The Training Program for Scientists Conducting Research to Reduce HIV/AIDS Health Disparities

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Investigator: Torsten B. Neilands, PhD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Mental Health

Location(s): United States

Description

This program addresses the urgent need highlighted in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for culturally competent HIV/AIDS prevention research in underserved communities most affected by HIV/AIDS. Our training program provides education and mentoring to early-career social and behavioral HIV/AIDS-prevention scientists who have demonstrated cultural expertise, a commitment to improving the health of underserved communities affected by HIV, and who are initiating innovative programs of research to advance the mental health-related objectives of the Office of AIDS Research Annual Strategic Plan and program priorities of the NIMH Division of AIDS Research. The aims of this five-year project are to: 1) Assist visiting professors in refining innovative ideas, concepts, and theories into clearly articulated and feasible HIV/AIDS prevention research programs focused on social, behavioral, and environmental influences associated with HIV/AIDS health disparities; 2) Provide funding and mentoring to the visiting professors to design and conduct significant and innovative pilot research that will provide preliminary data for subsequent grant proposals to NIH; 3) Provide education, mentoring, and technical assistance to visiting professors in the writing, submission, revision, and resubmission of NIH research grants focused on social/behavioral research with underserved communities (e.g., racial, ethnic, sexual minorities) experiencing HIV-related health disparities; and 4) Provide ongoing peer review and technical assistance to visiting professors who have completed the program and continue to conduct social/behavioral HIV/AIDS health disparities prevention research. We will accomplish these aims through a research education and mentoring program at UCSF's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS). The centerpiece of the proposed program is a training institute in which visiting professors, who have not yet obtained R01-level funding, participate in an intensive program over a three-year period. Each visiting professor is in residence at CAPS for six weeks for three consecutive summers. In the first summer, the program helps visiting professors develop their ideas into feasible programs of research and design and implement a pilot study funded by the program. During the academic year they collect pilot data, then during the second summer analyze the pilot data and begin an NIH grant proposal. Following the second summer, they present their pilot results at a conference and draft manuscripts for publication. In the third summer, they complete their proposals and submit them to NIH. The proposed program is well positioned to leverage CAPS' unique environment to provide tailored research education and mentoring in social/behavioral HIV/AIDS- prevention research, assist program participants to become successful independent investigators, and simultaneously increase the diversity of HIV/AIDS scientists. Research to advance understanding of the development and progression of diseases and disabilities that contribute to health disparities is a major goal of te National Institutes of Health's strategic research plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. There are few areas that are more critical to improving the nation's health than understanding the disparities in underserved HIV/AIDS-vulnerable communities. Innovative, evidence-based interventions that rely on well-researched and culturally-specific theories of human behavior are urgently needed to stem the rising tide of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in these communities. The proposed five-year program aims to address this public health need by providing research education and mentoring to early-career social and behavioral HIV/AIDS-prevention scientists who have demonstrated cultural expertise, a commitment to improving the health of underserved communities affected by HIV, and who are initiating innovative programs of research to advance the program priorities of the NIMH Division of AIDS Research. The core of the program is an innovative, intensive six-week summer in-residence program of seminars, one-on-one consultations with mentors, pilot study funding and peer reviews, as well as ongoing support from mentors during the academic year via webinars on emerging substantive and methods topics in HIV/AIDS prevention research, bi-monthly online meetings to troubleshoot research issues, and a social networking website to help participants stay connected during the academic year.