Education and training

New HIV research centre

10 October 2006

A brand new research centre has started at Homerton, looking at sexual health and HIV.

Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV

Led by Dr Jane Anderson, an established expert in HIV medicine, the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV will generate new knowledge and understanding of issues related to HIV and sexual health, with a particular focus on the needs of ethnic minority communities.

Homerton is the perfect backdrop for this type of research, due to the uniquely diverse population of the local population and its’ surrounding areas – a multiethnic, multicultural community, in an inner city setting, characterised by its extreme cultural diversity, high levels of social deprivation and complex healthcare needs. Not least are the special health and social care needs of people living with HIV, often in very difficult circumstances.

Talking about the new centre, Jane Anderson said: “Homerton has a clear vision for the future with an expanding clinical service in HIV and genitourinary medicine. The local population mix provides a unique opportunity to examine the links between socio-economic and cultural factors, health provision and access, and public health.”

Around 40,000 people are currently diagnosed with HIV infection in the UK, two thirds of whom live in and around London; a further 10,000 undiagnosed infections are thought to exist. HIV is rapidly on the increase with over 5,000 new cases last year. By the end of 2003, HIV infection was 40% higher than in 1999. Half of all new HIV diagnoses in 2003 were acquired heterosexually – three times higher than five years ago.  

The number of people living with HIV in East London is high. The marked cultural diversity, migration patterns and social circumstances in Hackney gave rise to a unique blend, not seen elsewhere in the UK. For example, in East London more people with HIV are female (53%), Black African (70%), or have HIV through heterosexual transmission (82%) than the UK average. Many are diagnosed with advanced stages of infection.

Jane continues: “This provides a unique opportunity to study aspects of HIV medicine, particularly in relation to the links with poverty, education, culture, ethnicity and social exclusion. Research in this area could have far reaching beneficial effects in the management and prevention of HIV both throughout the UK and potentially abroad.” 

The centre has established links within the community, including specialist groups, who are keen to develop partnerships with the proposed research programmes. This will be hugely beneficial to the local population as we will be better able to respond to their direct needs. In addition, although based at Homerton, the centre has a number of collaborative relationships with the whole of the NEL sector, including the clinical network for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, City University, Barts and the London and Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Jane comments: “This is a wonderful opportunity to establish a research programme that will both help the local community and generate evidence with a wider relevance. The potential is very exciting.”