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The Important and Varied Role of Nurses in HIV Research

May 12, 2014
Learn more about the vital role nurses play in the quest to end AIDS

Nurses play an integral role on the research team of HIV studies and vaccine clinical trials. In honor of International Nurses Day, held annually in May, we take a moment to profile two hard-working nurses who are helping in the quest to find an end to AIDS.

The Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) in Bangkok is a critical partner to the U.S. military’s HIV vaccine research efforts. AFRIMS helped conduct the RV144 trial, which tested a modestly successful vaccine regimen in 16,000 volunteers. Today AFRIMS is still busy conducting follow-up studies to RV144 as well as acute HIV infection studies. One of the nurses making that research possible is Clinical/Community Engagement Nurse Patchara Charuthamrong.

Charuthamrong, “Pat,” worked in nursing care for 16 years before joining AFRIMS 8 years ago and taking on community engagement activities for the Institute’s clinical trials. She works in the clinic daily counseling volunteers for MHRP’s acute HIV infection study, RV217, where researchers are following a group of high-risk volunteers to gather information on the first stage of HIV infections. Additionally, the community engagement team conducts outreach among high-risk groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people in Pattaya, a resort area in east Thailand.

“I feel good to work in [the] field,” says Pat. “I have a chance to help them [target populations] to have good health.” Pat also coordinates the Community Advisory Board. “Community engagement is an important part of research,” said Pat; she added that if all research involved community engagement, both the research and the community would benefit.

On another continent, Rither Langat is coordinating the research for MHRP’s African Cohort Study (AFRICOS) in Kenya—one of four countries in Africa where MHRP researchers are evaluating the HIV prevention, care and treatment services the program supports through local facilities. 

Inspired by the opportunity to relieve suffering and improve lives, Langat joined the Walter Reed Project-Kenya 8 years ago and is the Clinical Research Coordinator. “For me,” says Langat, “I am driven by the desire to generate knowledge to inform policy, to change and improve practices.”

In her role, Langat stays busy ensuring that study procedures are coordinated efficiently across multiple research sites. She oversees clinical operations related to AFRICOS including working with the study team to bring issues to the Principal Investigator, developing and implementing a volunteer recruitment plan, and monitoring study enrollment and providing updates to the team.

When asked about her favorite part of the job, Langat replied, “I feel inspired when I see research being incorporated into care and our busy clinics have managed to do this.”