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New collaborative center focuses on HIV/AIDS

San Antonio (Dec. 20, 2002) — The South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS), in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), has established the VA Center for AIDS and HIV Infection. The founding director is Sunil K. Ahuja, M.D., professor in the departments of medicine (infectious diseases) and microbiology and immunology at UTHSCSA and staff physician at the STVHCS.

"After a competitive review of grant proposals throughout the country, the VA Research Service selected the new San Antonio center and an existing center in San Diego, Calif., as the only two HIV/AIDS centers to receive funding," Dr. Ahuja said. The VA cited the national and international reputation of the San Antonio investigators, the high-quality multidisciplinary research they conduct and a very active mentoring/training program in selection of the center. Other active members of the San Antonio group include Drs. Robert Clark, Peter Melby, Seema Ahuja, Enrique Gonzalez, Srinivas Mummidi and Hemant Kulkarni, all from the department of medicine at UTHSCSA.

The VA awarded $300,000 a year for five years, including additional funding for equipment. "The STVHCS, and especially Director Jose R. Coronado, Chief of Staff Dr. Richard Bauer, Associate Chief of Staff Dr. Meyer Lifschitz and Chief Engineer Kenneth Burris, have been extremely supportive in getting the space renovated for this center and providing additional critical resources," Dr. Ahuja said. The space includes an upgraded, high-level containment laboratory facility for doing HIV-related studies.

"This center now serves as a wonderful resource as we treat a small but significant population of veterans who are HIV positive," said Dr. Bauer, professor of medicine at UTHSCSA and associate dean for veterans affairs in the School of Medicine. "The partnership between the VA and the Health Science Center ensures the success of this new initiative. I am committed to helping develop this center into a world-class research operation."

"This program was selected from a very stiff national competition that included the VA programs in New York, at Duke University and at Emory University," said Dr. Lifschitz, professor of medicine at UTHSCSA. "I think this center has a very bright future." Dr. Lifschitz's VA title is associate chief of staff for research and development.

Contact: Will Sansom