NIH Announces Recipient of New Avant-Garde Award for Innovative Research in HIV/AIDS to Renowned Canadian Scientist Dr. Julio Montaner

Vancouver, September 5, 2008 — The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced that Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), at Providence Health Care and UBC, adjunct professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, and President of the International AIDS Society (IAS), is the first Canadian recipient of its inaugural Avant-Garde Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) consisting of $500,000 per year for five years.

Intended on stimulating high-impact research, the awards have been given to researchers whose groundbreaking work may lead to innovations for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug users. Dr. Montaner’s research will be focused on the evaluation of the effectiveness of expanded access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in decreasing new cases of HIV infection among injection drug users.

“I am honoured to have been chosen for this prestigious award. NIDA should be commended for their leadership in supporting progressive research in the fight against HIV/AIDS in this highly vulnerable population,” said Dr. Montaner.

HAART has led to a dramatic decrease in morbidity and mortality among individuals infected with HIV, and international guidelines widely recommend that HAART be used before overt immune deficiency is apparent. HAART decreases the levels of HIV in blood to below 50 copies/mL – which in turn can decrease the risk of HIV transmission.

Montaner continued, “I am particularly pleased to have secured this funding to further support our research efforts for IDU’s, an often neglected, hard to reach population. The funding from the Avant-Garde Award will be directly earmarked for research related to the advancement of the Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) proposal.”

The STOP HIV/AIDS proposal will recruit HIV infected individuals who are medically eligible for antiretroviral therapy (based on current guidelines), but who are currently not accessing therapy or are unaware of their HIV infection status. The durability of the effect of HAART expansion on HIV incidence will be further evaluated over a six year period.
For addition information or for interview requests, please contact Stephen Burega, media relations, 604-506-3734 (c), sburega@cfenet.ubc.ca

About the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Founded in 1992 by St. Paul’s Hospital and the provincial Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is a key provincial resource seeking to improve the health of people with HIV through the development, ongoing monitoring and dissemination of comprehensive investigative and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases. St. Paul’s Hospital is one of seven care facilities operated by Providence Health Care, Canada’s largest faith-based health care organization.