The national Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) is expanding to increase participation of men of color, particularly Latinos and African-Americans.
As the HIV epidemic has increasingly taken a toll in communities of color, it has become important to include these groups in the MACS. The study now seeks to enroll HIV-positive and HIV-negative men of color who are 18 years of age or older and sexually active.
HIV-positive participants must be men who are not receiving treatment for HIV at the time they join the study, or men who started HIV treatment before being diagnosed with AIDS. Men who have sex with men, women or both are eligible for the study.
MACS has a long local history and strong connection to Los Angeles. In 1981, before it was known that a virus was causing what was then called Gay Related Immune Deficiency, concerned individuals from Los Angeles came together hoping to make a difference in the fight against this devastating new plague.
Early information from the MACS was important in learning about risk factors for AIDS and how HIV was spread. This led to important prevention efforts and intervention programs that reduced the toll of the epidemic. The MACS has also been very important in identifying what the best treatments are for HIV and in gaining information on how to improve the quality of life for people with HIV.
UCLA Professor Roger Detels, the study's lead investigator, has regularly met with community groups and has frequently given local lectures. More than 700 papers have been published in science and medical journals by MACS collaborators.
Today, the MACS includes hundreds of participants from Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. One remarkable accomplishment of the local study is that, more than 85 percent of the men continue to participate and continue to help in the success of the project. This unusually high rate of retention is a credit both to the dedication of the participants and the excellence and genuine concern of the MACS staff. The study is a true partnership between scientists and participants with several participants serving on the study's advisory board.
Participants in the MACS project are evaluated every six months. At each visit, which takes approximately two hours, a brief physical is performed, blood is taken for laboratory tests, a neuropsychological evaluation is conducted and a questionnaire completed. Participants receive $25 for each completed visit and are also reimbursed up to $15 for travel to the study site.
Some of the free testing provided in the study includes HIV antibody and viral load testing, T-cell counts, Hepatitis B and C and liver-function testing, cholesterol screening and syphilis. While the MACS is not intended to replace the participants' medical care, all test results are available to the participants. Participants' confidentiality is highly protected.
The current enrollment effort will attempt to recruit about 200 HIV-infected participants and about 200 uninfected participants from several different areas in Los Angeles County. Recruitment is expected to continue for one year. Study sites available to participants are located in Hollywood, West Los Angeles and Torrance and participants may attend any of these sites.
Anyone interested in being a part of this important study can contact Nina Ames at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center clinic in Torrance, (310) 787-6851; Enrique Pivaral at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood, (323) 993-7534; or Dennis Miles at the West Los Angeles site, (310) 479-6691.