The RADAR study was launched in 2014 to provide critical insights into risk and protective factors for HIV and drug use and to identify facilitators and barriers to the implementation of an effective strategy to end the HIV epidemic. Specifically, RADAR seeks to understand the connections between sexually transmitted infections (STIs), substance use, and romantic relationship patterns over time among young men who have sex with men (YMSM) and transgender women.
During our initial grant period, we were extremely productive in terms of recruitment, retention, scientific output, and training future scholars. RADAR recruited over 1,200 study participants and maintained a 80% retention rate since it was launched. To date, more than 40 scientific publications have been published. RADAR also served as a platform for innovative research, with more than 25 connected studies and seven concepts via the NIDA C3PNO consortium.
The project utilizes a multilevel research design that incorporates biological, dyadic, and network components to provide an unprecedented view into HIV transmission epidemiology. Cohort members are assessed every six months on individual behavior and risk; relationship and sexual partner characteristics; and social, sexual, and drug-using networks. Members also receive multiple biological assessments (drug and STI testing and banking of plasma and DNA) at each six-month assessment. The RADAR cohort includes both HIV-positive and -negative participants, and it continues to build a repository of HIV sequence data and biospecimens from time points before, during, and after acute infection that can facilitate future proposals evaluating substance use, HIV risk, pathogenicity, and immunity.
RADAR is the largest longitudinal study of YMSM ever conducted and is unique in its focus of this young risk group, its diversity (33.7% Black, 29.9% Latino/Hispanic, 25.5% White, 7.6% multi-racial, 2.4% Asian, < 1% Other, Pacific Islander/Native American/Native Alaskan). This mirrors the demographics of the city of Chicago, which is also the urban epicenter of HIV and drug epidemics in the Midwest (Cook County, IL, where Chicago is located, was fourth in HIV incidence in 2017).
Geographic Reach and Study Milestones
- Study participants reside in over 40 US states and 6 countries.
- RADAR has provided over 6,000 HIV tests to study participants.
- RADAR was the first major study to enroll dyads into a YMSM cohort.
- RADAR has successfully retained cohort participants who are living with HIV and who are HIV-negative (>80%).
- RADAR researchers publish scientific outputs frequently (40+ publications).
- RADAR created an innovative research platform (25+ connected studies; 7 concepts via NIDA C3PNO consortium).
- Keep a pulse on emerging trends in drug use, HIV risk/preventive behaviors, and care continuum engagement
- Continue to enroll cohort members’ new serious partners
- Build on our provocative findings of high levels of systematic inflammation in the RADAR cohort regardless of HIV status
- Continue to add specimens and data to our well-characterized biobehavioral respository to provide a platform for high-impact science
Platform for Innovative Research
The following figure highlights projects using RADAR data or samples. This speaks to the priority to serve as a platform for additional studies focused on HIV and substance use. We accomplished this objective by sharing data and samples from our biobehavioral repository as well as working directly with investigators who propose additional sub-studies embedded within RADAR.
A Community-Embedded Study
The Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) is the resident research partner of Center on Halsted—the Midwest’s largest and most comprehensive LGBTQ community center. Center on Halsted offers a vast array of services and programs, including a comprehensive HIV testing and linkage-to-care program, mental health services, and domestic violence prevention programs. RADAR study visits take place at Center on Halsted in a private research space, which provides a welcoming environment for diverse YMSM from across Chicago, allows for us to make warm handoffs to services needed by participants, and allows for rapid community dissemination of study findings.
The RADAR Community Advisory Board (CAB)
The RADAR CAB is comprised of health professionals from local organizations serving YMSM, as well as adolescent and young adults from the community. Our CAB discuss new aspects of the RADAR project, study findings, and community information needs. The CAB meets on a bi-annual basis and is also regularly accessed for ad hoc consultation.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Brian Mustanski
Co-Investigators: Dr. Richard D’Aquila, Dr. Patrick Janulis, Dr. Thomas McDade, Dr. Michael Newcomb, Dr. Sanjiv Shah, Dr. Harry Taylor
Consultant: Dr. Adam Carrico
Project Director: Tony Johnson
Funder: National Institute on Drug Abuse