MCW researchers receive grant to promote HIV prevention in racial minorities

Milwaukee, Dec. 5, 2017 – Jeffrey A. Kelly, PhD and Yuri A. Amirkhanian, PhD, both professors of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), were awarded a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research. Dr. Kelly and Dr. Amirkhanian will serve as dual principal investigators of the project, "Increasing PrEP Use in High-Risk Social Networks of African American MSM in Underserved Low-Uptake Cities."

Individuals at high-risk for HIV infection who follow antiretroviral medication regimens, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), are nearly 90% less likely to contract the disease than those who do not. The CDC recommends PrEP regimen use by high-risk gay or bisexual men in the United States. Although growing numbers of men who have sex with men (MSM) in large East and West coast cities employ PrEP as an HIV protective strategy, awareness of PrEP is much lower in mid-sized cities throughout the center of the country. PrEP awareness is especially limited among racial minority MSM, the group most likely to contract HIV infection in the United States. The newly awarded grant project will consist of two phases. The first phase is a qualitative assessment that will seek input from African American gay or bisexual men on intervention development. The second phase is a community intervention trial. Leaders of racial minority MSM social networks will be taught about PrEP and subsequently enlisted to disseminate information about the preventative strategy to friends and acquaintances. The study will determine whether the intervention increases PrEP awareness and use of the medication in a cohort of more than 500 high-risk community members. The project will be conducted in Milwaukee and Cleveland.

Additional MCW investigators are Andrew E. Petroll, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine; Katherine G. Quinn, PhD, assistant professors of psychiatry and behavioral medicine; Jennifer L. Walsh, PhD, assistant professors of psychiatry and behavioral medicine; Timothy L. McAuliffe, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine; and Sergey S. Tarima, PhD, associate professor of biostatistics.

Research conducted in Cleveland will be carried out in conjunction with the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland.

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