A $5.5 million research center operated by the Health Science Center is boosting efforts to understand and prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in South Texas.
The Health Science Center was one of only six U.S. centers to be selected by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) as a Sexually Transmitted Diseases Cooperative Research Center. The $5.5 million NIAID grant, officially awarded in November, is supporting research studies across several disciplines over a four-year period.
Study areas include the long-term effects of behavioral interventions in at-risk minority women, psychosocial and situational factors associated with high-risk behavior over time, incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in minority populations, effects of STDs on pregnant women, long-term effects of sexual abuse on disease incidence and high-risk behavior, and the molecular biology and pathogenesis (origination of infection) of STDs.
"The San Antonio center combines research and clinical care strategies with behavioral interventions and epidemiological analyses - the sum of which serves minority women who attend a dedicated research clinic overseen by the center," said Joel B. Baseman, Ph.D., project director, who is professor and chairman of microbiology.
Rochelle Shain, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology, is the center co-director and co-principal investigator, and leads a project exploring long-term effects of behavioral intervention in minority women.
"The targeted patient population, composed of Mexican- and African-American women, is both understudied and disproportionately affected by STDs," she said. "We oversee a dedicated STD clinic, called Project SAFE, which permits delivery of consistent quality health care as well as research for a predominantly young population (54 percent under 20 years of age and 80 percent under 25 years)."
Project SAFE is a continuation of behavioral intervention studies conducted by Dr. Shain and colleagues in more than 800 minority women at risk for STD infection. In a prior study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers found that intensive, culturally relevant behavioral counseling in small groups resulted in reduced rates of STD reinfection in at-risk women. The Project SAFE studies are conducted with assistance from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and its director, Fernando Guerra, M.D.