cure agenda. I would love to say I was a part of research during the time they found a cure. The only way to do this is with the continued help and support of our thoughtful and giving study participants and those to come in the future. I thank them.”
Thank you, Anna. Keep up the hard work and keep on Jamming!