Dr. Brian Mustanski, Tenured Professor of Medical Social Sciences, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Psychology at Northwestern University; Director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing; and Co-Director of the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research, has been awarded $9.3 million from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to for an innovative study of eHealth interventions to prevent HIV among adolescent men who have sex with men (AMSM).
AMSM age 13-18 experience a dramatic health disparity, as they represent 2% of young people but account for almost 80% of HIV diagnoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, racial/ethnic minority young gay and bisexual males are disproportionately impacted by HIV; 55% of those diagnosed are Black, and 23% are Hispanic/Latino.
At the same time, young people are not getting the sex education that they need in school. CDC reports that less than half of high schools teach all recommended sexual health topics in schools, and the percentage of schools required to teach HIV prevention is on the decline. Moreover, there is a conspicuous lack of evidence-based HIV prevention programs for AMSM.
Dr. Mustanski’s study, the Sexual Minority Adolescent Risk Taking (SMART) Project, will evaluate a package of eHealth interventions, designed to meet AMSM with the intensity that each individual requires. This unique project starts with a proven online sex education intervention (Queer Sex Ed) delivered to all participants. Those who would benefit from a more intensive intervention will be enrolled in one to two more online interventions, utilizing soap operas and interactive games (Keep It Up!) and personalized therapy via online videochat (Young Men’s Health Project). All interventions have shown to be effective among English-speaking populations, and they will be also adapted for Spanish-speaking populations with the SMART Project.
In addition to the multidisciplinary faculty at Northwestern in the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, Medical Social Sciences, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Preventive Medicine, and Learning Sciences, the study also involves researchers at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus, School of Public Health, led by Dr. Carlos E. Rodríguez-Díaz, Associate Professor; Hunter College Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), led by Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Hunter College CUNY, and Director of CHEST; and North Carolina State University, Department of Statistics, led by Dr. Eric Laber, Assistant Professor.
The project emphasizes inclusion of racial/ethnic minority groups and populations that experience health disparities. In collaboration with community-based organizations, the SMART Project will purposely assure inclusion of Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, and rural populations.