Preventing HIV by Understanding Patterns of Transmission

Date & Time

Wed, 02/04/2015
5:30-7:00 PM


Preventing HIV by Understanding Patterns of Transmission

Recent advances in medical technology have made it possible to rapidly obtain genetic information related to a variety of health care conditions. There are both risks and benefits associated with these advances in technology. While the genetic information can help us to better understand, diagnose, and treat illness, these data also present risks to personal privacy. For instance, investigators have found that it is possible to personally identify several participants in such studies. Thus, without the participants agreeing to share their personal information, these data were discoverable to scientists who had expertise to properly analyze the data.

This forum discussed genetic data related to HIV infection and how this information, routinely collected in persons engaged in HIV healthcare, may be used to improve HIV prevention efforts. We also discussed the potential to use these data to identify the persons engaged in these studies (i.e., sufficient to identify a participant as HIV infected and connected to ongoing HIV transmissions in the community). We strive to engage the community in a discussion of acceptable and unacceptable levels of risk associated with the use of these data – and their potential to significantly limit HIV transmission in our community.


Susan Little
UCSD, Antiviral Research Center

Dr. Little conducts translational research and clinical trials to increase our understanding of the pathogenesis of acute or primary HIV infection and HIV transmission, and works with a large international collaborative team to improve our understanding of the biology and epidemiology of HIV transmission. Dr. Little’s research focuses on the identification and systematic evaluation of individuals who have been recently infected with HIV in an effort to elucidate and quantify epidemiologic, behavioral, biologic, virologic, and host factors that contribute to transmission. These projects also utilize molecular epidemiologic methods to infer and characterize HIV transmission networks in order to evaluate treatment and prevention interventions to reduce incident infections. These studies also evaluate therapeutic intervention strategies, including antiretroviral therapy and vaccines to preserve immune function in recently infected subjects. She is actively involved in the training and mentoring of students, post-doctoral research fellows and junior faculty and is an active investigator in the UCSD AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

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