Messages from the NIDA HRP Team

We welcome those interested in NIDA’s HIV research. Watch this space for messages from the HRP scientific leadership team on interesting new findings in the field as well as funding opportunities from NIDA.

December 2021

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    December 1, 2021: World AIDS Day is a great time to reflect on the accomplishments of NIDA’s HIV Research Program for the past year. Our scientific community moved forward with energy and innovation, despite the continuing challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. First, our big news this year was our name change; we are now the HIV Research Program, replacing “AIDS” with “HIV” to reduce stigmatizing language and better reflect the evolving scientific focus on the virus itself.  This past spring, NIDA- funded scientists discovered yet another link at the intersection of HIV and substance use with research findings that confirmed methamphetamine use is associated with the failure of viral suppression among sexual-minority men on ART, underscoring the importance of considering HIV status when conducting research into substance use prevention and treatment. Midyear, NIDA-funded scientists also launched a clinical trial in five American cities delivering integrated HIV-related health services through mobile clinics. In addition, we saw the publication of a NIDA-funded study suggesting that the initiation of buprenorphine treatment in people with HIV increases the probability of viral suppression after accounting for both measured and unmeasured confounders. There are just a few of our scientific accomplishments this year.

    Throughout the year and into the next, NIDA continues to offer innovative funding opportunities for a host of talented researchers, including a Notice of Special Interest in epidemiological investigations to quantify the impact of  the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV prevention, incidence, transmission, and outcomes.

    This year we received an unprecedented amount of applications for our Avenir and Avant-Garde Awards, and look forward to a robust year of scientific discovery in 2022.  As always, check the HIV Research Program website for ongoing funding opportunities. Information and links to these various projects and more accomplishments and opportunities can be found in our newly updated HIV Research Program historical timelines.  With the second largest HIV portfolio at NIH (next to NIAID), NIDA is grateful and proud to be part of the many scientific efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the United States and around the world.

    Redonna Chandler, HRP Director
    Vasundhara Varthakavi, HRP Associate Director

November 2021

  • November 29, 2021: HIV mentors are in a unique position to identify and address factors that may lead to fellow mentees leaving their fields---critically important input with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting almost all sectors of academic training. In a recent study, NIDA-funded researchers used an online data collection platform to cross-sectionally query previously-trained HIV mentors on the challenges related to mentoring during the pandemic, and asked them to identify the surprising/positive aspects. Respondents reported challenges related to relationship building/maintenance, disruptions in mentees' training and research progress, and mentee and mentor distress, with particular concerns regarding mentees who are parents or from underrepresented minority backgrounds. Positive/surprising aspects included logistical ease of remote mentoring, mentee resilience and gratitude, and increased enjoyment of mentoring.
  • November 15, 2021: Results from a NIDA-funded study published in AIDS and Behavior in November 2021 suggests that internalized HIV stigma is significantly associated with stress and symptoms of depression, and enacted stigma is linked to stimulant use nearly a year later. Scientists used the Stigma and Substance Use Process Model to evaluate how HIV stigma impacts mental health outcomes among sexual minority men with HIV, with findings highlighting the need for tailored interventions targeting stigma and mental health in this population.

October 2021

  • October 29, 2021: See a recent study on how racism is associated with distrust of the healthcare system. This study looked at attitudes of Black and Latino young men who have sex with men, who often experience overlapping forms of stigma associated with their racial and sexual identities.  Analyzing data from the 2017-2018 waves of the Healthy Young Men's study, scientists found that this overlapping stigma was associated with healthcare system distrust, discouraging care- seeking.  The authors conclude that efforts to strengthen healthcare system trust should explicitly target the policies that disproportionately harm people of color.
  • October 5, 2021: NIDA officials published an analysis in JAMA Psychiatry on the rise in overdose deaths involving methamphetamine, which nearly tripled from 2015 to 2019 among people ages 18-64. Methamphetamine use has been linked to HIV transmission, as infectious diseases can spread by sharing injection equipment and through heightened unprotected sexual activity that is often associated with its use. In addition to the increase in overdose deaths, the data show that people reporting frequent methamphetamine use (100 days or more per year) rose by 66% between 2015 and 2019, and people reporting the use of methamphetamine and cocaine together increased by 60% during this period. The researchers found that from 2015 to 2019, the number of overdose deaths involving psychostimulant drugs other than cocaine, (largely methamphetamine), rose from 5,526 to 15,489, a 180% increase.

September 2021

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    HIV Research Program
    September 30, 2021: We are pleased to announce that NIDA is renaming the AIDS Research Program (ARP) to the NIDA HIV Research Program (HRP) to better characterize our scientific investment at the intersection of HIV and substance use disorders. The name change aligns our HIV related science with less stigmatizing language, and reflects more contemporary HIV research and management approaches and priorities.  When the ARP program began in 2004, science had only just begun developing improved antiretroviral medications that have transformed HIV from a fatal disease into a manageable and livable condition. NIDA’s HIV research portfolio continues to be the second largest at NIH (after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and is committed to reducing the stigma that reduces access to care, and can harm mental health. While the name has changed, the mission continues. We will continue to support a wide range of studies, from the basic science of HIV pathogenesis and the immune response in the presence of addictive substances to research on new pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) products among people who use drugs. You can read more about this name change in this blog  from NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow.
  • September 22, 2021: Please note that we have discontinued RFA-DA-18-022: Advancing Exceptional Research on HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse (R01, Clinical Trial Optional). The PAS-18-915 has recently been reissued as RFA-DA-22-040: High Priority HIV and Substance Use Research (R01 Clinical Trial Optional) with the first application due date in February 2022.  The purpose of this Funding Opportunity is to support high priority research at the intersection of HIV and substance use. We invite innovative research projects with the potential to open new areas of HIV/AIDS research and/or lead to new avenues for prevention, treatment and cure of HIV among people who use drugs.

August 2021

  • August 27, 2021: See the new NIH funding opportunity that promotes research into HIV and women. American Women: Assessing Risk Epidemiologically (AWARE) (R01 Clinical Trial Optional) supports research that combines epidemiologic methods, digital technology, and data science approaches to better understand HIV prevention, transmission, and early care-cascade points for women living in the US. Findings should not only lead to a better understanding of how women remain vulnerable to HIV but also inform future pilot interventions aimed at decreasing the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among cisgender, transgender, and gender non-conforming women.
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    Presentation by Dr. Redonna Chandler
    View webinar
    August 13, 2021: At the July Ending the HIV Epidemic Quarterly Stakeholder Webinar, NIDA HRP Director Dr. Redonna Chandler discussed more than 30 years of research demonstrating that syringe service programs are safe, cost-effective, and prevent infectious disease outbreaks including HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
  • August 9, 2021: To determine which approaches best meet the dual objectives of improving population health and reducing racial or ethnic health disparities within the HIV epidemic, NIDA-funded investigators used measures of health equity to estimate the cost-effectiveness and epidemiological impact of two combination implementation approaches. Findings suggest that equity-focused HIV combination implementation strategies that reduce disparities for Black and Hispanic or Latinx individuals can significantly improve population health, reduce costs, and drive progress towards Ending the HIV Epidemic goals in the USA. Lancet HIV August 6, 2021 Improving health equity and ending the HIV epidemic in the USA: a distributional cost-effectiveness analysis in six cities  Quan et al.
  • August 9, 2021: Seeking to better understand the trajectories of infectious complications of injection drug use, NIDA-funded researchers examined temporal patterns in infectious diseases and their association with HIV cases in Lawrence and Lowell, Mass., between 2005 and 2018. They discovered that current-month HIV counts are associated with fatal overdoses approximately 8 months prior, cases of infective endocarditis 10 months prior, and cases of skin and soft tissue infections and incision and drainage procedures associated with these infections 12 months prior. Investigators suggest that collecting data on these other complications associated with injection drug use may alert public health systems to interventions needed to avert potential outbreaks of HIV. Open Forum Infect Dis. eCollection 2021 Jun., The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases Associated With Injection Drug Use in Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts, Gregg S Gonsalves.

July 2021

  • July 26, 2021: A review article in the New England Journal of Medicine reminds us that high rates of Substance Use Among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) must be viewed in the context of differences in demographic characteristics, types of substances used, and patterns of use. The review, authored in part by NIDA Deputy Director Wilson Compton, found that bisexual MSM have higher rates of substance use and substance use disorders than other subgroups of MSM, and higher rates than heterosexual men. Use of methamphetamine, nitrite inhalants, and other drugs as part of sexual encounters in this population contributes to the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The authors underscore that clinicians should operate within an established framework of stigma-free and trauma-informed care for MSM who use substances.
  • July 21, 2021: Research suggests interest in use of PrEP in rural settings - NIDA-funded research suggests that both oral and injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have the potential to fill HIV prevention gaps for people who inject drugs (PWID) in rural settings. Survey findings among PWID in West Virginia, where an HIV outbreak is currently underway, showed that only 30% had heard of PrEP, and even fewer (3.7%) had used it. However, more than half were interested, including in PrEP injections. Making PrEP more widely available to people who use and inject drugs in West Virginia could be a powerful tool to address the HIV outbreak.  
  • July 13, 2021: The NIDA funded study The Effect of Buprenorphine on HIV Viral Suppression suggests that initiation of buprenorphine in people with HIV increases the probability of viral suppression after accounting for both measured and unmeasured confounders. Investigators recommend increasing access to buprenorphine for people with HIV in HIV settings to improve treatment outcomes by training providers and addressing provider, system, and policy level barriers to adoption of buprenorphine.

June 2021

  • June 30, 2021: Findings from a longitudinal cohort study highlight the need for rapid ART initiation and adherence support among people who inject drugs within Asian settings. This unique look at injection drug use in the Asia-Pacific region underscores the need for policies enhancing HIV management, adherence support, along with prevention and harm reduction services tailored for the needs of this population group. The study was funded partly by NIDA with other NIH partners, and appears in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.
  • June 22, 2021: National HIV Testing Day is this Sunday, June 27th - A day to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status and get linked to care and treatment. Started in 1995, this year’s theme is “My Test, My Way” to emphasize there are different ways and places to get tested, including home with a self-test. Learn more at
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    Blue and white health clinic vehicle for the NIH-funded INTEGRA study.
    Image Courtesy of LifelineMobile®
    June 14, 2021: “One Stop” Mobile HIV, Substance Use Clinics Coming to Five U.S. Cities - A clinical trial is underway in five U.S. cities to evaluate a model of delivering integrated health services through mobile health clinics. The study—known as INTEGRA, or HPTN 094—aims to assess whether this approach can improve HIV and substance use outcomes among people with opioid use disorder who inject drugs. These mobile clinics could become a model for expanding access to care and providing uninterrupted treatment.  For more information, see the NIDA news release.

May 2021

2021 HIV Avenir Award winners
Drs. Matthew Akiyama and Hansel Tookes

April 2021

  • April 21, 2021 - New Funding Announcements: NIDA is joining NIAID in three new RO1 funding opportunities (with clinical trials optional) linked to the pillars of the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE) initiative.
    • Due July 30th, 2021: Epidemiology to End the HIV Epidemic
      Applications should address the RESPOND pillar of the EHE initiative. We are seeking research to help us better understand HIV susceptibility and ongoing transmission in the United States using local and population-level epidemiology in collaboration with implementing partners.
    • Due July 30th, 2021: Prevention Strategies to End the HIV Epidemic
      Research funded under this FOA will seek to reduce HIV incidence by supporting the goals of the DIAGNOSE and PREVENT pillars of  the EHE initiative. We are looking for creative, multidisciplinary approaches to meet the needs of specific populations and localities. This opportunity will support projects to improve use of evidence-based HIV prevention interventions among populations in priority areas identified as highly impacted by HIV.
    • Due August 4th, 2021: Multidisciplinary Treatment Approaches to End the HIV Epidemic
      Proposals should address the DIAGNOSE and TREAT pillars of the EHE initiative by exploring concepts for improved healthcare engagement that result in rapid and sustained viral suppression and improved outcomes for people with HIV. We are looking for methodologies that utilize implementation science to develop, implement, and evaluate creative, multidisciplinary approaches to healthcare delivery that more effectively engage and retain individuals in HIV care and treatment so that they achieve durable viral suppression.

March 2021

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    Illustration of CRISPR Cas-9 segmenting DNA strands
    Courtesy of NIH
    CRISPR-Cas9 is a customizable tool that lets scientists cut and insert small pieces of DNA at precise areas along a DNA strand. This lets scientists study our genes in a specific, targeted way.
    March 22, 2021 - We’d like to congratulate NIDA’s Avant Garde Awardee Melanie Ott and her colleagues for their just published manuscript in CELL on how CRISPR diagnostics can augment gold-standard PCR-based testing for COVID-19 detection. This exciting research developed a way to use CRISPR-Cas13a to detect and quantify SARS-CoV-2 RNA from patient samples without the need for a pre-amplification step, and demonstrated how the signal can be efficiently detected with a portable, mobile phone-based device.
  • March 10, 2021 - New Funding Announcements:
    •  Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) for Multi-Level HIV Prevention Interventions: NIDA, along with the National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and Mental Health (NIMH) are offering funding opportunities to test the effectiveness of multi-level interventions to prevent HIV in high-risk health disparity populations in one or more geographic hotspots, including men who have sex with men (MSM), and/or minority transgender women, as these populations account for over half of new infections. Projects are generally expected to be clinical trials promoting PrEP use, condom use, and HIV testing in HIV-negative individuals. NIDA is especially  interested in supporting research under this NOSI involving people who use drugs including members of key populations among whom drug use is a common HIV acquisition risk. Areas of special interest to NIDA are multi-level interventions that incorporate substance use treatment, harm reduction or other settings that commonly provide substance use services. Projects should use existing evidence-based HIV-prevention interventions or practices, either alone or in combination with new intervention elements.  NIDA is looking for structural interventions to reduce HIV acquisition conducted in partnership with clinicians and service providers responsible for delivering HIV prevention services or programs at the local, state, or regional level.
    • Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) Promoting Viral Suppression: NIDA, NIMHD and NIMH are also offering new funding opportunities that test interventions to promote ART initiation, ART adherence, and suppressed viral load for typically underserved people living with HIV in one or more hotspots. NIDA is interested in testing of interventions that directly engage sexual and/or injecting partners in ART adherence and HIV transmission prevention, as well as clinic-level intervention components to enhance cultural competency and reduce health-care related stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV who are racial/ethnic or sexual and gender minorities. Proposals should include engagement of high risk populations and related subgroups, and should encourage collaboration with diverse local stakeholders. Projects that develop and test interventions to minimize delays in initiating or re-initiating ART services for people who use drugs are encouraged, as are proposals that incorporate cost-effectiveness analysis.
    • Please note the just released funding opportunity from our colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health on research applications to optimize health communication strategies that advance HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure efforts, as well as research on communication, dissemination and implementation factors that are required for successful public understanding and acceptance of HIV-related interventions.  Proposals are especially encouraged related to digital technologies, health disparities, as well as knowledge management and learning.

February 2021

January 2021

  • January 28, 2021 - Findings from two studies this month relate to the use of methamphetamine, a drug known to be an important factor in the transmission of HIV by increasing sexual urges and decreasing behaviors that prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
    • A double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase III clinical trial demonstrated that a combination of two existing medications, injectable naltrexone and oral bupropion, was safe and effective in treating adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the research was done at multiple sites within NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network. The investigators found that the effectiveness of the combination is similar to the effectiveness of analgesics for treating pain and most medical treatments for mental health disorders. You can read more about this exciting development in Dr. Volkow’s latest blog.
    • Highlighting the growing need for this treatment, an analysis by NIDA scientists over an eight year period ending in 2018 showed a five-fold increase of methamphetamine overdose deaths among people ages 25-54, with the biggest increase among American Indians and Alaska Natives. This important finding underscores the urgency of continued research into targeted and culturally tailored treatments for stimulant use disorder, which currently has no FDA-approved medication.
  • January 15, 2021 - Early stage and new investigators: It’s time to start thinking about applying for the HIV/AIDS Avenir award, which  provides up to $375,000 per year for 4 years to support cutting-edge and potentially transformative projects. Join us Wednesday, January 27th for a virtual symposium featuring previous award recipients to learn about the innovative research funded through this program. Note that applications are accepted in the summer and do not require preliminary data.
December 2020
  • December 29, 2020 - Year-End Message from the HRP Scientific Team - The year 2020 was difficult indeed, but despite the challenges of COVID-19, NIDA’s HIV Research Program moved forward with some impressive advances. At year’s end we learned that the NIDA-funded research on elite controllers was selected as one of nine runners up for Science magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year.

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    Images from left to right: Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected H9 T-cell and SARS-CoV-2 emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab, courtesy of NIH/NIAIDBrain scan after discontinuation of drug use courtesy of Volkow et al., J. Neuroscience, 2001.
    Other research published this year includes unprecedented findings that higher viral reservoirs might exist in the central nervous system of combined antiretroviral therapy (cART)-treated subjects, underscoring the importance of substance use status in developing targeted HIV therapies. In 2020, we also learned more about the link between rising stimulant use and HIV transmission, and how co-occurring methamphetamine use and HIV compounds the risk for contracting COVID-19.

    In addition, we celebrated progress through our sponsorship of a supplement to the Journal of  Neuroimmune Pharmacology, Unraveling neuroHIV in the Presence of Substance Use Disorders, with ten NIDA-funded HIV-related scientific manuscripts.  We saw a mid-year blog from NIDA Director Nora Volkow looking at the intersection of HIV with substance use disorders amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and on December 1st, NIDA honored World AIDS Day by announcing new infographic timelines highlighting the program’s historical impact since its inception in 2004.  Finally, to bring HRP-stimulated research to the public more quickly, in 2020 we began posting online an ongoing selection of science highlights illuminating important advances in NIDA-funded HIV research.

    The HRP team wishes all a Happy New Year filled with hope, and wants to give thanks to program staff and grantees who continue to pursue innovative science aimed at reducing the global burden of HIV. We’d especially like to mention staffer Andrea Czajkowski, who keeps things running day after day at NIDA’s AIDS Research Program.
  • December 14, 2020. Please note that the PAR-19-343 will now accept AIDS and AIDS-related applications, with a deadline extended to January 8, 2020. This  "Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity” announcement is a terrific funding opportunity for nonprofits, small businesses, local governments and higher education institutions (particularly those serving diverse student populations), with interest in projects that have the potential to improve the lives of those most at risk for HIV.
  • December 10, 2020. We’d like to bring to your attention a NIDA funded study examining the challenges of managing pain for people living with HIV. This can be important for people who use or have a history of misusing drugs, especially opioids, and now that safe and effective HIV treatment allows people living with HIV to lead long, productive lives. 
  • December 1, 2020, World AIDS Day. To celebrate World AIDS Day, NIDA has created two graphic timelines to honor the research and policy highlights that have advanced our scientific knowledge of the intersection of substance use and HIV transmission since NIDA’s AIDS Research Program was formed in 2004. One timeline identifies some of our high impact research findings, and the other identifies key policy and outreach milestones. These timelines not only reveal a history of program accomplishments but also forecast future achievements in research.
    • We also want to bring to your attention some new interesting research findings that examine the biological mechanisms of elite controllers—the tiny fraction of HIV patients who can suppress the virus without medication.
November 2020