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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 14, 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: John Gillespie | john.gillespie@downstate.edu | (314) 708-9090

SUNY Downstate’s Special Research and Treatment (STAR) Program, the University at Albany School of Public Health, and the Partnership for Research and Action for Health (PRAH)- Georgia Receive five-year, $1.5M NIH Grant to Reduce HIV Infections

Brooklyn, N.Y. (May 13, 2020) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.5 million, five-year grant to the Special Research and Treatment (STAR) Program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, the University at Albany School of Public Health, and the Partnership for Research and Action for Health (PRAH), a non-governmental organization in the country of Georgia, to a support Georgia’s HIV prevention efforts. This strategic training partnership also includes the public health and behavioral sciences faculty at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) – the largest university in Georgia, as well as scientists at Georgian governmental and non- governmental organizations.

The grant will support doctoral training in public health and implementation for ten Georgians at both UAlbany and in Georgia, and short-term training for 30 other Georgians in implementation science. The grant will also support efforts to improve both the doctoral program and faculty training at Tbilisi State University. The project is being led jointly by Mamuka Djibuti, M.D, Ph.D., of Tbilisi State University and the director of PRAH, and Jack DeHovitz, M.D, MPH, MHCDS, FACP, Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Downstate and Director of the STAR Program

“This SUNY Downstate/UAlbany partnership has been working with Eastern European and Central Asian universities and government institutions for more than 25 years to improve HIV diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research training in the region,” said  Jack DeHovitz, M.D. ”Since 1996, we have trained more than 200 young HIV investigators  who have contributed to more than 1,000 published book and journal articles, making substantial contributions to HIV research in a region that has been disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic. This $1.5 million grant will further these cooperative efforts,” said Dr. DeHovitz.

“Trainees will focus on research projects that identify challenges of implementation of HIV prevention programs,” said Mark Kuniholm, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the training program director at the UAlbany School of Public Health. “The research findings obtained through these projects will significantly improve the public health response to HIV/AIDS in Georgia.”

According to Dr. DeHovitz, researchers believe the incidence of HIV in Georgia is significantly under-reported, and there is a potential for a significant increase. “This project will expand the capacity of our Georgian colleagues to better understand the barriers to HIV testing, diagnosis, and linkages among key populations, and to prepare an evidence-based approach to improve Georgia’s national response to HIV,” Dr. DeHovitz said.

About the STAR Program at SUNY Downstate

The STAR Program (www.starprogram.nyc) was initially established in 1991 with the initial overall goal of integrating HIV-related care, research, and clinical education. Over the last two decades, the program has expanded to include the establishment of the STAR Health Center, including offering primary care, HIV and HCV (hepatitis C) screening and treatment, PrEP, PEP, behavioral health services, harm reduction, buprenorphine treatment, an LGBTQ Health Initiative, and re-entry services for those released from incarceration. The STAR Program provides multiple HIV training programs for healthcare providers, and participates in multiple research programs, including the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study/Women’s Interagency HIV Study Combined Cohort Study (MACS/WIHS-CCS), and a USAID program to support effective healthcare in Ukraine.

About the University at Albany

A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusinesscriminal justice, emergency preparednessengineering and applied sciencesinformatics, public administrationsocial welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.

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About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care, and is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City, and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) 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 UHB, Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health 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 www.downstate.edu or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate.