Two professors at Memorial University are co-chairing an upcoming Canadian conference on HIV/AIDS research.
Dr. Debbie Kelly, School of Pharmacy, and Dr. Michael Grant, Faculty of Medicine, will co-chair the event in St. Johns from May 1-4.
Although HIV/AIDS is no longer considered a life-threatening illness, public awareness about the associated risks is still vital, if for different reasons.
While the language of cure is being discussed for the first time in the context of HIV, we are still a long way from reaching a cure, said Dr. Kelly.
The 23rd Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research, as hosted by the Canadian Association for HIV Research (CAHR) is the premier gathering in Canada for those working in all disciplines of HIV/AIDS research, as well as policy-makers, individuals living with HIV and others committed to ending the pandemic.
The conference, themed Turning the Tide on HIV, will address new research outcomes, honour new investigators and explore some of the wider issues related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
There will be a special session on the last day of the conference addressing access to testing and treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Kelly said. The session will include the unveiling of key findings from new provincial research conducted by the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador (ACNL) on injection drug use, and discuss local access and barriers to HIV and HCV (hepatitis C) testing.
Dr. Kelly was recently elected for a second term on the board of directors with ACNL. She has also recently applied for funding to explore a new way to administer HIV tests in the province.
Dr. Shabnam Asghari of the Faculty of Medicine and I are hoping to launch a study that will examine the feasibility of providing rapid, point-of-care testing for HIV, she explained. Currently, people can only be tested for HIV through traditional routes like their family doctors, hospitals, sexual health clinics or an HIV/AIDS clinic. Point-of-care testing would allow such services to be offered through community pharmacies and ACNLs Safe Works Access Program, which handles a needle distribution service and provides harm-reduction education.
Dr. Kelly believes the likely benefits of community-based testing are for people who otherwise encounter barriers to health care.
Some patients might not have a family doctor, or they may lack the transportation required to access a testing facility. So were really hoping to be able to overcome some of those barriers and make testing more accessible to the public.