Today the U.S. Department of State’s Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), announced plans to award grants totaling up to $7.5 million over the next two years to advance efforts to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their newborn children. The funds will support implementation science projects to inform the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as it continues to implement programs for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health have also provided co-funding for some of the grants.
Improved effectiveness of PMTCT programs, including life-saving antiretroviral therapy for pregnant HIV-infected women who require treatment for their own health, is a high priority for PEPFAR. Implementation science is critical to ensure that evidence-based and scalable interventions address current barriers to effective PMTCT programs. The results from successful operational and implementation science research are essential to improved program and health system performance.
PEPFAR is supporting countries to achieve the goal of eliminating new pediatric HIV infections by 2015 while keeping mothers alive. Great strides have been made in the development of highly effective interventions for PMTCT, yet further studies are needed to reduce the barriers which remain in order to deliver these interventions in resource-limited settings.
These funds will support nine implementation science awards to address a wide variety of topics. These include: optimizing integrated PMTCT services; increasing uptake and retention of PMTCT services; facilitating HIV testing and education of male partners; examining the effect of ‘buddy’ systems to help mothers adhere to feeding guidelines; comparing cost-effectiveness of faith-based- and clinic-based approaches; closing the gaps in early infant diagnosis; and measuring the impact of PMTCT programs on maternal and infant health outcomes. These studies link directly to programs, researchers and institutions in seven countries receiving PEPFAR support. In addition, the Center for Global Health Studies at NIH’s Fogarty International Center will organize bi-annual meetings as a forum for a network of funded researchers, key collaborators, and PMTCT implementers to exchange information as the research progresses.
These studies will support PEPFAR’s focus on using scientific evidence to inform policy and programs. Data gathered through these evaluations will also help maximize the impact of investments globally, contributing to the goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation.
For additional information, visit www.pepfar.gov.