Jun 5, 2019

National Institutes of Health to Fund Unique Study Providing Critical Insights into Aging, Health and Patient Care for Older Adults Living with HIV

Brooklyn Site Ideally Suited to Study People of Color Living with HIV

Announcement Recognizes HIV Long-Term Survivors Day


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that SUNY Downstate Medical Center has received a seven-year, $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund a new study to expand our understanding of the physical, mental, and psychosocial impacts of HIV and prolonged exposure to anti-retroviral therapy on long-term survivors with HIV. The study provides a unique perspective on how HIV and its treatments make patients more susceptible to chronic conditions or worsens their symptoms from these diseases. The announcement recognizes HIV Long-Term Survivors Day, celebrated each year on June 5.

"New York State set a nation-leading goal to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the end of 2020, and funding to support studies like this is critical to achieving that goal," Governor Cuomo said. "By researching the impact of both HIV and its treatments on the aging population, we can gain a better understanding of the long-term impacts of this disease and ensure those living with HIV are given the best care and resources possible."

"We're committed to investing in cutting-edge research to help and treat New Yorkers," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This funding will enable SUNY Downstate Medical Center to analyze the long-term effects of HIV and help those with HIV/AIDS to ensure they have the resources and support they need. These efforts build on our overall goals to end the epidemic and do everything we can to make sure all New Yorkers are healthy and safe."

The grant will help fund the Brooklyn Clinical Research Site at Downstate where two important prospective cohort studies—the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) and Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS)—were integrated and expanded into the MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study (MWCCS) in January after decades of working separately. Through this study, researchers are examining multiple focus areas, including the intersection of HIV with mental health and well-being; social, environmental, and psychological factors associated with engagement in care; and frailty.

The MWCCS at SUNY Downstate will be led by Deborah Gustafson, Ph.D., MS, professor of neurology, and Tracey Wilson, Ph.D., Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences in the School of Public Health.

"Continuous advances in HIV treatment and management have enabled more people to live longer with this once-fatal infection," said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. "With nearly half of all infected Americans now over the age of 50, it's critical that we understand how HIV and its treatment affects the health of these adults, especially ethnic populations who have been underrepresented in previous studies. Our skilled researchers at SUNY Downstate stand fully prepared to use these findings to uncover new therapies that treat both HIV and other chronic diseases that come with advancing age."

"We are very excited about this new study that will allow us to recruit a greater number of African Americans and Hispanics. It will also help us to better understand the racial and ethnic disparities in HIV, associated co-morbidities, and the distinct chronic disease challenges for those living with HIV," said SUNY Downstate President Wayne J. Riley, M.D. "As the only academic medical center in Brooklyn, we are committed to supporting research that recognizes the unique needs of the people we serve. We will leverage resources of the MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study to improve care and support the training of the next generation of health professionals and research scientists."

Congresswoman Nita Lowey said, "With the help of federal investments in HIV/AIDS research, individuals are now living longer, healthier, and more productive lives. This important National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant will broaden our understanding of the impact HIV and its treatment can have on patients over time. As Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, and a strong supporter of NIH funding, I am proud to have secured an increase of $9 billion for NIH in the past four years. In addition, the proposed spending bill for NIH in Fiscal Year 2020 would provide $3.2 billion for HIV/AIDS research, which would be instrumental as we work for a cure and continue to support patients through their lives. I hope these studies will bring us one step closer to ending HIV/AIDS and positively inform the care of those impacted by the disease."

Congressman José E. Serrano said, "The progress fueled by this critical federal funding will have far reaching impacts, positively affecting those who live with HIV/AIDS. With the help of this $16 million dollar grant to research the progression of this terrible disease and treatment outcomes, particularly among minority populations and long-time survivors, we have the opportunity to give further hope to HIV patients and their families. I commend New York State for utilizing this funding to make a powerful stride in science and humanity right here in New York City."

Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, Committee on Higher Education Chair, said, "I am very pleased that Governor Cuomo's commitment to ending AIDS is accompanied by a commitment of $16 million of federal funds to continue the vital study by SUNY Downstate into the long term effects of HIV."

Since 1994, the Brooklyn WIHS at SUNY Downstate has been following a cohort of women living with HIV, under the leadership of Howard Minkoff, MD, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The WIHS research has resulted in more than 900 published articles. Major focus areas of research include the intersection of HIV and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases; mental health and well-being; and issues associated with cognition and aging.

The MACS study began in 1984 and has produced nearly 1,700 published articles. The study includes more than 7,000 men with and without HIV at sites located in Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. The data are used to help understand the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection and the development of disease in those living with HIV.

The two studies together have included more than 12,000 people. Findings from both cohort studies are expected to help improve the care of older people living with HIV and reduce the impact of chronic diseases. According to the NIH, the research has already produced significant discoveries, including the discovery of genetic, metabolic, and behavioral factors that influence HIV progression; and the identification of gender, racial, and ethnic differences in HIV and treatment outcomes. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were approximately 455,000 Americans over the age of 50 living with HIV in 2015. Today, people living with HIV are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure than AIDS-related illnesses. Older adults also experience metabolic consequences from both infection and therapy.

This announcement further supports New York State's nation-leading campaign to end the HIV/AIDSepidemic by the end of 2020. On World AIDS Day 2018, Governor Cuomo announced New York is on track to meet that goal and proposed new regulations that will remove barriers and expand access to care for uninsured or underinsured people living with HIV. Over the past four years, New York State has committed more than $20 million to fund Health Department policies and programs designed to meet Ending the Epidemic goals.

About The State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit


About SUNY Downstate Medical Center

SUNY Downstate Medical Center is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care, and is a 376-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital is Downstate’s teaching hospital, backed by the expertise of an outstanding medical school and the research facilities of a world-class academic center. More than 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate's staff.

A regional center for cardiac care, neonatal and high-risk infant services, pediatric dialysis, and transplantation, Downstate also houses a major learning center for children with physical ailments or neurological disorders. In addition to University Hospital, Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Health-Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative, including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively. For more information, visit