Local Foundation Awards Grant to Help Children Infected With HIV

The Campbell Foundation, based in Fort Lauderdale, recently awarded a grant to yet another worthy cause to research HIV/AIDS.

The foundation awarded $48,900 to Dr. Sahera Dirajlal-Fargo for her research on young patients with HIV, namely the inflammation of the lining of their blood vessels. She is a physician at the in the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

According to the CDC, in 2009, there were 10,834 people with HIV/AIDS younger than 13 years old in the United States. Thankfully, while the number of women with HIV giving birth has increased, with proper diagnosis and treatment, the number of babies contracting the virus from their mothers has decreased.

Unfortunately, the numbers for HIV positive children is much higher around the world -- the majority live in Sub Saharan Africa. According to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, more than 600 children are newly infected with the disease every single day. Ninety percent of them contract it from their mothers during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Without treatment, most of them won’t live to turn 5.

However, as they live longer, they’ll be spending decades taking drugs that can do damage to their bodies.

They’re going to have to be on these drugs a lot longer than their adult counterparts,” Ken Rapkin, program officer at the Campbell Foundation, said of pediatric patients. “While the drugs are making people live longer, they’re getting these comorbidities and a lot of it is cardiovascular.”

With children growing into adulthood with the disease, Dr. Dirajlal-Fargo wants to better understand the impact of the medications they are taking for such a long time. Inflammation in the blood vessels has been a major issue. With the grant money, she hopes to determine whether markers of inflammation in young HIV-positive patients is linked to markers of cardiovascular risk and insulin resistance.

“It is imperative that we evaluate children and adolescents’ risk of developing these diseases,” Dr. Dirajlal-Fargo said in a press release.

While the doctor has looked at 10 cases, for better research she requires a larger sample. She will be following 50 HIV positive children, matched in age and gender to HIV negative children to compare changes over time.

“We know all this stuff about adults, but what about children? They’re not just little adults,” Rapkin said.

As per the requirements of the grant, Dr. Dirajlal-Fargo will report back to the Campbell Foundation with her findings and also provide updates on her study.

Since The Campbell Foundation’s inception in 1995 it has given more than $10 million in funding with $1 million given to direct service organizations. The foundation’s mission is to support nonprofit organizations conducting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and related conditions and illnesses.

In addition to the above grant the foundation recently announced its end of year giving to 10 local organizations including Broward House, Care Resource, FoundCare (formerly CAP), Latinos Salud, Poverello Center, and Tuesday's Angels. Each organization will receive $5,000.

Visit CampbellFoundation.net for more information about their work.


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