Researchers Explore Key Lessons from HIV Programs to Redesign Refugee Health Services

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized

Dr. Miriam Rabkin (photo credit: ASPPH)


Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr (photo credit: ASPPH)

The worldwide response to the HIV epidemic provides a standard which researchers, policymakers, and providers can use to better service those with non-communicable, chronic diseases, particularly in emergencies. In a recent study, Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and ICAP global director, and Dr. Miriam Rabkin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia and director of Health Systems Strategy at ICAP, and Fouad M. Fouad, assistant research professor of epidemiology and population health at the American University of Beirut, explored evidence-based approaches, intensive patient education, and the use of outreach workers and peer educators as potential lessons from HIV programs in order to reevaluate and redesign refugee health services.

The refugee crisis is a contemporary problem, highlighting the significance of this research. While the health needs of displaced groups have expanded in recent years, health and relief organizations have traditionally concentrated on infectious diseases, acute illness, and reproductive health. Chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, are gaining attention as a serious burden for refugees, and especially for refugees from middle-income countries, such as Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine.

According to Dr. El-Sadr, “The challenge of providing services for chronic illness in the context of displacement is a daunting one, given that a key element of effective care for NCDs is continuity – the need to deliver coordinated services over time, but evidence from HIV programs shows that continuity care can be delivered in challenging settings – including in complex humanitarian emergencies – and suggests key priorities for NCD services for forcibly displaced people.”


Brown Unviersity Develops Coding System to Characterize Topics of Patient Speech in a Motivational Intervention for Alcohol and HIV/Sexual risk in Emergency Department Patients

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized


Dr. Christopher W. Kahler (photo credit: ASPPH)

Brown University’s Dr. Christopher W. Kahler, professor and department chair of behavioral and social sciences, and colleagues developed a topic coding system and found that topic coding may be a valuable resource for counselors.

Coding patient language allows for healthcare professionals to gain insight into patient behavior. It is a way to understand the causes behind behavior change and could thus lead to more efficient and effective methods in health behavior counseling. According to the paper, behavior change counseling covers topics such as the patient’s behavior pattern, barrier and facilitators of change, and change plans. Dr. Kahler and his colleagues explore how the topics discussed in a health behavior intervention correlate to patient change language across two target behaviors: alcohol use and sex risk.

In the study, researchers used the new Generalized Behavior Intervention Analysis System (GBIAS) in coding sessions of an effective intervention that reduced both alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors. The demonstration resulted in insight that could be valuable to counselors when dealing with alcohol and sex with patients.

The study was published in Patient Education and Counseling. To read the complete paper, click here.

2016 CHAART Scientific Meeting

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized


CHAART Consortia from the 2016 Scientific Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The CHAART Scientific Meeting took place February 8-9, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The meeting was organized by the consortium to improve outcomes in HIV/AIDS, alcohol, aging, and multi-substance use  and included active participation by the NIAAA scientific staff and other CHAART members, including SHARC’s very own Robert Cook, MD, MPH, Natalie Kelso, MSW, and Eric Porges, Ph.D.


Spotlight: Alex Zirulnik, M.P.H. and Ezekial Ojewale, M.D., M.P.H.

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized


Ezekiel Ojewale and Alex Zirulnik visiting the FIU Campus


Alex Zirulnik, M.P.H. plays an important role in Southern HIV and Alcohol Research Consortium (SHARC) as the Florida Cohort research coordinator. Zirulnik grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and attended University of Florida for his higher education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Florida College of Agriculture and his Masters of Public Health, with a focus on epidemiology, from the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions. He is also certified in Public Health. Regarding his future goals, Zirulnik looks forward to attending medical school, moving out West to attend a residency in Emergency Medicine, and living a life full of adventure.

As a research coordinator, Zirulnik is very involved with the Florida Cohort project.

“I enjoy bringing together a population that often finds themselves secluded from research. [Through the project] I’ve had the opportunity to work with patients and hear their stories which has been very influential on my medical career pursuits. I also enjoy the many opportunities to collaborate with researchers all across the state of Florida.”

Alex will be leaving SHARC this summer in order to attend the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Taking over Zirulnik’s role this summer will be Ezekiel Ojewale, M.D., M.P.H. Ojewale grew up in Nigeria and left when he was 19 years old. He attended Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida, Medical University of Lublin Poland, and the University of Florida and has earned both his Medical Degree and Masters of Public Health. Ojewale looks forward to getting his residency and saving lives through the practice of medicine, while applying the skills he has acquired during his M.P.H. to better serve the population as a whole.

Ezekiel believes there is much to gain from the Florida Cohort project.

“[I enjoy] relating with people and learning new things…along the way.”

Interventions for Alcohol Use among PLWH

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized


Dr. Betsy McCaul


Dr. Geetanjali Chander

On March 31, 2016, SHARC welcomes special guests Dr. Betsy McCaul and Dr. Geetanjali Chander from Johns Hopkins University to speak about interventions for alcohol use among people living with HIV. Mary “Betsy” McCaul, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. Geetanjali Chander, M.D., is the Director of the General Internal Medicine Fellowship Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

Watch their presentation here.

Johns Hopkins performs first transplants between donors and recipients infected with HIV

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized


Dorry Segev, MD, PhD (right) Image credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine

In a groundbreaking procedure, Johns Hopkins Medicine has performed the first liver and kidney transplant from an HIV-infected donor to an HIV-infected recipient.

Associate professor of surgery and epidemiology Dorry L. Segev, M.D, Ph.D. fought tirelessly for six year to make this possible. According to the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, HIV was the only condition absolutely banned, but the Act was drawn up during a time when the AIDS epidemic was considered untreatable and indisputably fatal. Today, however, it is a manageable chronic disease.

According to research published in the American Journal of Transplantation in 2011, approximately 1,000 lives could be saved each year if the prohibition was lifted, as it would make 500 to 600 eligible donors.

“The need for organs can often be more urgent for those with HIV,” Sergev said. According to him, HIV often patients also have various other co-infections. Many have hepatitis and kidneys are needed by those who also have hypertension and diabetes or complications from HIV or the antiretroviral drugs that control the virus.

Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director for Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and people with HIV, called the transplants a “triumph of science over stigma.” According to her, “The change in law and policy to catch up with what medicine can do for people is a huge step forward,” she said. “The lives and the quality of life of hundreds will be affected every year.”

Read more about the transplant here, here, and here.

Students Binge Drink Less in Locales with More Affirmative LGBTQ School Climates

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized

New research from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Health indicates an association with the frequency of binge-drinking and LGBTQ-affirmative schools. They found that both heterosexual and gay/lesbian students report less binge alcohol consumption when the environment they live in have a high proportion of schools with programs that support LGBTQ youth.

Researchers analyzed students’ drinking behavior with data collected from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the team determined each school’s overall climate toward LGBTQ students using the School Health Profile survey. Environments were considered more affirmative if they had higher proportions of schools that have gay-straight alliances, encourage LGBTQ-related professional development workshops, and provide inclusive sexual health curricula, in addition to other programs or policies that provide supportive and accepting environments for LGBTQ students.

According to lead author Mr. Robert W.S. Coulter, a doctoral student in Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, “Schools that are more affirming of LGBTQ students may be less stressful environments or foster healthy emotional resilience for all students, thereby making them less likely to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.”

Read the full article here.

UF HSC Library Exhibit: Surviving and Thriving

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized

The University of Florida Health Science Center Libraries will host an exhibit in the library the National Library of Medicine entitled, “Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture” from May 20 – July 10, 2016.  The exhibit takes its name from the title of a book written in 1987  that focused on living with AIDS. The exhibit focuses on the experiences of people with AIDS who were critical in the political and medical fight against AIDS. The library is located in the Communicore Building on the University of Florida campus.

Several events have been planned around this exhibit, including  a presentation at the Alachua County Library District Headquarters Branch, 401 E. University Ave., in Gainesville, Fl. (In early June, Date TBA), by Dr. Tess Jones of the University of Colorado at Denver.

Information on additional events (are scheduled to be available by COB next Thursday) at

Tax alcohol, decrease gonorrhea?

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized

In 2011, Maryland increased its state alcohol taxes. Since then, gonorrhea rates have shown a 24% decrease.

UF Health researchers used data from the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System for 102 months before the tax increase and 18 months after. They compared the trends in sexually transmitted diseases to three different groups of other states –ones with similar alcohol sales methods with no tax increase, ones with similar trends in STDs, and Rhode Island to account for regional effects.

“If policymakers are looking for methods to protect young people from harmful STIs, they should consider raising alcohol taxes, which have decreased remarkably over the years due to inflation,” said Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., MSPH, an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of health outcomes and policy and the study’s lead researcher.

Prior studies have shown that increases in alcohol taxes decrease alcohol consumption this consequently reduces risky sexual behavior. In 2014, the rate of infection from gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis increased substantially nationwide, and young people accounted for nearly two-thirds of the cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia. This UF Health study is one of the first to quantify the effect of alcohol taxes on the rate of sexually transmitted infections.

Read the full article by Elizabeth Hillaker Downsfrom The Post here.


Columbia Grand Rounds Features U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Maryann Zacharias Uncategorized

On Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health will host Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, MD, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy as part of the school’s March Grand Rounds event. Dr. Birx will speak on Global Health, HIV, and Health Systems.

Ambassador Birx oversees the implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), as well as all U.S. Government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Throughout her career, Dr. Birx has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. Read more about Dr. Birx here.

The lecture is open to the public and also broadcast live online. Participate using #FuturePublicHealth on Twitter. For more information on this talk and others, visit: Grand Rounds 2015-16.