WASHINGTON -- The federal government and the American Foundation for AIDS Research announced yesterday that they would jointly sponsor a massive, long-term study to see how AIDS infection progresses in various populations.
"The scope of this effort is unparalleled," Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan said in a statement.
"The study will result in the most comprehensive collection of information on HIV-infected persons amassed in the history of the AIDS epidemic," Dr. Sullivan said.
The study involving thousands of AIDS-infected individuals will seek to determine, among other things, what symptoms and conditions are most common in different groups, and what therapies -- including approved and "alternative" treatments -- patients are using.
"The study will help to identify areas where new research is needed, and may result in some new approaches to treatment," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the federal agency sponsoring the research.
The study will include other patient groups, such as women, pregnant women, and intravenous drug users, and will involve 42 community-based clinics in the United States and Canada, the institute said. These include 18 institute-funded community programs and 24 community programs sponsored by AmFAR.
"This study will tell us what is happening in the real world to HIV-infected persons," said Dr. Dan Hoth, director of AIDS activities for NIAID. "It will give us a snapshot of real-world care, rather than the artificial picture we get from a clinical trial. It will tell us whether therapies shown to be effective in research, are, in fact, effective in the real world.
"It will give us a whole series of snapshots. And when you put a whole series of snapshots together, what you get is a moving picture of the epidemic."
One of the goals is to identify changing manifestations of HIV illness over time, and examine those factors that appear to influence the prognosis, the sponsors said.