UCSF & Kenya Medical Research Institute funded to expand HIV care & support

Craig R. Cohen, MD, MPH

A joint project of UCSF and the Kenya Medical Research Institute has received $7 million—the first award of a five year grant that will total about $35 million—to expand its care and support of people affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

The project is named Family AIDS Care and Education Services, known as FACES, and it provides a comprehensive program of HIV treatment, care, prevention and support.  The grant is awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding provided through the President’s Emergency Plan for HIV and AIDS Relief.

“We are currently seeing about 75,000 patients and that number will at least double with this grant.  Plus, we will also expand our service areas.  The services provided include not only HIV care, treatment and prevention but also HIV testing and counseling, prevention of mother to child HIV transmission in pregnancy, TB/HIV co-infection treatment and male circumcision services,” said Craig R. Cohen, MD, MPH, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF, who is FACES-UCSF director.

FACES serves HIV affected families and vulnerable populations in Nyanza Province in western Kenya and Nairobi. 

“With this funding, we will be able work towards the World Health Organization’s target of universal access—meaning serving at least 80 percent of HIV patients needing care—within our service areas,” said Elizabeth Anne Bukusi, MBChB, M.Med (ObGyn), MPH, PhD, co-director, Research Care Training Program and chief research officer, Center for Microbiology Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), who serves as FACES-KEMRI director.

In addition, FACES is working to develop and implement more efficient integrated models of HIV care, treatment and prevention. 

“To help accomplish this, we will achieve efficiencies by shifting responsibilities to the Ministry of Health while our staff provides technical assistance including supervision, planning and monitoring and evaluation.  Our hope is this support to expand our models of integrated comprehensive HIV care, treatment and prevention will lead to a turning point in the struggle against HIV/AIDS in the communities and for the families we serve,” said Bukusi.

Besides providing integrated comprehensive services, FACES is an important site for ongoing research. As an example, UCSF recently received a $1.15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct research at FACES to determine if integrating family planning into HIV treatment and care will increase contraceptive use and decrease unintended pregnancy among HIV-positive women.

“FACES is also serving as an indispensable platform for doing clinical and operational research to create generalizable knowledge that can be used throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.  We cannot stress enough the value and importance of private philanthropic support in enabling FACES to develop innovative, transferrable and scalable models for integrated care, treatment and prevention,” said Cohen.

The training of future generations of Kenyan and US researchers has been an additional significant beneficial aspect of the FACES research platform, added Cohen.

A collaborative group from UCSF supports FACES, including the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health; ASPIRE (AIDS Service, Prevention, Intervention, Research and Education), which is the international training and education arm of the Positive Health Program at SFGH; the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies; and the AIDS Research Institute.

“FACES brings together many of the most outstanding people working in HIV/AIDS at UCSF, long a leader in the US response to this terrible disease, and our exceptionally talented partners from the Kenya Medical Research Institute.  This funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the CDC to intensify our joint effort will pay measurable dividends in the global battle against HIV/AIDS,” said John S. Greenspan, PhD, BDS, FRCPath, director of the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF.

FACES is affiliated with the AIDS Research Institute (ARI) at UCSF. UCSF ARI houses hundreds of scientists and dozens of programs throughout UCSF and affiliated labs and institutions, making ARI one of the largest AIDS research entities in the world.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate level education in the life sciences and health professions and excellence in patient care.