HIV Clinical Research Unit's Community Outreach
St. Petersburg, Florida – On June 28, 2008, twelve volunteers joined forces at a booth at the St. Pete Pride Street Festival, where an estimated 70,000 gathered in a celebration of the gay and lesbian community. The volunteers included faculty and staff from the USF Division of Infectious Disease, the USF HIV Clinical Research Unit, and the Hillsborough Health Department’s Specialty Care Center. They were united by a common mission: promote awareness of the comprehensive healthcare services available for the HIV/AIDS population in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Together they distributed 4,000 male condoms, almost 1,000 female condoms, dental dams and boxes of literature related to HIV, its prevention, and volunteering for research.
“This day, for me, was about compassion for others, getting the word out about how to be safe and how to access resources available for the HIV community. It seems that we are all connected to at least one person with HIV/AIDS. Giving them more tools to improve their health is a no-brainer. In this spirit, we were also promoting the new registration system on our new website, FLHIVResearch.com, which enables subscribers to receive updates automatically as studies become available for enrollment.” said Julian Corvin, volunteer from the Division of Infectious Disease.
Left to right: Angela Lloyd, Dr. Don Kurtyka, Julian Corvin, Dr. Lynette Menezes, Sharon Stiner and Brad Farrington volunteer at HIV Clinical Research Unit booth at the St. Pete Pride Festival
It’s not commonly known that a group of USF physicians are conducting HIV research at the USF HIV Clinical Research Unit, housed at the Hillsborough Health Department. For the past 13 years, the physicians and staff of the USF Division of Infectious Disease have been involved in bringing 24 HIV medications to market, including nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, non-nucleoside/non-nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, entry inhibitors, and integrase inhibitors. This unit offers the HIV community early access to new therapies and more intensive disease management. Often, the sponsoring pharmaceutical company will provide HIV medications free of charge while patient volunteers are participating in a study. Unfunded patients are accepted as well as patients with Medicare, Medicaid, Hillsborough Healthcare, and many commercial plans.
“The outcome of those with HIV has improved dramatically with newer treatments, especially in those who get diagnosed early and get care early. No longer is HIV infection a fight for life. Now the focus is on a fight for quality of life and freedom from side effects. Finally we must all advocate for increased care, increased research and development of a vaccine,” said Charurut Somboonwit, MD, Director, Clinical Research and Communicable Diseases, Hillsborough Health Department.