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Susan Allen: confronting HIV in Africa. Interview by Hema Bashyam.

Allen S - J. Exp. Med. (2008)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

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But in 1988, Susan Allen, then a researcher at UCSF, made a startling discovery... While tracking HIV in pregnant Rwandan women, Allen found that 14% of her 1,500 research subjects did not share the same HIV status as their partners... To Allen, this discordance made these women and their partners an ideal cohort both to understand the factors that determine virus transmission and to identify strategies to prevent it... Allen's progress came to a brutal stop during the Rwandan genocide... He offered to write me a letter of introduction to the Rwandan Ministry of Health if I could find the funding to set up a diagnostic laboratory in Kigali. 18 months later, I landed in Kigali with seed money from UCSF and the state of California. …Because one doesn't learn very much about tropical medicine during medical school in the US, I did a three-month intensive course in this subject at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK... But the press coverage of these bloated numbers set off a panic, which can be very destabilizing to African governments that are already just hanging on by a thread... The Rwandan officials did not want any discussion of HIV because they thought it would kill foreign investment and scare off the tourists who came to see mountain gorillas—an industry that constituted a significant part of the economy... I made concessions such as calling my program “Project San Francisco” because it wouldn't do me any good to put up a sign that said “Project HIV. ” Scientists working elsewhere in Africa were also under the same kind of pressure from other governments and were prevented from publishing... We finally got to the point where our funding was threatened because the NIH and other agencies demanded to see results... When we set up Project San Francisco to counsel the women who were coming in to be tested, I sat in on the first 700 or so counseling sessions to get a feeling of what these women were able to grasp from what we were telling them about how to protect themselves from HIV or how to prevent its transmission... Basically, everyone is vulnerable, and everyone who gets infected is contagious to some degree... Our collaborators have identified HLA types that are associated with being contagious or being vulnerable... So we are uncovering risk factors for HIV infection and ways to prevent the spread of HIV, but there is a lot more left to learn.

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HIV-discordant couples are counseled at an HIV testing center.
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fig2: HIV-discordant couples are counseled at an HIV testing center.


Susan Allen: confronting HIV in Africa. Interview by Hema Bashyam.

Allen S - J. Exp. Med. (2008)

HIV-discordant couples are counseled at an HIV testing center.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2373832&req=5

fig2: HIV-discordant couples are counseled at an HIV testing center.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

But in 1988, Susan Allen, then a researcher at UCSF, made a startling discovery... While tracking HIV in pregnant Rwandan women, Allen found that 14% of her 1,500 research subjects did not share the same HIV status as their partners... To Allen, this discordance made these women and their partners an ideal cohort both to understand the factors that determine virus transmission and to identify strategies to prevent it... Allen's progress came to a brutal stop during the Rwandan genocide... He offered to write me a letter of introduction to the Rwandan Ministry of Health if I could find the funding to set up a diagnostic laboratory in Kigali. 18 months later, I landed in Kigali with seed money from UCSF and the state of California. …Because one doesn't learn very much about tropical medicine during medical school in the US, I did a three-month intensive course in this subject at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK... But the press coverage of these bloated numbers set off a panic, which can be very destabilizing to African governments that are already just hanging on by a thread... The Rwandan officials did not want any discussion of HIV because they thought it would kill foreign investment and scare off the tourists who came to see mountain gorillas—an industry that constituted a significant part of the economy... I made concessions such as calling my program “Project San Francisco” because it wouldn't do me any good to put up a sign that said “Project HIV. ” Scientists working elsewhere in Africa were also under the same kind of pressure from other governments and were prevented from publishing... We finally got to the point where our funding was threatened because the NIH and other agencies demanded to see results... When we set up Project San Francisco to counsel the women who were coming in to be tested, I sat in on the first 700 or so counseling sessions to get a feeling of what these women were able to grasp from what we were telling them about how to protect themselves from HIV or how to prevent its transmission... Basically, everyone is vulnerable, and everyone who gets infected is contagious to some degree... Our collaborators have identified HLA types that are associated with being contagious or being vulnerable... So we are uncovering risk factors for HIV infection and ways to prevent the spread of HIV, but there is a lot more left to learn.

Show MeSH