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HIV is now a manageable disease that can be kept in check with medicine. But people living with HIV are at a higher-than-normal risk of having other illnesses. One of the comorbidities linked with is cardiovascular disease.  

In fact, people living with cardiovascular disease are up to two times more likely to experience heart disease and stroke compared to people not infected with the virus.

That’s why The Campbell Foundation has awarded a $90,000 grant to a pair of researchers investigating why cardiovascular disease (CVD) is significantly more prevalent among people living with HIV than among those in the general population.

“This grant amount is in line with all of the other grants we have given to researchers over our 26-year history,” said Ken Rapkin, Executive Director of The Campbell Foundation. “Most grant funding is between $60,000 to $100,000. The foundation also has co-founded and provided partial funding for more costly research projects. Recipients request a specific amount of money, and we make our grant decisions based on recommendations from our scientific peer review board. It is a rigorous process; on par with the grant evaluations conducted by the National Institutes of Health. Our peer review board is made up of highly qualified, scientific researchers who review requests, vet the science and determine whether it has scientific merit.”

The recipients are Teresa H. Evering, MD MSc, an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Jonathan N. Tobin, Ph.D., a cardiovascular epidemiologist, President/CEO at Clinical Directors Network (CDN), a practice-based research network, and Senior Epidemiologist at The Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

In addition to looking at cardiovascular risk, Evering and Tobin also plan to explore the relationship between these two measures of inflammation and the brain’s blood vessels for the first time in people living with HIV. Their research will look at large data sets of people from New York City, including underserved and low-income people.

“The study we are funding here at Cornell/CDN is a 'big data' study which hopefully will be able to identify those most at risk for serious cardiovascular and neurological issues that affect those living with HIV,” Rapkin said. “We realized long ago that until there is a cure, we must be a proactive funder of projects that alleviate some of the comorbidities that come along with HIV/AIDS.”

While this study is happening more than a thousand miles away, people worldwide, including those here in South Florida, will feel the benefits of the study.

“All people living with HIV are at higher risk for cardiovascular events and neurological outcomes,” Rapkin said. “These comorbidities are among those impacting the HIV-positive population worldwide. If researchers can find ways to detect problems early on in one geographic region, it will benefit everyone living with HIV. As South Florida remains the epicenter of new HIV infections annually, it is imperative that we have therapies and methods to help avert these issues when possible.”