July 13, 2011

Global Health's Connie Celum selected for American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association Achievement Award

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. Connie Celum

Dr. Connie Celum

The award was given July 13 at the 19th International Society for STD Research conference in Quebec City, Canada.

Celums research focus is HIV epidemiology and HIV prevention trials. Her current studies are on antiretroviral-based pre-exposure prophylaxis of HIV and delivery and evaluation of evidence-based combination HIV prevention.  Celum is the director of the UWs International Clinical Research Center, which is conducting multiple clinical trials of HIV prevention interventions in Africa involving thousands of volunteers.

Celum was the principal investigator of two recently completed landmark trials, which looked at suppressing herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) as a means of preventing HIV acquisition in HIV-negative persons, and suppressing HSV-2 in serodiscordant partners (in which one partner has HIV and the other did not have HIV) in order to reduce HIV transmission and disease progression. The two HSV-2/HIV trials were conducted in 20 sites in the United States, Peru, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Celum and her colleagues also used data from the study of herpes suppression among African HIV serodiscordant couples to examine whether antiretroviral therapy reduced HIV acquisition.  Among the 10 percent of the 3,400 HIV-infected partners who met national guidelines for initiation of antiretrovirals, they found a 92 percent reduction in transmission among those who started therapy compared with those who did not.  These results, published in the May 28, 2010, issue of The Lancet, contributed strong evidence that antiretrovirals can have a substantial impact by preventing HIV transmission.

Celum is also the principal investigator of an ongoing trial of providing antiretroviral prophylaxis among 4,758 HIV serodiscordant couples in nine sites in Kenya and Uganda to prevent the HIV-negative partner from becoming HIV infected. The study is fully enrolled and is anticipated to be completed in 2012.

In recognition that no single strategy will be fully protective, Celum is leading a collaborative effort to develop and evaluate a combination HIV prevention package in Uganda and South Africa. The program is using the platform of home-based HIV testing with facilitated linkages to male circumcision, antiretroviral therapy, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

“Connie embodies so much of what many strive for when they design and conduct studies that inform the future of HIV and STD prevention: vision, persistence, impeccable scientific integrity, and a commitment to the teams on the ground and to her trainees to meaningfully involve them at every step,” said Dr. Jeanne Marazzo, UW professor of medicine and ASTDA president. “Shes a true inspiration and I hope to learn from her for decades to come.”

Dr. Judy Wasserheit, vice chair of the UW Department of Global Health, said insights from Celums research have begun to reshape our understanding of the interactions between HIV and HSV-2 infection, and continue to play a critical role in evidence-based HIV prevention programs and policy.

“As is clear from the breadth and quality of Connies contributions to HIV and STD prevention, she is an indomitable force of nature – one that combines scientific rigor, perseverance, empathy, a commitment to help others excel, and a sense of humor,” said Wasserheit.

The American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association (ASTDA) is an organization devoted to the control and study of sexually transmitted diseases.