Advocates Archive - C
[please choose the first initial of the Advocate's last name]
With a degree from Oxford University, Gus Cairns has an intriguing story and quite a commitment to individuals living with HIV. Having been diagnosed with HIV himself more than twenty years ago, he reached his lowest-ever CD4 count of 10 in 1997. “Soon, I will have spent more time recovering from AIDS than dying of it,” he says.
His pre-AIDS career shows a varied life path, as he worked as a musician, barman, male escort, and a social worker who helped set up the UK’s first-ever Safe House for young runaways. As he watched his friends die from AIDS around him, he became an invested volunteer at the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS in 1998 and then went on to become the editor of Positive Nation, the UK’s magazine for people with HIV. As an accredited psychotherapist, Gus divides his time between his growing practice and his role as a writer, editor, and advocate for HIV/AIDS issues. While he maintains that he is not the most vocal advocate, his passion lies in writing to support his more vocal colleagues. His work has focused on reshaping HIV prevention for MSM and people living with HIV.
Gus’s interest in new prevention technologies, specifically rectal microbicides, stems from a personal issue, as his partner is HIV negative. “I’m interested in them [rectal microbicides] because anyone who is HIV positive and has sex should be. They could potentially lift off the shoulder of positive people a huge burden of guilt, stigma, and responsibility,” he states. While Gus is unsure about how effective microbicides may be, he still feels it would be important to have it as an extra layer of safety in sex that is both easy and fun to use. He appreciates efforts towards microbicide research and funding because it involves an inherent de-stigmatization of anal sex and pleasure between all sexes around the world.
When he’s not sitting behind his computer writing or serving on various British committees targeting HIV, Gus travels extensively, taking an interest in MSM issues in other parts of the world. He is also a singer in London's gay chamber choir Diversity.
[Posted October 2008]
Dr. Alex Carballo-Dieguez
New York City, USA
IRMA Steering Committe Member
A behavioral research scientist, Alex Carballo-Dieguez was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina but is now living and working in New York City where he teaches Clinical Psychology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University. He is also a full-time researcher at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies there.
When the vaginal microbicide field started to emerge, led by pioneers like Dr. Zena Stein and Anke Ehrhardt, Alex immediately saw the potential that microbicides had for the prevention of HIV rectal transmission as well. He believes the rectal microbicides could be a great option for both MSM and women - many of whom practice unprotected anal intercourse. Alex’s earlier publications in this area were based on qualitative and quantitative data collected from individuals who were asked if they might use a rectal microbicide (as described to them). He was then able to secure funds to conduct a trial on volume escalation and acceptability. In another study, sponsored by amfAR, Alex’s team developed a prototype of a rectal applicator for the delivery of gel. This applicator is now poised to be used in future trials. His other studies have also focused on use of rectal douches by men who have sex with men, use of products containing N-9, and use of rectal lubricants.
Throughout his extensive research career, Alex has collaborated with leaders in the field like Drs. Peter Anton, Ian McGowan, Craig Hendrix and Ken Mayer in several projects exploring different aspects of rectal microbicide development.
While he is not researching options for microbicide application and use, Alex participates in the
scientific discourse on the issues of acceptability and adherence to rectal microbicides. This leaves him with close to zero free time. His mind is occupied with work even when he walks his dog in the park.
[Posted March 2009]
Chiang Mai, Thailand
"Being involved in HIV/AIDS research for so many years has greatly influenced my life through seeing and learning from all the people I have worked with."
Suwat was originally born in Bangkok, Thailand, and moved to Chiang Mai shortly after graduating with an MD from medical school in Bangkok. Suwat is the director of the Research Institute for Health Sciences at Chiang Mai University. Suwat loves conducting research, but in his free time, enjoys watching television, listening to Thai music, and travelling with his family.
Suwat first got involved with IRMA after an invitation for his institute to participate in the MTN 017 study, which will be the world's first Phase II rectal microbicide study. He is excited to have the opportunity to work together with other clinical trial sites and Microbicide Trials Network leaders in preparing for this important study.
Suwat believes that rectal microbicides will play a very important role as a new option for HIV prevention, and, if prove effective, can be added onto other prevention methods that we are now using. "Rectal microbicide research will also help us learn and understand more about how anal intercourse plays an important role in HIV transmission," he says.
Suwat advises IRMA to include more international activities and to include more languages, including Thai, in order to increase participation in the future. He also believes that IRMA has already done a great job in such a challenging area.
Currently, Suwat is involved in other HIV prevention trials, including HPTN 052 and the iPrEx Open Label Extension.
Suwat has been working in HIV/AIDS for over twenty years, and was greatly influenced by several AIDS patients facing death due to the lack of available medicines and treatments in his country. However, now he has seen great progress and better ARV (antiretroviral) drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. Yet, he recognizes that several challenges still exist in treatment and prevention.
He is appreciative of the people he has met throughout his years of experience, and his learning continues with each new patient and each new study.
Thanks Suwat for all that you do!
[Posted June 18, 2012]
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Donn Colby for the Vietnam-CDC-Harvard Medical School AIDS Partnership (VCHAP). He is particularly interested in the way in which a rectal microbicide could help to protect against HIV among men who have sex with men in Asia, who, because of “less acceptance of homosexuality, more stigma and discrimination against homosexuals, and high rates of commercial sex” are not always able to negotiate condom use.
He notes that it is crucial to develop rectal microbicides to prevent against HIV transmission through receptive anal intercourse, which is practiced among both homosexuals and heterosexuals worldwide. Through his work, Donn provides training on HIV/AIDS clinical care and ARV treatment to Vietnamese doctors and nurses as part of the PEPFAR program.
He and his partner recently adopted two boys, ages 6 and 10. His free time “is now taken up with swimming lessons, video games, and bedtime stories in Vietnamese!”
[posted March 2008]
Dr. Ross Cranston
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
IRMA Steering Commitee Member
Currently a Pittsburgh resident, Dr. Cranston works as an HIV physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with the Microbicide Trials Network. He has the honor of being elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Cranston has worked in the field of anal dysplasia (pre-cancer) for a number of years as a result of the vastly increased rates of anal cancer in gay men. After moving to UCLA to become involved with the Microbicide Development Program (U19), he was naturally drawn towards IRMA.
Dr. Cranston believes that the emerging science of rectal microbicides will play a critical role in the evolution of HIV prevention. “It is apparent that HIV prevention, much like HIV treatment, will require a ‘cocktail’ to succeed.” To him, this cocktail includes a combination of education, behavior change, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, and hopefully a vaccine. As an anal dysplasia clinician, he seeks to increase awareness for microbicides with his patients by discussing human papillomavirus-associated anal cancer. This discussion links to other anorectal issues, such as the development of rectal microbicides and the opportunity to partake in clinical trials on microbicides at the medical center itself.
Dr. Cranston’s obvious commitment to microbicides can be seen on multiple fronts within his profession, and his advocacy is to be commended. In the spare time that he makes for himself away from his busy workday, he enjoys cooking, gardening, and an endless round of doggie-walking!
[Posted August 2008]