Developing Options to Improve Choices in HIV Prevention

  • Richard Sweet Professor of Reproductive Infectious Disease; Vice-Chair for Faculty Affairs; Professor, Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Director of Reproductive Infectious Disease Research, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

Dr. Hillier is an internationally recognized microbiologist whose work has influenced a nascent field of research in which women’s health and HIV prevention concerns intersect. She is principal investigator of the University of Pittsburgh-based Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), an HIV/AIDS clinical trials network established in 2006 by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). At the MTN, Dr. Hillier leads an international team of investigators and community and industry partners at more than 25 clinical research sites on four continents, directing an ambitious research agenda imposed by the urgency of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. MTN’s broad range of clinical trials includes studies considered among the most critically important for advancing the field of HIV prevention.

In her laboratory, Dr. Hillier’s research has focused on understanding both the preventive and causative roles that certain microorganisms in the vagina have with respect to genital tract infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and pre-term birth; and on the evaluation of vaginal microbicides for prevention of STIs in women. In addition to her role as principal investigator for the MTN, Dr. Hillier is principal investigator of an NIH-funded program project grant looking at alternative formulations for microbicides, and she is an investigator of on a study describing novel bacteria associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. In addition, Dr. Hillier is co-investigator of a study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation examining whether the use of different hormonal contraceptive methods alter immune cells in the genital tract, making them more susceptible to HIV infection.