$8.4 Million Grant to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Funds Five-Year HIV Study

Research aims to improve HIV care and prevention among young men
of color

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have received an $8.4
million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct
research to improve HIV care and prevention in a study focusing on
Black, Latino and multiracial gay and bisexual young men – a group at
the highest risk for contracting HIV.

With the aim of changing the course of the HIV epidemic in the U.S., the
Healthy Young Men’s Study (HYM) will investigate use of the latest
technologies and biomedical interventions to help prevent new HIV
infections in highly impacted communities, and improve health outcomes
for young men living with HIV.

Of all new infections in young men who have sex with men, or YMSM, 54%
were among African Americans and 22% were among Latinos, according to a
2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The HYM study will examine risk factors for HIV infection, as well as
barriers to or facilitators of engagement in care and prevention in this
population.

“The rate of new HIV infections in this group is extraordinarily and
unacceptably high. This is the only group for which there has been no
change in either rates of new infection or cases of AIDS,” said the
study’s principal investigator Michele D. Kipke, PhD, vice chair of
research in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los
Angeles and director of the Community, Health Outcomes & Intervention
Research Program of The Saban Research Institute at CHLA.

“For example, young African-American homosexual men are five times more
likely to be HIV positive, seven times more likely to be undiagnosed,
and are less likely to seek and remain in HIV/AIDS care than their white
counterparts,” Kipke said, adding that her past studies show that
homophobia and racism contribute to the high rates of infection among
YMSM of color.

In addition, it is estimated that about 60% of all young people who are
HIV positive are unaware of their status. Changing the course of this
epidemic will require engaging high-risk populations in testing, and
providing high-quality health care for people living with HIV using a
“treatment as prevention” strategy, in which antiretroviral therapy
leads to a dramatic reduction in transmission rates, according to the
researchers.

The HYM study builds upon prior research led by Kipke, who began her
career during the onset of the AIDS epidemic in New York City in the
mid-1980s. She has led several large NIH and CDC studies focused on
understanding risk factors among adolescents and vulnerable populations,
and developing new interventions focused on stopping the spread of HIV.
Results from this research demonstrated that the stigma of HIV,
experiences of racism, internalized homophobia and violence are risk
factors for HIV infection among YMSM of color. Along with involvement in
illicit drug use and risky sexual behavior, they may lead to toxic
stress responses that can affect the physical and mental health of these
young men.

The study team plans to recruit and track a cohort of 450 YMSM of color
within the Los Angeles area. Collaborating with experts from diverse
disciplines, the research team will investigate the use of new
technologies such as mobile and telehealth solutions, smartphone apps,
and wearable devices to examine how to better engage this vulnerable
youth population in HIV testing, and then link HIV positive individuals
to quality health care and help them to adhere to treatment.

“We now have new biomedical interventions that have the potential to
significantly curb new infections, and new technologies to help improve
adherence to treatment for those who have been infected,” said Kipke,
who is also professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine in the Keck
School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) and
co-director of the Southern California Clinical and Translational
Science Institute at USC. “The HYM study provides a unique opportunity
to leverage advances in science and medicine to help end the HIV
epidemic in the United States.”

The HYM study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the
National Institutes of Health grant number 1 U01 DA036926-01A1.

Contacts

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Debra Kain, 323-361-7628
dkain@chla.usc.edu