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Research in HIV Intervention: Skills for the Community (RHISC)

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Below is a brief description of each of the Center’s current and recently completed projects, listed in alphabetical order. If you wish more detailed information about a specific project, click on the project name, and a Microsoft Word document will open.

Evaluating the perceived impact on HIV risk behavior of a peer education program for young women; impact on the educators and selected contacts compared to case-control community women
Principal Investigator: Sonia K. González, MPH
Brief Description: The long-term goal of this mixed-methods study is to identify or develop tools, as needed, that would improve current peer education programs throughout New York City and beyond. This study aims to enlighten future directions for a larger study of peer education programs in Brooklyn or greater New York City. Findings will inform best practices and innovations as practiced by teen peer educators and assess potential unintended positive and negative consequences of peer education through involvement of PHEs and PCs in study design.

HIV Knowledge, Risk and Protective Factors among West African Refugees, Asylees, and Asylum Seekers in New York City
Principal Investigator: Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith, Ph.D.
Brief Description: This proposed study will be the first to systematically address West African immigrants in NYC. The immediate goal is to examine if factors contributing to an immigrant’s serostatus, whether positive or negative, are “carried,” mitigated or exacerbated in NYC. The long-range goal is to design or adapt HIV prevention interventions for West African refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers throughout the US that take account of their multiple needs (e.g., legal, health, traumatic experiences) and incorporate self-described risk and protective factors in a culturally-appropriate manner.

Identifying Why and How Non-IDU Black MSM Maintain HIV Seronegativity
Principal Investigator: Jagadisa-devasri Dacus, LMSW, PhD Candidate in Social Welfare
Brief Description: Preliminary data from the HIV-testing component of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (CDC, 2006), indicated that of the MSM surveyed 25% were infected with HIV. Of that group, 48% were unaware of their HIV status, and of the MSM who tested positive for HIV, seropositive prevalence was highest among Blacks at an alarming 46% (CDC, 2006). Although considerable research has focused on the risk factors for HIV infection among Black MSM, the remaining 54% of Black MSM who tested seronegative have not received much attention. Since the aim of primary HIV prevention is to keep seronegatives negative, this group of Black MSM warrants attention. This New York City-based study will inform the development and evaluation of culturally- and gender-appropriate HIV primary prevention interventions for non-IDU seronegative Black MSM. The proposed study will identify, examine, and analyze the behaviors, circumstances, or other factors non-IDU seronegative Black MSM aged 21 and over report that enable them to remain negative.

“Is my life worth saving?”: Exploring the impact of self-esteem on young gay men’s sexual & drug-use decision-making
Principal Investigator: Lourdes D. Follins, PhD
Brief Description: The proposed two-year project will provide information about the psychosocial factors that undergird young Black and Latino gay men's (YBLGM) sexual and drug-using decision-making style. This study is the first step toward a longer-term goal of developing an age-, gender- and culturally-appropriate HIV risk prevention intervention that is co-created by the community (e.g., YBLGM, social service providers) and the Principal Investigator.

“It Takes a Village": Family-Based HIV Risk Reduction for Adolescents Exhibiting Externalizing Behavior Difficulties.
Principal Investigator: Geetha Gopalan, LCSW, PhD
Brief Description: This two-year (24 month), two-phase study aims to reduce HIV risk behaviors among adolescents with behavior difficulties by utilizing a family-based approach, which has shown particular promise in addressing HIV risk and externalizing behavior problems, especially interventions which enhance parental monitoring, discipline, involvement, and parent-child communication. The proposed intervention incorporates HIV risk reduction and family process components, sexual risk-reduction features and externalizing behavioral difficulty reduction strategies of three successful, evidence-based, family-based interventions for minority youth.

Strategies to maintain wellness among HIV positive former heroin users: Uncovering resilience
Principal Investigator: Nelson J. Tiburcio, PhD
Brief Description: This qualitative study focuses on the strategies that 20 HIV+ former opioid users employ to maintain wellness. The goal of the study is to identify the strategies former opioid users employ for HIV medication management, wellness care, successful opioid abstinence, and management of co-occurring physical and mental health conditions. Comparison and analysis of various coping strategies between genders and documentation with standardized instruments will be completed.

HIV Prevention among College-Going Women in a Minority Serving Institution
Principal Investigator: Tamara R. Buckley, PhD
Brief Description: The primary aim of this study is to generate knowledge about college-going women's identity development (i.e., their attitudes, beliefs, and cultural values) regarding race and gender that may influence their self-esteem, sexual narratives and HIV-related behaviors. The majority of HIV research focuses on prevention among high-risk women and men, while largely ignoring college going persons as a risk group although they engage in behaviors that place them at risk for contracting HIV (Alleyne, 2009) such as heavy drinking, frequent sexual contact, and drug use.

Transfer of HIV-protective techniques in parent-child communication to an adolescent mentoring program: Designing a program for male children of single mothers and their male mentors
Principal Investigator: Kaydian S. Reid, MA, Ph.D.
Brief Description: Black male mentors who are largely professionals and advanced in their education, but sharing similar backgrounds as their mentees, might well be “the necessary bridge” for single mothers to communicate effectively with their pre-and early-adolescent sons about sex, relationships, HIV, and STIs in high HIV-seroprevalence neighborhoods. The proposed pilot study is a first step in a long-range program to design, evaluate, and disseminate a culturally appropriate training program for male mentors and intake for mothers to address HIV-related issues.

If you have any questions about RHISC, please contact Brian Davis at 212-481-4075 or

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RHISC is funded by NIMH R25 training grant, Research in HIV: Skills for Underserved Communities and Families and is hosted exclusively at the Hunter College Center for Community and Urban Health, City University of New York. All materials © 2009, Hunter College Center for Community and Urban Health.