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University Establishes Global Health Research Center in Central Asia
Center provides HIV/AIDS prevention and research
in a region with rising global health problems

The Columbia University School of Social Work’s Social Intervention Group and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy has opened the Columbia University Global Health Research Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  

Project Director Yelena Rozental, center, conducting marketplace study to help inform women in Almaty, Kazakhstan, about HIV/AIDS.
Project Director Yelena Rozental, center, conducting marketplace surveys to help inform women about
HIV/AIDS in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The first research center on global health established by a university in Central Asia, the center will serve Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.  It will develop effective solutions to pressing health problems and help reduce health disparities in Central Asia, which is experiencing one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world.

“The Global Health Center will play a vital role in combating some of the most serious health issues facing Central Asia,” says Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University. “The center affirms Columbia’s mission to create international academic partnerships that energize research on – and solutions to – global challenges at home and abroad. We are so excited by the dynamic educational opportunities this center will provide.”

Nabila El-Bassel
Nabila El-Bassel

“In some regions, the number of people affected with HIV has doubled annually since 2000. The sharp rise in health epidemics in Central Asia demands innovative and scientifically-based approaches to prevention and social policies,” says Nabila El-Bassel, Columbia professor of social work and director of Social Intervention Group. “These epidemics are linked with psychological distress, trauma, poverty, domestic violence, and other problems that need to be addressed.”

Research has proven that the exponential growth of HIV/AIDS in Central Asia is largely due to the sharp increase in heroin injection drug use. Occurring along with the rapid diffusion of drug use in the region is the growth of informal economies including drug trafficking, population migration, and prostitution, which have created risk environments conducive to the spread of HIV, tuberculosis (TB), Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases. At the heart of this epidemic are young people: 80 percent of HIV cases affect people under 30.

Related Links

School of Social Work, Columbia University

HIV/AIDS in the News

Researcher: HIV Infections Still Outpace Treatment Efforts, USA Today, July 23
AIDS Virus Fact Box, South African Star, July 24
Is HIV a Time Bomb Under the Mining Industry in Central Asia?, Reuters India, July 11

The center’s work is based on nearly 20 years of experience of Columbia researchers addressing the needs of those affected by HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and trauma.  It will bring leading multidisciplinary global health experts together to conduct behavioral and social science research that will inform best practices for effective prevention, treatment, and care of HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, TB, and other global health problems. By working in collaboration with a regional advisory network of academics, research scholars, and leading representatives from government and NGOs, the center aims to build the social service infrastructure and strengthen the capacity of local institutions to bring effective interventions to community-based settings. The Center for New Media Teaching and Learning is also a partner in this endeavor.

“Our program activities are focused on strengthening academic research capacity in the region and building a bridge between institutions and communities,” says Peter Bearman, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. “The center’s three core program areas will help determine community needs, develop intervention programs, and advance regional health policies to improve treatment for those who need them most.”

– Story by Jeannie Hii and Melanie Farmer.
Photographs courtesy of Columbia University School of Social Work.

Published: July 31, 2007
Last modified: Aug 02, 2007