With $17 million in grants awarded this year, Yale investigators are furthering their efforts to slow the spread of AIDS and reduce drug abuse. Two grants will fund separate programs that rely on peer counseling as well as interventions involving physicians. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) awarded the grants to Yale and other institutions in Connecticut.

One NIDA grant provides $11 million over five years to establish a clinical trials network to evaluate drug-treatment protocols. “Typically, clinical trials research is based on a small, often homogeneous population,” said Kathleen M. Carroll, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and principal investigator for the grant. “We will be able to evaluate a range of treatments in community treatment programs and reach a large, diverse population.” Yale is one of six regional centers in the country working on this project. When it is complete, it is expected to include between 20 and 30 regional centers. Joining Yale in this national effort are the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and a nonprofit managed care company, Advanced Behavioral Health.

NIDA and NIMH also have awarded the University of Connecticut (UConn) and the Yale School of Medicine $6 million for projects to stem the spread of AIDS. The NIDA grant will fund a study of a peer intervention group composed of active and recovering drug users who are HIV-positive. They will attempt to counsel fellow addicts and convince them to obtain treatment for HIV/AIDS. The study will measure enrollment in primary care services, adherence to HIV treatments, entry and retention in drug treatment, reduction of risky HIV behaviors and increase in medical knowledge. Robert Brodhead, Ph.D., a sociologist at UConn, is the principal investigator.

The NIMH grant funds an effort to determine whether the doctor-patient relationship can be used to promote HIV risk reduction. Physicians worry that anti-retroviral therapies may lull patients into the false notion that their disease is no longer a threat. “Some still engage in risky behaviors, so we continue to see new infections, but with a virus that is more resistant to drugs,” said Gerald H. Friedland, M.D., director of the AIDS Program at Yale, and co-investigator on the study. The principal investigator is Jeffrey Fisher, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Connecticut.