(Tampa, FL – July 1, 2010) Dr. Michael D. Knox, Director of the USF Center for HIV Education and Research was awarded a five-year, $16 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The Center, located within the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy, was founded by Knox in 1988 and has a long-standing history of successful grant proposals, including several through HRSA. Knox, a Distinguished Professor, has been responsible for securing more than $50 million in external funding since coming to USF in 1986.
Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor congratulated Knox for this significant federal award. “HIV/AIDS continues to have a devastating impact in Florida, across the United States and globally,” Castor said. “This important work at USF will make a difference for Floridians and for our friends in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean.” According to Knox, the new grant will be used to operate the Florida/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center (F/C AETC), which will provide targeted, multi-disciplinary education and training programs for healthcare providers treating persons with HIV/AIDS throughout Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).
The University of South Florida, with a contingent of HIV experts from its College of Medicine, where Knox also serves as a Distinguished Professor, will lead a team of faculty from five other universities to provide this training. The other universities serving as local training sites include Florida A&M, the University of Florida, University of Miami, University of Puerto Rico, and the University of the Virgin Islands.
Professor Knox sees this new five-year grant as key to improving the quality of care provided to HIV-infected persons and increasing the number of healthcare professionals capable of diagnosing and treating HIV throughout this region. “Treatment of HIV/AIDS is complex, and frequent developments in medical guidelines, as well as new drugs, require clinicians to receive continuous education,” offered Knox. He explained that the Center will provide training opportunities for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, dental hygienists, and medical case managers.
“We will continue our efforts to increase early diagnosis and encourage testing,” said Dr. Jeffrey Beal, Medical Director of the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of HIV/AIDS. As a specialist in HIV medicine and Clinical Director of the F/C AETC, Beal will provide medical leadership on this new grant. He added, “We know that most individuals will change risky behaviors that lead to the transmission of HIV when they are aware of their HIV status. Late diagnoses are missed opportunities for prevention of disease progression.”
Knox agreed and said, “Early intervention is essential and ultimately reduces healthcare costs, which only underscores the importance of providing healthcare professionals access to university experts in HIV prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.” F/C AETC will employ faculty with broad experience as clinicians, as well as excellent teaching abilities and communication skills. The faculty will also contribute to the design and implementation of chart review tools, charting forms, clinical pocket guides and other online resources.
According to Knox, the new funding will allow the Center to improve treatment capacity and increase primary care providers’ skill levels throughout the Florida/Caribbean region.
Beal said, “We are assembling an excellent multi-disciplinary faculty to make this possible.”
Populations in Florida and the Caribbean have been significantly affected by HIV/AIDS. AIDS rates in Florida (21.7) and Puerto Rico (21.5) are almost twice the national rate (12.5) and rates in the USVI (31.4) are two-and-a-half times the national rate per 100,000 population. All three jurisdictions rank among the top 10 states/territories affected by the epidemic (http://www.statehealthfacts.org).
“The regional impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic calls for continued provision and expansion of HIV/AIDS care and treatment services and increased access to healthcare, especially for the minority population affected,” said Knox. “Our training will reach a diverse group of healthcare professionals, with a special focus on those who serve minority patients, rural communities, incarcerated persons and other underserved populations.”
The F/C AETC Central Office will be housed at the Center for HIV Education and Research. Associate Director, Kim Molnar will be responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and act as liaison with training site coordinators.