Developing effective HIV prevention and intervention programs in the most affected communities is a challenge globally as well as locally. Itâ€™s also a challenge that Emory infectious disease specialist Carlos del Rio, MD, is addressing as newly appointed chair of the Rollins School of Public Healthâ€™s Hubert Department of Global Health.
Del Rio is uniquely equipped to address HIV prevention and intervention. As the former chief of medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlantaâ€™s safety-net hospital, he witnessed firsthand patients affected by the disease. He says there ought to be incentives for people to stay healthy instead of barriers to staying healthy.
More daunting for del Rio is preventing disease on a global scale, much of which rests on changing unhealthy behaviors related to diet, exercise, smoking, and sex. He says we know very little about how to implement population-wide behavior change, and we need to learn more.
Del Rio says growing human capital to strengthen research capacity in resource-constrained countries is also key. Since 1998, the NIH/Fogarty International Center has funded the Emory AIDS Training and Research Program (AITRP) to build capacity in Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, Ethiopia, Mexico, Rwanda, Vietnam and Zambia. Led by del Rio, AITRP brings a select group of young scientists to Emory each year for advanced training. Emory faculty also train and mentor scientists in these countries.
The training program has opened avenues to improving health. In Ethiopia, del Rio helped expand HIV testing among the police force and bring antiretroviral therapy into the community for people living with HIV.
In the Republic of Georgia, the Emory AITRP and the Emory-Georgia Tuberculosis Research Training Program, another NIH/Fogarty program led by RSPH adjunct faculty member and Emory School of Medicine professorÂ Henry Blumberg, MD, has helped build research capacity in HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis research.