Last week, the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (ARCA) enrolled the impressive 50,000th patient onto the Adult and Adolescent Spectrum of HIV Disease (ASD) study, the country's oldest and largest observational database study for HIV/AIDS, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most long-term observational studies have thousands of patients enrolled, but an enrollment of 50,000 is rare because of the tremendous amount of work it takes to follow so many patients. ARCA is the largest of the 11 sites participating in the study, with over 8,900 Atlanta patients. This large number significantly increases scientists' ability to conduct more targeted research and to better understand how HIV/AIDS affects the real world. For a disease that is constantly growing in numbers and mutating, this is crucial information that will help scientists to one-day find a cure.
"It's such a very large observational cohort that we can study much less common medical conditions or more specific populations, such as African-American women, which we cannot do with smaller AIDS surveillance studies," says Dr. Melanie Thompson, founder and Principal Investigator for ARCA.
In fact, the very large and diverse population represented in the ASD study makes the data invaluable to help researchers learn more about HIV disease in women and minorities, who are now among the hardest hit populations, especially in Georgia. The ASD data are used to illustrate and track trends in the occurrence of various HIV-related illnesses across time and to describe possible associations between prescribed treatments and disease progression. The ASD study has been instrumental in helping researchers and doctors all over the world to better understand how HIV disease develops. Results from the ASD study led to the 1993 revision of the AIDS case definition, which is still used by researchers today to more accurately reflect the number of persons with severe HIV-related illnesses.
ARCA currently follows most patients in the ASD study and was instrumental in the initial design of the study with the CDC. Other cities participating in the study include New Orleans, Los Angeles, New York City and Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Patients are enrolled in the study and are then followed forever through their medical records. ARCA has analyzed ASD data to address scientific and public health issues, and has presented findings in medical journals and conferences all over the world. Locally, the data are an invaluable tool in helping to plan for social and medical services. To date, ARCA's research has led to the FDA approval of 15 HIV/AIDS treatments.
For more information about ARCA's services or the Adult Spectrum of Disease study, call ARCA at (404) 872-CURE, or visit www.aidsresearchatlanta.org on the Internet.