The National Institutes for Health (NIH) has awarded $2.4 million to Dr. Christian Grov, Dr. Denis Nash, and institutional partners to launch a 2-year nationwide HIV prevention study of gay and bisexual men.
Gay and bisexual men account for nearly two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses among men, with men of color being hardest hit by the ongoing epidemic. “In spite of all the tools we have to prevent HIV transmission, too many vulnerable individuals keep falling through the HIV prevention safety net, and we just don’t know why,” said Dr. Grov, an Associate Professor of Community Health and Social Sciences at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH).
To answer these questions, Dr. Grov will be leading a longitudinal study of 5,000 HIV-negative gay and bisexual men ages 16 to 49, all of whom participate by completing at-home online surveys as well as at-home self-administered HIV testing. “We need to study these men’s lives in the environments they live in, not in a research environment, clinic, or laboratory,” said Grov. “Given that, the study is designed for individuals to participate from their homes, or wherever they are most comfortable.”
Traditionally, research on gay and bisexual men has focused on adults over the age of 18, “But gay and bisexual men don’t wait until 18 to start having sex.” Recent data suggest many gay and bisexual men are sexually active around age 16, which is on par with when many heterosexuals become sexually active. “Thus, we have an important opportunity to improve the lives of these young individuals,” continued Grov. In recent years, there has been a spike in HIV infections in younger men who have sex with men.
One of the study’s main goals is to identify missed HIV prevention opportunities—to identify the cracks that vulnerable men are falling through and determine ways to fill them. “Systematically characterizing and addressing missed HIV prevention opportunities is a priority implementation issue, and critical for ending HIV epidemics for every jurisdiction across the US”, said Dr. Denis Nash, Executive Director of CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH), and a co-Investigator on the study. The investigative team includes an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the CUNY ISPH, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Boston, Rutgers University, and the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR).