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Florida International Study to Explore Cocaine’s Impact on Liver Disease Progression in People with HIV

Given the advances of the last two decades, HIV is no longer a death sentence for most patients. But for drug users and hepatitis C- (HCV) infected patients—especially cocaine users—HIV is still life threatening. This problem is being tackled by a team of experts lead by Florida International University Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work professor Dr. Marianna K. Baum.


[Photo: Dr. Marianna K. Baum]

In 2013, Dr. Baum, a dietetics and nutrition professor, found that HIV-infected patients who took inexpensive multivitamins with mineral supplements experienced slower disease progression. Now, she is turning her attention to people with HIV again with a new $5.4 million multiyear National Institutes of Health grant. The study will explore the role of cocaine use in the progression of liver disease in people with HIV.

HCV-infected people who also have HIV will be studied using noninvasive technology. The team will use magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), a highly accurate method for diagnosing liver disease. Dr. Baum has enlisted the help of experts such as: Dr. Richard L. Ehman, professor and chairman of the Mayo Clinic, Department of Radiology; Dr. Jeffrey Horstmyer, professor and founding chairman of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Department of Neurology; and Dr. Kenneth E. Sherman, professor of medicine and director, University of Cincinnati, Division of Digestive Diseases.

The study will leverage the existing Miami Adult Studies on HIV cohort (MASH). The people that make up MASH have been studied by Dr. Baum’s research team over the past 12 years, and this new program will expand the size of this study group from 881 participants to 1,500. Unlike many other HIV study groups made up of mostly middle- to high-income homosexual white men, MASH is predominantly comprised of heterosexual Hispanics, African-Americans, women and drug users that do not use needles.

Dr. Baum explained that some lower-income individuals may not have a dependable means of transportation to go to the doctor, and for others, cultural stigma may have kept them from seeking treatment. For these reasons, part of the work will focus on helping participants make and keep their medical appointments, in an effort to overcome health access disparities.

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