The AIDS virus is a subtle and recalcitrant pathogen and its epidemiologic features defy standard public health approaches. The recent wonderful treatment advances notwithstanding, HIV infection continues to have very high mortality, the latency period between infection and clinical disease is prolonged, and transmission is usually by symptomatic carriers of the HIV. Furthermore, social and legal conditions make surveillance, intervention, and treatment difficult to accomplish. Independently, these characteristics are challenging; together they make AIDS eradication daunting. Meeting this challenge will require the collaborative efforts of health scientists of all types, including biostatisticians and epidemiologists. This paragraph was lifted from the last renewal application, written five years ago. It expressed an opinion held fifteen years ago when this program was initiated. Unfortunately, all these opinions are still valid today making it even more important to train individuals who wish to dedicate themselves to combating this pathogen.
The fields of biostatistics and epidemiology have grown steadily in importance and prominence for several decades. Recent growth has been due in large part to increasing reliance on large, statistically designed prospective studies in medical research and by the increasing use of computers to produce and analyze large and complex scientific databases. Federal reviews of manpower needs cite biostatistics and epidemiology as critical areas, and the job searching experience of our recent graduates (they find good positions very easily) indicates that the demand for students with pre- and postdoctoral training is high and increasing. The National Institutes of Health has recognized this shortage and is instituting a Trans-NIH Institutional Program to increase the number of training grant slots available to train pre-doctoral biostatisticians. The Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology conduct substantial programs in methodologic and applied research in AIDS. These activities, create many opportunities for students to participate in AIDS research. Harvard School of Public Health has also made a concerted commitment to fight the epidemic. This effort includes the founding and ongoing support of the AIDS Institute to provide a forum for an interdisciplinary effort.
Our training program combines strong methodologic training in biostatistics and epidemiology together with collaborative research in immunology, virology, behavioral science and the clinical treatment of HIV infection. It thus provides excellent preparation for careers in the study and management of retroviral diseases; this training is also valuable as a foundation for controlling other infectious diseases.
Stipend and tuition support for this training program is funded through a National Institutes of Health grant (T32 AI007358).