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Jennifer Henderson, Staff Writer at Triangle Business Journal

UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases and colleagues at Emory University have received an $18 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop mobile technology for HIV prevention and treatment.

The funding – over the next five years – will see the new UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology develop health care apps that target a population under the age of 30, according to a release issued by UNC. This population accounts for the majority of new HIV infections in the U.S., the release further stated, and is more likely to use smartphones for accessing health information.

“iTech will facilitate the execution of six research studies. Each study will use technology to address a barrier to the HIV care continuum,” said Lisa Hightow-Weidman, associate professor of medicine and principal investigator of the Behavior and Technology Lab at UNC in prepared remarks. “For youth at risk of becoming infected with HIV, we will develop apps that aim to increase HIV testing, and use of and adherence to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV. For youth who test positive for the virus, we will develop electronic health interventions to engage them in care and improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy.”

In May of last year, UNC partnered with GlaxoSmithKline to work on developing a cure for HIV/AIDS. GSK invested $20 million in the initiative and resulting HIV Cure Center on UNC’s campus.

A spokeswoman for UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases said in an email Tuesday that Hightow-Weidman’s grant is not related to the partnership with GSK.

“The cure center is focused on curing HIV and run by Dr. David Margolis. Lisa’s research is focused on treatment and prevention of HIV, specifically in people aged 15-24,” she said.

This article was originally published in the Triangle Business Journal. Read the article on their website here.

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