ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The UAlbany School of Public Health announced Monday the establishment of a new center for research, focused on addressing the social justice and public health challenges of people at risk for HIV and related diseases.

It’s called the Center for Collaborative HIV Research in Practice and Policy, or CCHRPP. UAlbany is partnering with NYSDOH AIDS Institute, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University on the research and academic programs that go beyond HIV and AIDS.

“HIV has many causes and factors, including social determinants of health, poverty, and drug use,” Gus Birkhead, Director of CCHRPP told News10.

Birkhead explained that the likelihood of contracting HIV based on demographics is similar to what officials and researchers see happening with the Coronavirus.

“For example, we know that minorities, African-American, Latino, are much more heavily impacted by the (coronavirus) pandemic,” Birkhead said, “that’s also true with HIV. So, what are those common factors? [CCHRPP] will hopefully enable us to apply for research funding.”

The importance of research, Birkhead said, has only become more relevant to the public recently because of COVID-19.

“If you go back 20, 25 years ago when HIV began, we had many of the same questions” Birkhead explained. “We didn’t know what was causing it, we didn’t know how easily it was transmitted, and we didn’t know how to treat it or prevent it.”

While many questions about HIV have been answered since the first U.S. cases were identified in the 1980s, new research is still coming out constantly about the Coronavirus. Birkhead says the University and new research center are hotspots for young minds to be at the forefront of answering critical questions about public health.

“It’s really an opportunity for students. We’ve seen a big increase in the number of students that are applying for a public health programs,” Birkhead told News10. “I think the pandemic has really highlighted what it is public health does.”