The Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) has selected University of Rochester Assistant Professor of Nursing and UR Center for AIDS Research Associate Director of International Research LaRon E. Nelson, Ph.D., R.N., F.N.P. to be its inaugural OHTN Research Chair in HIV Program Science for African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) Communities.
In order to better provide integrated health services for populations most affected by HIV, the OHTN has launched a new program to promote health service innovation, naming three new applied HIV research chairs.
“Each of these research leaders has a unique vision for improved HIV care,” said Tony Di Pede, chair of the OHTN Board of Directors. “The review process identified leaders with the proven ability to work with people and communities across the health care system to investigate and implement solutions.”
Nelson will be appointed as a scientist with the Centre for Urban Health Solutions in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, where he will build on his previous successful implementation of a self-determination-theory-based public health strategy to support HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis uptake and adherence among Black men who have sex with men in three U.S. cities (Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and Durham, N.C.). In Ontario, Nelson will lead research focused on reducing HIV disparities in ACB communities across the HIV continuum of care, from prevention to care outcomes, such as symptom management and viral suppression.
This is the second major honor for Nelson in Canada. In 2011, the Canadian government named him one of the nation’s Rising Stars in Global Health.
“I am excited for the opportunity to continue applying my expertise in public health nursing and HIV research to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in HIV infection and care outcomes in communities outside of the United States” said Nelson.
Sixty percent of all African, Caribbean and Black Canadians live in the province of Ontario, which is home to Toronto, the fourth largest metropolitan area in North America. ACB communities in the province are disproportionately affected by HIV. Although these communities make up less than 5 percent of Ontario’s population, they accounted for 25 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in 2015, according to the OHTN.
As the newly appointed OHTN Research Chair in HIV Program Science for African, Caribbean and Black Communities, Nelson will lead program science research on the design, evaluation, translation, and implementation of evidence-based interventions and public health strategies. He will work with regional health departments, community partners, policy makers, and an interdisciplinary team of scientists to implement multilevel prevention packages that are optimized to the needs of ACB communities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), which can then be replicated in other Ontario communities.
Nelson’s work in the GTA will start with ACB communities, individuals living with HIV, community service and public health providers in the Region of Peel. The team will help efforts to improve upon coordination and integration of HIV prevention, diagnosis and care for the rapidly growing ACB communities who are migrating west to the region. The new program will use customized mobile technology to address common barriers to prevention and care. Nelson will also develop and mentor a network of early-stage ACB Canadian researchers across Ontario.