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November 28, 2017 - Recap of the Fall 2017 ATN Meeting

Innovation and collaboration emerged as themes at the Fall ATN meeting, held October 24-27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The network’s biannual member meeting helps the ATN further its research focus on HIV/AIDS interventions for adolescents.

The meeting gives ATN members an opportunity to collaborate while catching up on in-progress research innovations and learning about results from completed studies. Investigators from all projects in the network gave updates about innovations in study design, enrollment, and results if available. In her presentation about the TERA project, investigator Dr. Rivet Amico (TERA, iTech) said, “We are seeing it all come together, and I cannot tell you how exciting it is.”

The full member meeting was kicked off with a presentation from Dr. Sonia Lee, Health Science Administrator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the ATN's co-director. Dr. Lee highlighted developments at the ATN that included the Diversity Scholars Initiative this year, as well as creating a national youth community advisory board (CAB) program so more youth representatives from local ATN sites will join the network at regular member meetings. The ATN needs to be open to all relevant research opportunities for biomedical innovation and other research proposals in emerging sciences, Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Patrick Sullivan, ATN Executive Committee Chair and professor of epidemiology at Emory University, also gave an update about the network itself.

“The state of the network is strong,” Dr. Sullivan said. “We are off the launch pad.” In his remarks to the network, Dr. Sullivan emphasized the importance of innovative methods to solve the epidemic of adolescent HIV/AIDS. He pointed out that youth have been found to be the least likely to be diagnosed, the least likely to be in care within 1 month of HIV diagnosis, and the least likely to be virally suppressed (suppression helps reduce the chance of passing on infection). “We need to apply innovative methods to address these problems,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Another innovation this year was a new addition to the ATN meeting schedule. Breakout roundtable discussions on issues in recruitment, study intervention/retention, electronic health records, and youth representation in health research were offered as part of the meeting agenda for the first time.

“We found that the roundtables made up a popular part of the overall meeting,” Dr. Lisa Gravens-Mueller, ATN Coordinating Center Project Manager, said. “This new format helps us cover a wide variety of research-related topics in an engaging way.” To facilitate collaboration, roundtable moderators delivered presentations on what was discussed during the roundtable sessions to all attendees.

Fall ATN Meeting Keynote Speaker

The network welcomed Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker as the event’s keynote speaker. Dr. Bekker is the deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and current President of the International AIDS Society. In her remarks, Dr. Bekker challenged the network to a ‘mind shift’ of new understanding about adolescents in HIV/AIDS interventions.

Dr. Bekker emphasized bringing prevention and protection to adolescents in ways they are accustomed to, such as through youth clubs, by offering self-testing for youth who don’t want to visit clinics, and by engaging in community centers, to name a few ways.

Watch the ATN news page for details about the ATN Spring meeting, to be held in April 2018.