International HIV symposium comes to Birmingham

By Alicia Rohan

The University of Alabama at Birmingham will host the Inter-Center for AIDS Research Symposium on Dec. 6-7
The University of Alabama at Birmingham will host the Inter-Center for AIDS Research Symposium on Dec. 6-7 (Provided photo)

Researchers and advocates from around the world will gather at the University of Alabama at Birmingham for the Inter-Center for AIDS Research Symposium on Dec. 6-7 to explore cutting-edge research focused on HIV and its effect on women.

“We aim to identify gaps in knowledge related to HIV research and women,” said Donna Porter, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Division of Infectious Diseases and administrative director for UAB CFAR. “Further, those attending will develop strategies for future research to move the field forward, generate collaborative research among the 18 national CFARs and with other research networks, and promote and emphasize opportunities for young investigators.”

The international symposium highlights three areas of focus: vulnerable populations, microbiome in HIV-infected women and its impact, and HIV Continuum of Care across the lifespan of women.

Mirjam-Colette Kempf, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Nursing, serves as chair of the symposium under the Inter-CFAR HIV & Women in Research Executive Committee. Michael Saag, M.D., associate dean for Global Health in the UAB School of Medicine, will open the conference.

This year’s symposium, which is held biannually at various Centers for AIDS Research across the country, will be held in conjunction with the annual Women’s Interagency HIV Study executive committee meeting. Saag and Kempf serve as co-principal investigators for the collaborative WIHS site between UAB and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Mary Fisher, an American political activist, author and artist, will give the keynote address. After contracting HIV in 1991, Fisher became an outspoken activist for HIV/AIDS prevention and education and for compassionate treatment of people with HIV and AIDS. Fisher serves on the UAB School of Medicine Board of Visitors.

A community panel discussion of real-world experiences will feature consumers, women’s health advocates and community stakeholders. The symposium offers opportunities for informal networking between junior and senior investigators in the field during an evening poster presentation and dinner Dec. 6. Mentoring sessions will highlight grant preparation with a focus on utilizing existing HIV cohorts, careers in global health and working with highly stigmatized groups.

“Current areas of research related to HIV and women will be addressed at both a domestic and international level,” Kempf said. “With the HIV epidemic among women being most prevalent in the Deep South, UAB CFAR is hoping to bring more attention to the local and global plight of women in this epidemic.”

The NIH Support for Scientific Conferences from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded funding for the conference to Porter, who serves as principal investigator.