A University of Rochester School of Nursing researcher specializing in the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in high-risk populations will be a panelist at a White House symposium focused on reducing the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
LaRon E. Nelson, PhD, RN, FNP, the Dean’s Endowed Fellow in Health Disparities and an assistant professor at the School of Nursing, was among a select group of researchers, program directors and community leaders invited to participate in the conference, Translating Research to Action: Reducing HIV Stigma to Optimize HIV Outcomes, March 3-4 at the White House.
Over the course of the two-day event organized by the U.S. Office of National AIDS Policy in collaboration with the NIH Office of AIDS Research and the National Institute of Mental Health, Nelson and other scientists and stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS from around the world will discuss best practices for measuring and monitoring HIV stigma, as well as methods of intervention focused on reducing stigma in order to improve HIV outcomes.
“HIV stigma has been on the international radar for quite some time, but there has been limited scientific activity on how to take what we know and translate it into real world practice,”said Nelson, who is also the associate director of international research in the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). “This meeting is designed to help advise leaders on the state of the science for HIV stigma research in order to achieve the goals outlined in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. I’m honored to have my work be featured at this meeting.”
Nelson’s domestic work in HIV prevention has focused primarily on groups whose prevention needs are complicated by their socially marginalized status in their communities, with particular emphasis on Black men who have sex with men (MSM). The importance of his research is underscored by a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement that Black MSM have a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of becoming infected with HIV. Nelson believes that stigma is a major factor contributing to the escalating HIV disparity in this group.
Nelson will discuss his research in this area, including a pilot study in Ghana which may have widespread implications for the rest of the world. Nelson’s past research with MSM in West Africa has shown that even when patients visit a clinic, they’re unlikely to accurately report their symptoms or sexual behavior. A new study supported through a joint grant from the Center for AIDS Research and University of Rochester School of Nursing will explore the use of mobile technology to help facilitate patient-provider communication of information critical to patient care. Patients can use a smartphone mobile app to monitor and report their symptoms and health behaviors, which are then transmitted to a select group of nurse-physician teams—specially trained to work with MSM populations—who can help develop customized treatment plans.
“The reality of life for MSM in Ghana forced us to look for new patient-centered solutions to care engagement,” he said. “This might be a breakthrough in allowing people to access the care they need while not exposing them to potential environments that may cause them harm in some way.”