$25 Million Grant Enhances Efforts to Combat HIV Epidemic in District of Columbia

WASHINGTON, DC (June 8, 2020) – The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) has received a five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of nearly $25 million to expand its ongoing work to end the HIV epidemic in Washington, DC. The grant supports the DC Cohort, a longitudinal study of more than 10,000 consenting participants receiving HIV care at 15 outpatient clinics in Washington, DC.

About 12,300 people are currently living with HIV in Washington, DC, and the District is considered one of 57 “hotspots” that collectively contribute 50 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Led by Amanda Castel, MD, MPH, a professor of epidemiology at Milken Institute SPH, the DC Cohort works with academic and community-based clinics and the DC Department of Health (DC Health) to track health outcomes among people living with HIV in Washington, DC. The goal of the project, which began in 2011, is to improve care and treatment for a highly diverse population of persons living with HIV in Washington, DC and beyond. The project also provides clinics with timely access to data that can be used to help improve clinical care and contribute to research on prevention and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.

“To our knowledge, the DC Cohort is the largest city-wide study of people living with HIV in the United States,” Castel said. “The Cohort offers a unique resource to monitor outcomes among people living with HIV and monitor the impact of initiatives such as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s 90/90/90/50 Plan to End the HIV Epidemic in the District of Columbia.”

The NIAID grant supports the enhancement and expansion of the DC Cohort’s de-identified clinical database to incorporate new data sources that will better inform the scope of the epidemic, including pharmacy, administrative, and patient-reported outcomes data. Castel is hopeful that this more comprehensive approach will increase the capacity of the DC Cohort to better monitor HIV outcomes and implement interventions to improve quality of care.

The DC Cohort is also an integral part of the District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research (DC CFAR), which is a city-wide consortium of more than 230 HIV investigators at eight DC-based research institutions. The DC Cohort, Castel says, is an invaluable resource for DC CFAR investigators providing critical data to conduct research.

“As we work to end the HIV epidemic, the ability to characterize people who are diagnosed with HIV, effectively direct treatment efforts, and use novel tools to improve the quality of care for people living with HIV while simultaneously averting further transmissions are of critical importance,” Castel said. “We hope this project helps generate lessons that can be used in other urban areas battling HIV across the United States.”

To learn more about the DC Cohort, click here.