NIH awards $2.1 million to UCLA to end the HIV epidemic

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has granted $2.1 million to UCLA's Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment Services (CHIPTS) and the UCLA-CDU Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) to support four research projects and an implementation science consultation hub. These awards will fund projects to strengthen research-community collaborations and enhance implementation strategies needed for the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative.

These awards will support our scientists and community partners to address the systemic factors impacting our most vulnerable populations and explore innovative implementation strategies to help end the HIV epidemic. We also look forward to continuing to support the research priorities of the EHE initiative through our Implementation Science Hub."

Steve Shoptaw, CHIPTS director and professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Funded projects include:

Advancing HIV Implementation Research (Implementation Science Consultation Hub)

Implementation science plays an important role in the advancement of HIV research. The field recognizes that healthcare systems, public health agencies and communities often struggle to provide high quality services with limited resources. Alison Hamilton, professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and chief officer of implementation and policy at the VA Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation & Policy at Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, will lead the UCLA Rapid, Rigorous, Relevant Implementation Science Hub, which will offer tailored coaching, training, and technical assistance to NIH-supported implementation research projects across the U.S. in efforts to end the HIV epidemic .

Addressing HIV Risk Among Vulnerable Youth

Dallas Swendeman, associate professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science in the School of Public Health at San Diego State University and a licensed clinical psychologist, will lead a project that explores strategies to support the implementation of an intervention to reduce HIV risk among sexual and gender minority and racial/ethnic minority youth aged 12 to 24. These groups face disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV due to various factors, including low uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), yet effective and scalable interventions for youth remain limited. This study will accelerate implementation of the Adolescent HIV Medicine Trials Network (ATN) Protocol 149 Optimizing the HIV Prevention Continuum for Youth. The researchers will collaborate with community partners to explore implementation strategies for this intervention and prepare for application in real-world settings.

Enhancing HIV Prevention for Transgender and Nonbinary Individuals

Erik Storholm, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute, will lead a project to address low PrEP uptake and persistence among transgender and nonbinary individuals (TGNB) at-risk of HIV in Los Angeles County. Multiple syndemic barriers have been found to contribute to low PrEP uptake and persistence among TGNB individuals, such as intimate partner violence (IPV) and mental health burdens. This project will assess implementation outcomes and preliminary effects of integrating IPV prevention and mental health services into an ongoing gender-affirming PrEP program at a Los Angeles-based trans community center.

Reducing Barriers to HIV Prevention and Treatment among Black Americans

Black Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV, particularly young Black sexual minority men. Laura Bogart, professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute and chief officer of implementation and policy at the VA Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation & Policy at Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System will lead a study to enhance the implementation strategies and create a sero-status neutral version of the Rise intervention, a culturally tailored program to address adherence and retention barriers among Black individuals with HIV. Rise intervention, built on a 17-year community-academic partnership, will be expanded and tailored to address PrEP and antiretroviral therapy (ART) uptake and adherence among Black Americans in Los Angeles County and in Jefferson County, Alabama.

Improving PrEP Access for Black, Latino Sexual Minority Men and People who Inject Drugs

Dr. Gabriel Edwards, associate project scientist at the Geffen School, aims to bridge disparities in PrEP uptake among Black and Latino sexual minority men and people who inject drugs. The study will partner with the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (L.A. CADA) to provide community outreach to expand HIV testing and linkage with PrEP navigators to help facilitate PrEP medication access. The study will identify factors affecting successful linkages to PrEP in order to develop recommendations for improvement.

"Taken together, these awards reflect UCLA's and CDU's commitment to ending the HIV epidemic through innovative and community-focused approaches by focusing on populations most impacted by HIV and addressing the systemic barriers that put these populations at risk," said LaShonda Spencer, director of Drew CARES and professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

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