Vincent Bond, Ph.D.: Unsung Hero of the HIV Response in Atlanta
“From the 1980s into the ‘90s if you had HIV and did not have access to standard anti-retroviral treatment, this would have been a death sentence,” says Vincent Craig Bond, Ph.D., reflecting on the early HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S.
It was in 1982 when Dr. Bond first learned of HIV. He had just graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Ph.D. in virology and was studying cell biology at California Institute of Technology. It was a time when the U.S. didn’t have an understanding of the disease impacting major cities, yet shortly after the first case of HIV’s full-blown disease state, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), was documented. Just a few years later as a Morehouse School of Medicine junior faculty member, with funding from several sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Bond began researching the rate in which the disease was spreading and who it was impacting, specifically in Georgia.
In 1990, Dr. Bond joined Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), drawn to the institution because of its social mission which emphasized a focus on people of color and the underserved urban and rural populations—those disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS then and still today.
The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990 had just been enacted by Congress, which provided federal funds for care and treatment. “We wanted to lead research that drives evidence-based approaches to care and treatment strategies,” said Sandra Harris-Hooker, Vice President and Executive Vice Dean for Research and Academic Administration and Professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomy at MSM.
Dr. Bond is now Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Immunology at MSM and has dedicated nearly thirty years to better understanding HIV/AIDS locally in Atlanta, in the U.S. and abroad. For the last ten years, Dr. Bond’s lab work has focused on understanding the trigger molecules and mechanisms involved in HIV-induced pathogenesis that leads to AIDS.
He has also collaborated with other MSM investigators to test the efficacy and safety of natural herbal extracts that can be used as a treatment for HIV and AIDS. The hope is that the natural medicine can be transformed into a low-cost treatment that may be used in places like Atlanta—a city with levels of HIV as high as some African nations—and in other communities throughout the world.
Dr. Bond’s contribution to the HIV response doesn’t just start and stop in the lab. His service to the community has also included partnering with the Fulton County HIV/AIDS Task Force and leading efforts to increase the number of minority investigators at HBCUs conducting HIV research. He is also the Principal Investigator of Research Centers at Minority Institutions, which provides support for the biomedical research infrastructure at MSM.
On May 9, 2019, Dr. Bond was named a 2019 Barbara Vick Impact Award honoree. This award celebrates the unsung heroes of the HIV Response in Atlanta.
As a regular blood donor, Barbara Vick noticed screening questions at the blood bank in early 1983 that explicitly excluded gay men from giving blood. Vick decided to establish an account with the San Diego Blood Bank that gay men could rely upon if they needed blood. Her story inspires the work of the Centers for AIDS Research at Emory University’s Community Liaison Council, which organizes the annual Impact Awards honoring emerging leaders, community advocates, providers, and HIV researchers such as Dr. Bond.
“It is a very good feeling to have people who I did not know and who do not directly know me see the relevance in the work I have done in my career and through other activities around HIV I have been involved in,” says Dr. Bond.