More than 35 million people are living with HIV and tragically, it claims the lives of two million people each year.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, causing it to become weak making it more susceptible to infections. HIV is generally spread through unprotected sexual intercourse or contaminated blood, but can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. It can take 10-15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS but antiretroviral (ARV) drugs have made a huge difference in slowing or halting the progression to AIDS.
The World Health Organization estimates more than 33 million people are living with the virus with 2.6 million new infections and 1.8 million people dying from HIV-related illness each year.
HIV is a major focus at Burnet, with more than half our work addressing laboratory-based research into finding a cure for the disease while our public health programs are focused on education and prevention both in Australia and overseas.
Research and Public Health Focus
Professor Sharon Lewin discusses the progress towards a cure for HIV.
Centre for Biomedical Research
Associate Professor David Anderson and Professor Suzanne Crowe AM developed a Point-of-Care test for CD4 T-cells – an inexpensive test which aims to speed up the HIV diagnosis process and improve access to HIV treatment for millions around the world.
Examines the side affects associated with HIV treatments and neuropathy (nerve damage in the feet) in HIV patients.
Looks at the effects of HIV infection on the brain and the development of HIV associated dementia (Churchill Laboratory).
Investigates how HIV replicates and destroys immune cells.
Explores how the immune system recovers from HIV and where HIV ‘hides’ in patients on treatment (Lewin Laboratory).
Testing a gel that may be used to block HIV from infecting cells (Tachedjian Laboratory)
Working towards an HIV vaccine using protein crystals from insect viruses in collaboration with Monash University (Ffrench Laboratory).
Centre for Population Health
Aims to reduce HIV transmission in Australia by managing and developing innovative systems for the Victorian Government.
Conducts research involving groups most at risk and vulnerable to HIV
Centre for International Health
Works with communities, civil society organisations, international non-government organisations and United Nations agencies with particular interest in Asia and the Pacific, focusing on HIV prevention and care.
Deanna Blegg – an Australian mum who is also HIV-positive – has proven you can live a healthy and fulfilled life whilst juggling the effects of antiretroviral drugs. Deanna was diagnosed at just 24 years of age and now in her 40s, she counts herself lucky because she lives in Melbourne where she can access antiretroviral drugs. Millions living with HIV in poor, marginalised communities across southeast Asia and Africa often have a very different outcome.
“HIV infects and affects many families and communities around the world. Through my role with Burnet I travelled to PNG to see the level of dedication of the locals committed to the HIV Prevention Programs,” Deanna said.
“I am proud to support an organisation that supports its community.”
Princess Kasune Zulu, the Zambian-born AIDS activist who now lives in Chicago, was just 21 when she was diagnosed with HIV, having already lost her parents, sister and brother to AIDS.
Princess Zulu shares her story in her role as a Burnet Ambassador around the world.
“Poverty and preventable diseases can be eradicated – it’s a matter for us, collectively, to make it so, find the means to make it so,” she said.
DARE C: ATAHC II Substudy DARE-C aims to evaluate individualization of therapy duration using triple therapy (PEG-IFN/RBV/TPV) in a subgroup of ATAHC II subjects with genotype 1 infection and early chronic HCV infection.
Dendritic cells and HIV latency Dendritic cells, an important type of immune cell that can regulate T cell activation, allow the establishment of latently infected T cells.
HIV mitigation for people who inject drugs Aims to prevent the transmission of HIV among young people, students, migrant and transport workers. Priority areas include the prevention of the transmission of HIV through unsafe behaviour in sexual contacts and injecting drug use.
Laboratory Strengthening in Asia Pacific region Laboratory tests are needed to guide the use of vital antiretroviral therapy (ART) in HIV infection, however laboratories in developing countries are not ready to perform the sophisticated tests to guide who needs treatment
Liver disease in HIV-HBV co-infection Current HIV treatments are effective against the HBV virus, however liver related mortality remains the leading cause of non-AIDS deaths in patients receiving HAART.
Pacific STI Toolkit The toolkit supports health managers to critically appraise the suitability of POC testing for STIs in their country, ensure a smooth introduction if deemed appropriate, and minimise harms.
Papua New Guinea health system strengthening roles Burnet is a partner in the Australian government-supported Health and HIV Implementation Services Provider (HHISP). HHISP is the main support to the large health development partnership of the Australian and PNG governments.
Physical activity and HIV Non-drug treatments may have important health benefits for people living with chronic illnesses. This project aims to understand the role of physical activity for improving health for those with HIV.
Reversing HIV latency with Vorinostat We are conducting a clinical trial to determine if the drug Vorinostat can activate virus production from latently infected cells in HIV-infected patients on HAART.
Working with men to address HIV Ensuring high quality HIV prevention services for hard to reach men who have sex with men (MSM). The project aims to reduce HIV-related risk, vulnerability and impact among MSM and their sexual partners.
Antiretroviral drug toxicity Understanding the causes of antiretroviral drug toxicity and finding better ways to predict drug side effects are critical to improving health outcomes for people living with HIV.
Predicting PML risk in patients with advanced HIV PML is a devastating brain disease that can affect people with impaired immune function due to HIV or other conditions. It is not easily treatable, so predicting risk and preventing PML is critical.
Tibet Health Sector Support Program (THSSP) Delivered in partnership with the Australian Red Cross, this AusAID funded program ran from 2004-2010 throughout the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The program had three technical areas of focus - health systems strengthening, maternal and child health, and supporting STI and HIV responses.
USAID’s AKSI Stop AIDS Project Implemented by Family Health International, Burnet was contracted to support activities in a number of harm reduction areas including situational assessment, training, program design and implementation and advocacy