July 24, 2019

Major grant renews AIDS education, training initiative

VUMC has been awarded a five-year, nearly $23 million federal grant to continue coordinating AIDS education and training efforts in Tennessee and seven other southeastern states.


by Bill Snyder

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a five-year, nearly $23 million federal grant to continue the coordination of AIDS education and training efforts in Tennessee and seven other southeastern states.

The Southeast AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) coordinates HIV/AIDS education efforts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina as well as Tennessee. Since 2015 the center has been based in the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Clinic (CCC) at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

The Southeast center is one of eight AETCs within the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“HIV treatment has advanced enormously in the last 20 years, but there is still a great need in keeping clinicians and care providers updated on the latest treatment options,” said Stephen Raffanti, MD, MPH, medical director of the CCC and professor of Medicine in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“In the South there is also a need to expand access to HIV-related care through the transformation of primary care centers into centers where screening and testing for HIV infection, preventive services for uninfected patients at risk and treatment of uncomplicated HIV infection becomes the standard of care.

“This grant allows us to help facilitate the training that could lead to the end of the HIV epidemic in the region,” Raffanti said.

Despite advances in treatment and widespread education efforts, nearly 39,000 people become newly infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the United States every year, according to the federal government. At greatest risk: African American and Latino gay and bisexual men.

More than half of the new HIV diagnoses reported in 2017 — nearly 20,000 cases — were from the South, which has the nation’s highest rate of new infections and the lowest three-year survival rate. Barriers to care include underfunded resources, geographic isolation, poverty, stigma and the opioid epidemic.

“Renewing this federal support allows Dr. Raffanti and this highly talented team of medical educators to improve the care of persons living with HIV,” said David Aronoff, MD, the Addison B. Scoville Jr. Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

“I am extremely proud of the work that the Vanderbilt AETC team has accomplished since becoming the coordinating site of the Southeast AETC,” Aronoff said. “I look forward to the next five years being productive and transformative, as we lead the fight against HIV and AIDS.”

Initially based at Emory University in Atlanta, the Southeast AETC moved to the Vanderbilt CCC in 2015, funded by a four-year, $16 million HRSA grant.

Much of the renewal grant, along with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will go toward providing patient-centered and inter-professional training to HIV clinics, with a special focus on minority providers and those serving minority patients.

Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta will lead the Minority AIDS Initiative and work with historically black colleges and universities to increase HIV screening and testing in student health centers. New training will be developed to help providers serve patients with opioid use disorder.

Other partners are the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Medical Advocacy and Outreach of Montgomery, the University of Miami, University of Florida, Duke University, University of Kentucky, University of Mississippi Medical Center, the University of North Carolina and the University of South Carolina.

Collaborating institutions include Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt, the Vanderbilt Program in Interprofessional Learning, the Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy at VUMC, and the VUMC Learning Exchange.

Formerly known as the Comprehensive Care Center, the CCC has provided care to patients with HIV/AIDS in Nashville for 25 years. It opened near Centennial Park in February 1994, thanks to a community-wide effort led by Raffanti.

The clinic was renamed when it moved to Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks in 2010.