Midwest Center for AIDS Research to Open in September

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The St. Louis-based center will serve as a base where researchers and public health experts can fight the HIV epidemic together.

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A new HIV research center is coming to St. Louis, thanks to a collaboration between researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Saint Louis University. The Midwest Developmental Center for AIDS Research will open in September with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), making it the 20th Center for AIDS Research site in the United States, according to a Eureka Alert! news release published last week.

HIV cases and death rates in Missouri have not improved since 2017, likely due to a lack of awareness and resources. Nearly 500 people in the state are diagnosed every year and about 200 die, meaning most are diagnosed late in the disease, which makes treatment complicated since immune cells have started to die off.

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 220 U.S. counties at high risk for HIV. Missouri counties accounted for 13 spots on the list.

“There’s a public perception that we’re on the other side of the HIV epidemic,” Elvin Geng, MD, a Washington University professor of medicine who will direct the new center said in the news release. “St. Louis continues to have a significant HIV epidemic. One problem we face here in St. Louis is that the scientific and public health communities are strong but siloed. The goal of this center is to break down those siloes so we can all work together more effectively to end the HIV epidemic in the region.”

The center will support research at all levels, including laboratory experiments and community programs such as:

  • Show Me the Response, an annual regional research symposium.
  • Partner Pilot Awards, for research teams co-led by investigators from traditional research universities and non-research organizations.
  • City of St. Louis Department of Health internship opportunities for students from Harris-Stowe State University, a historically Black university.

The center will also participate in the STAR (Stimulating Training and Access to HIV Research Experiences) program, a yearlong program for undergraduate and graduate students looking to become the next generation of HIV researchers.

The priority for the center is treating those in St. Louis with long-term goals to expand into the surrounding rural areas.

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