A study examining whether treatment of herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) lowers risk of becoming HIV-infected among women in Tanzania resulted in no difference in HIV infections. But did the trial take into account the issues of adherence to treatment that may have skewed results? Male circumcision may reduce transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, but does this knowledge raise the chances that a circumcised man will increase risky sexual behavior?
These questions at the intersection of the biological and behavioral sciences are the sort that Kathleen Sikkema, director of the new Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) Core at Duke’s Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) wants to tackle.
"Social and behavioral science research informs the development HIV prevention efforts, provides the foundation for determining the effectiveness of prevention and mental health interventions, and is essential for understanding the impact and implementation of behavioral and biomedical advances in community based settings," says Sikkema. "Social and behavioral science is critical for a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS research."
The new core offers the following services:
- Facilitation and development of HIV SBS research, including consultations on measure selection, intervention trial methods, and structural and policy research
- Facilitation of interdisciplinary and bio-behavioral research, including consultation to foster use of biological outcomes in behavioral trials and include the role of behavior in biomedical trials
- Networking, mentoring and capacity building opportunities for new SBS investigators
- Promoting and enhancing collaborative community-based research
The new core officially launched in July, 2007, and was introduced at the Fall CFAR Retreat September 13.
"One of our priorities is to complete a University-wide assessment of those working on research projects that already involve AIDS and SBS, those that could benefit from this interdisciplinary way of looking at research, and to interest SBS researchers in expanding their work to HIV/AIDS. We encourage anyone who has a research project that they believe might be of interest to contact us," says Sikkema.
For more information, contact: Jacob J. van den Berg, HIV Research Project Coordinator () or Kathleen J. Sikkema, Professor and Core Director (). Information about CFAR available at http://cfar.duke.edu.