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November 20, 2019 - Fall 2019 Full Network Meeting Highlights

Dallas Swendeman asks a question from the audience.
Dallas Swendeman asks a question from the audience.

An exciting and engaging program of events was set for the ATN Fall 2019 full network meeting, held October 23-24, 2019, at the Hilton Rockville near Washington, DC. Popular past activities were part of the agenda, as well as an opportunity to get to know fellow network colleagues and learn from each other.

“Ending the Epidemic” Update

In light of newly organized HIV prevention and care federal funding activities stemming from “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America,” the ATN welcomed Dr. Carl W. Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to give an update about the plan.

“Engagement of youth, and specifically adolescents, will need to be an essential element of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative,” Dr. Dieffenbach said.

Full details about the Ending the Epidemic plan are available here.

Leadership Role Transition

Executive Committee Chair and Vice Chair leadership roles rotate every 18 months. At the meeting, these roles were transitioned to a new team.

The Chair position was assumed by Dr. Sylvie Naar, from outgoing Chair Dr. Isa Fernandez. Dr. Naar is the Scale It Up Principal Investigator and Distinguished Endowed Professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine.

Isa Fernandez (top left) and ATN Diversity Scholars pose for a photo
Isa Fernandez (top left) with the ATN's six Diversity Scholars.

Dr. Dallas Swendeman will serve as Vice Chair, transitioning in this role from outgoing Vice Chair Dr. Travis Sanchez. Dr. Swendeman is a Principal Investigator for ATN CARES and an Associate Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Diversity Scholars Spotlighted

Diversity Scholars Tashuna Albritton, PhD, and Dalmacio Dennis Flores, PhD, ACRN, gave special presentations to the network. ATN created its Diversity Scholars program to help develop a new generation of HIV youth researchers. Scholars gain access to mentorship within the network and other resources through this program. Isa Fernandez, PhD, is the program's director. 

“It was a pleasure to be one of the ATN Diverse Scholars to present at the meeting,” Albritton said. Her presentation topic was Who's On Board? A Feasibility Study of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake among Black and Latino Adolescents. “I received a lot of great questions about my research and positive feedback,” she said. “I left this meeting feeling inspired by the encouragement from peers and the work others are doing.”

“The positive response to my own presentation was encouraging as it came from folks who have been doing HIV prevention and care for a very long time,” Flores said about his presentation at the meeting titled, Parents Advancing Supportive and Sexuality-Inclusive Sex Talks: Feasibility and Acceptability of a Sex Communication Video Series for Parents of Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Adolescent Males. “It reassured me that I’m on the right track. Investigators and their team members are very driven and so committed to their studies that it makes an early investigator such as myself feel inspired.”

Several ATN Studies Move into the Results Phase

Key updates from studies that are moving into the results phase throughout the network were delivered over two days of the full open meeting, including a panel discussion with three presenters who delivered remarks from the UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology, or iTech, program.

Tara Kerin
Tara Kerin during her network presentation.

Making up the panel were Lisa Hightow-Wiedman, MD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hyman Scott, MD, MPH, from the University of California, San Francisco, and Katie Biello, PhD, MPH, from Brown University.

Tyrel Starks, PhD, of Hunter College CUNY and project lead on ATN 156, a Scale It Up research study, presented to the network about an adaptation of the study intervention. Scale It Up researcher Kit Simpson, DrPH, provided an economic analysis for the research program. More about Scale It Up can be found on the program website.

Presenters leading research within the ATN CARES program provided insights into HIV and STI treatment. Tara Kerin, PhD, MS of UCLA, gave insights about HIV viral detection within youth in early treatment. Mary Jane Rotheram, PhD, a Principal Investigator for CARES, provided a look at the use of enhanced CDC guidelines when applied to three CARES research studies for STI testing leading into same-day treatment.

Unique Opportunities for Learning

“I am always in awe of the breadth and scope of the projects being conducted through the ATN,” Flores said. “Even as this was my second meeting, I still could not get over the wide array of studies that runs the entire gamut of the HIV cascade.”

A policy workshop was held in conjunction with the ATN meeting titled, “Adolescent HIV-Related Policy and Advocacy: Turning Science into Action,” and was sponsored by the Scale It Up research program. Dr. Gary Harper, Professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, led the workshop. He provided practical information about the US legislative process, advocacy guidelines, and ways research could be turned into policy.

Gary Harper
Gary Harper poses by a slide from the Scale It Up Policy Workshop he led.

Rounding out the general meeting was a key network-wide training event on safety reporting in ATN protocols. Rachel Goolsby, social/clinical research specialist from the ATN Coordinating Center based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provided the training, which included a lively interactive assessment of attendees’ ability to handle test cases. Attendees were also treated to a special poster session combined with a reception later in the day, and time for speed-networking, similar to a rotating speed-dating event where attendees could meet many new colleagues in a short amount of time.

Save the Date

The next full network meeting will be held April 15-16, 2020, in Washington, DC.

The ATN conducts two face-to-face, full network meetings a year. To see dates into 2021, visit the Events page.