No strangers to pandemics, HIV and infectious diseases researchers study new ways to treat and prevent viruses

From Unity Health Toronto

Diseases don’t stop in a pandemic. Neither do our researchers. In this series, we highlight Unity Health research projects that have persisted despite lockdowns, work-from-home arrangements and a global focus on another disease entirely. Here are their stories.

Research goals: To treat and prevent infectious diseases such as HIV and sexually-transmitted infections

Project lead: Dr. Darrell Tan, scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions

Dr. Tan and his research team at the Options Collaboratory for HIV/STI Treatment and Prevention Science are no strangers to pandemics: long before COVID-19 became a reality, their team had been studying HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases that have caused global pandemics and public health concerns for decades.

“We aim to find more ways to treat and prevent these conditions and expand the menu of options available to people, recognizing that different people have different needs,” Dr. Tan says.

Many of their studies continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the hospital and in community clinics, hoping to reach as many people as possible to help accomplish this goal.

A study evaluating implementation of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medicine people at risk of HIV take to prevent the disease, is one example. Working with sexual health, public health, hospital-based and family medicine clinics, the team has tried to ensure that whenever folks at risk of HIV come into contact with health care, they are linked to PrEP services.

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