New Study Focuses on HIV Care in Africa

Oct. 30, 2015

ZambiaA new $2.9 million grant will seek to better understand the risk and potential negative drug interactions experienced by people living with HIV-associated seizures in Africa.   

An estimated 25 million HIV positive people reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and many of these individuals will go on to develop a seizure disorder as a result of their infection.  While the wide availability of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy has helped transformed HIV from a fatal infection into a chronic condition, caring for people with HIV/AIDS who also suffer from disorders such as epilepsy remains a challenge. 

These patients often require multiple medications and clinicians do not have sufficient knowledge to understand the best treatment options when these disorders coexist.  Furthermore, certain combinations of ARVs and antiepileptic drugs can result in drug interactions that can either be fatal or render HIV treatments ineffective.

The new study will be led by a team of URMC researchers, including Gretchen Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H., Michael Potchen, M.D., Brent Johnson, Ph.D., and Harris Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., in partnership with collaborators in Zambia.  The researchers will recruit 300 HIV positive urban and rural participants of all ages who have experienced their first seizure and follow them for two years to examine the cause of the initial seizure, seizure recurrence, and response to epilepsy and HIV treatments.  

The study is being funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Fogarty International Center.