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UH AIDS unit renamed


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Hawaii AIDS Clinical Trials Unit has been renamed the Hawaii Center for AIDS to provide “;a vehicle for scientific study and policy development related to the disease,”; said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the medical school.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved the formal designation for the unit, which was requested by Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, program director.

She said it would help the researchers establish collaborations with international entities and obtain research grants to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Recognized nationally and internationally, the UH AIDS program has brought more than $20 million in research grants to the state and is envisioned to become a self-funding enterprise.

The center has 14 faculty members and dozens of researchers working at Leahi Hospital. About 400 HIV-infected patients from Oahu and the neighbor islands are treated by the clinic, which focuses on patients with complex medical problems and no health insurance.

The AIDS Clinical Trials Unit began in 1990 to offer new drugs for HIV treatment that were not available to isle patients.

“;We thought with the drugs available, even if there wasn't a cure yet, we could treat people and have them live normal lives,”; Shikuma said in a news release. “;Instead, we are finding people with HIV are suffering higher rates of heart disease, liver failure and cancer.”;

But Hawaii has low rates of HIV infection, which Shikuma attributes to the state Health Department's strong surveillance and prevention programs.

The 2007 Legislature provided $800,000 for the AIDS program, allowing it to treat infected people, expand its funding base and research, and develop immunovirology and molecular biology laboratories.

The center has collaborations with researchers in Thailand and Vietnam to provide leadership in identifying and treating HIV in Asia and the Pacific.