The health problems faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are often the same as those in the general population. In some cases, however, LGBT people have been found to be at greater risk for health problems such as breast cancer, HIV, hepatitis, and stress-related conditions. As a result, the Center for LGBT Health Research was created.
The mission of the Center is to understand and improve the health of the LGBT community by maintaining an infrastructure that provides research concerning LGBT health and wellness needs.
Scroll down to read about the latest news, research and events concerning the Center and its members. You can also view this Power Point Presentation to learn more.
February 17, 2015
From Pittsburgh’s City Paper…
By Alex Zimmerman
To four visiting scholars in Pittsburgh, curing the global AIDS epidemic might have nothing to do with medicine. They’re not working in laboratories on the next generation of antiretrovirals, or looking for a breakthrough vaccine. They’ve been on the front lines of a problem that is at once both more elemental and infinitely complicated.
It’s why an engineer-turned-activist from Pakistan, who despite his attraction to men didn’t hear the word “gay” until he was 18, is trying to figure out why HIV-positive men in his home country often never seek treatment — even if they know their status. Or why the first person to speak publicly about being HIV-positive in Belize is trying to understand the barriers to HIV-testing there, despite threats of assassination.
“They see the barriers in their work is not giving pills to people, it’s getting them to take the pills,” explains Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh. “We now have the tools that we need to stop the epidemic, but what we don’t have are ways to break through the stigma.”
Under Stall’s direction, four visiting scholars from China, Pakistan, Belize and South Africa are spending the next five months devising research projects to address HIV-related health crises in their home countries. The projects range from understanding the barriers that keep people from receiving care to testing the efficacy of at-home HIV screening.
The program, funded by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and hosted by Pitt, is designed to take people who are already part of organizations that are connected to LGBT populations in their home countries, so they can take advantage of that social infrastructure to conduct research.
Continue reading on the City Paper.
February 17, 2015
The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and the Center for LGBT Health Research at the Graduate School of Public Health (“Pitt Public Health”) at the University of Pittsburgh are announcing the continuation of the amfAR HIV Scholars Program: a training program for junior investigators from low- and middle-income countries who are interested in conducting HIV research among gay men, other men who have sex with men, and/or transgender individuals (referred to here collectively as “GMT”). Four scholars from low- and middle-income countries will be accepted into the program for the 2015 training year. The program aims to build indigenous GMT health research capacity by training young investigators to conduct ground-breaking research in HIV among GMT populations. The program also seeks to help define effective responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic among GMT populations. The training program is being conducted in collaboration with an existing training program on LGBT health research at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
Eligibility to Apply
Junior investigators who are committed to studying HIV prevention and care needs among GMT in their home countries are invited to apply to this program. Scholars from low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, or Oceania are welcome to apply (view a complete list at http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=9oILJXOuGaIKJTNDH&s=7pIJLZMBJkJNKVPBJoG&m=cnILLPMnHcIHL0J). To be admitted to the program, investigators must be fluent in English and able to read and write English at a high academic level.
Core Training Program
The training program includes three graduate-level classes to be taken in Pittsburgh from January through May 2015, which is equivalent to a full-time graduate course load. The first of these classes is an overview in LGBT health research, the second is a research methods class, and the third is an advanced research methods class that focuses on research proposal writing. As part of these classes, scholars will develop a research question and write a short proposal (10–15 pages) that will be submitted to amfAR for peer review and possible funding at a pilot project level. During their time in Pittsburgh, each participating scholar will also:
· Complete on-line courses in the ethical conduct of research
· Complete a draft questionnaire for their proposed research study
· Create a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered by the scholar to amfAR staff during a visit to amfAR’s office in New York
· Develop a draft IRB application.
Scholars will also attend two additional research methods seminars each week. One focuses on HIV/LGBT health research being conducted by doctoral and post-doctoral students and professors at the Center for LGBT Health Research and the other focuses specifically on the research being designed by the scholars themselves. Additional events sponsored by the Graduate School of Public Health and the Center for LGBT Health Research are also open to the scholars.
Funding and Support
Expenses covered by the program will include round-trip travel between the scholars’ home countries and Pittsburgh, visa fees, housing, a modest stipend to support scholars during their time in Pittsburgh, and training-related costs. Scholars should plan to bring their own laptop computers to Pittsburgh to support their training.
Research proposals will be submitted to amfAR at the conclusion of the training program in the hope that each scholar would receive a pilot research grant to implement his or her proposed study. Please note that this funding is not guaranteed. If research proposals are selected for funding by amfAR, scholars will begin work on their projects after returning to their home countries. The primary goal of the program is to increase the number of investigators in low- and middle-income countries who are able to conduct research among GMT and advocate for their health needs in order to raise the levels of HIV services and care for GMT in these settings. It is also hoped that the training program help advance the careers and training horizons of the scholars who participate in the program and increase the research being conducted in the developing world among GMT.
The procedures for applying to the program are simple. Only four documents are needed to apply:
· A resume or CV that describes your training and job history.
· A letter of support from an NGO or academic institution agreeing to support you and provide a home for your research during the post-training period.
· A short (maximum five pages) personal statement and outline of research objectives. Please use the format given on the next page to organize this statement.
Applications that are designed to focus on issues relevant to the HIV treatment cascade (i.e., innovative ways to identify unknown HIV seropositives; finding new ways to help HIV-positive patients access medical care; designing new approaches to help patients stay in treatment; identifying new approaches to increase treatment adherence; creating programs to reconnect HIV-positive patients who have dropped out of medical care) are especially encouraged.
The due date for applications is October 10, 2014. We plan to identify the four finalists for the training program by November 1, and they should plan to arrive in Pittsburgh by January 1, 2015. Interested applicants should submit the three application documents via email to Dr. Ron Stall at email@example.com. If you have any questions or comments regarding this announcement, please send them to Dr. Stall at the same email address.
Application Instructions: The procedures for applying to the program are simple. Only three documents are needed to apply:
· A resume or CV that lists the applicant’s training and job history (maximum two pages).
· A letter of support from an NGO or academic institution with which you will partner that documents an agreement to support you and provide a home for your research during the post-training period (maximum two pages)
· A short (maximum five pages) personal statement and outline of research objectives. Please use the format below, numbering each section:
Part 1: Personal Statement (maximum two pages)
1.1. Name (first, middle, last):
1.2. City, Country (where you live):
1.3. City, Country (where you intend to focus your research):
1.4. Life and work experiences that demonstrate your knowledge of and ability to work within the GMT community in your city/country.
1.5. Brief description of an NGO or academic institution with which you will partner.
Part 2: Research outline (maximum two pages)
2.1. Proposed research project title
2.2. Brief background of the topic (specific to your location)
2.3. Description of how your research topic addresses the HIV/AIDS treatment cascade.
2.4 Assessment of the feasibility of conducting this project in the chosen research setting.
2.5. Assessment of what this project will contribute to the health of GMT populations in your home setting.
September 16, 2014
From Pittsburgh’s City Paper…
On a hot summer evening 10 years ago, 14-year-old Michael Brookins stood — in shoplifted designer clothes — at the entrance to what looked like a vacant building in Homewood. What was going on inside would change his life forever. From the sidewalk, Brookins recalls today, “It look[ed] like there’s nothing going on. But when you walk in there’s this whole party.” [...] Brookins had stumbled into the ballroom community, a world populated mostly by black and Latino gay men and transgender women — and invisible to most other Pittsburghers. The scene revolves around “house balls” where members compete against each other in a variety of events, ranging from fashion-model runway posturing to the acrobatic angular dance style known as “voguing.”
With a few exceptions — like Madonna’s 1990 song/music video “Vogue” and Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris Is Burning — the scene has drawn little mainstream attention. But some local public-health experts have been taking a closer look, partly in response to an ongoing national health disaster: By the time a black gay American male reaches middle age, his chances of being infected with HIV are about the same as a coin toss coming up “heads.”
Trying to lower those odds, in fact, has become a central part of Brookins’ life. It’s the reason he helped devise Project Silk, a unique attempt to provide a community space where members of the local ballroom community could get an HIV test, practice dancing and hang out in a safe place. Because a decade after walking his first ball, Brookins hasn’t forgotten the feeling of belonging that came from that performance — or the uncertainty he felt afterward.
“I just kept having in the back of my head, like, ‘I can’t get caught doing this,’” Brookins says. “‘I love it, it’s awesome, but if I get caught doing this, what’s going to happen to me? How’s my world going to change?’ I wasn’t prepared for that at all.”
Read the full article on the City Paper Website.
July 9, 2014
The Black Pride study has already completed the first round of data collection in Philadelphia. The fieldwork experience was quite successful and large numbers of men participated in the survey interview. Stay tuned for findings as we continue our fieldwork in the other Black Pride cities!
May 5, 2014
NerdScholar Favorites: Masters in Public Health Programs
Next time you drink from the tap or flush a toilet, you can thank the field of public health. The idea was born during antiquity, when early civilizations deduced that the spread of communicable diseases was made worse by polluted water and improper waste disposal. More recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that efforts in public health added 25 years to the life expectancy of Americans in the last century. And these efforts go beyond clean water. Some of the CDC’s biggest accomplishments, since its founding in 1946, have been immunizations, advanced motor-vehicle safety, and family planning.
The field of public health continually changes as health trends ebb and flow, requiring multidisciplinary teams and direct communication with affected communities. NerdScholar has compiled a list of our favorite graduate schools with impressive public health programs that prepare students for this dynamic field. For those interested in effecting large-scale health changes, applying to these graduate schools is step one.
Pitt Public Health’s seven departments—behavioral and community health sciences, biostatistics, environmental and occupational health, epidemiology, health policy and management, human genetics, and infectious diseases and microbiology—collectively offer students a number of masters and doctoral programs, as well as a master of health administration and genetic counseling program. The school boasts the Center for LGBT Health Research and a certificate program, as well as more than 60 years of relationships fostered with public health agencies in Pittsburgh and beyond. “We are a major research powerhouse and consistently one of the top five recipients of National Institutes of Health funding among all schools of public health,” says Eleanor Feingold, Ph.D., associate dean for education and professor of human genetics. “Almost every student participates in our cutting-edge research programs, as well as being actively involved in public health practice in our communities.
To read the full article, go to NerdScholar.
April 21, 2014
From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette…
African-American men who have sex with other men typically are more conservative in sexual behavior than gay men in general. So why are they far more likely to contract HIV/AIDS?
“Generally, they take far fewer risks than white guys. They are much more conservative than gay men in general. But it’s a 30-year-long epidemiological puzzle,” said Ron Stall, in the department of behavioral and community health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “Where’s all the virus coming from? If you can’t answer that question, you can’t do HIV prevention.”
The graduate school and the Center for Black Equity in Washington, D.C., now hope to answer that question. They’ve landed a $3.2 million grant through the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health to answer the question and help put the brakes on the national epidemic of human immunodeficiency virus and the deadly disease that HIV causes — acquired immune deficiency syndrome, known as AIDS. The research team plans to survey nearly 6,000 African-American men who attend annual Black Gay Pride events in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which draw about 300,000 participants annually.
“We will bring the community, and Pitt will bring the science,” said Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of CBE. “We hope to get answers to help both institutions and all of society. This is the most important thing we’ve done in the history of our organization.” The study will create the largest sample of HIV-related data ever collected from African-American MSM, “and that will yield important data about the health and well-being of our community,” Mr. Fowlkes said.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/
February 13, 2014
Only one-half of 1 percent of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between 1989 and 2011 concerned the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, contributing to the perpetuation of health inequities, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led analysis.
The findings, which grew from the Fenway Institute’s Summer Institute in LGBT Population Health in Boston and continued at Pitt Public Health’s Center for LGBT Health Research, are in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health, published today. The researchers make several recommendations for how to stimulate LGBT-related research.
“The NIH is the world’s largest source of health research funding and has placed a low priority on LGBT health research,” said Robert W.S. Coulter, M.P.H., a doctoral student in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. “In general, LGBT people experience stigma associated with their sexual and gender minority status, disproportionate behavioral risks and psychosocial health problems, and higher chronic disease risk factors than their non-LGBT counterparts. Increased NIH funding for research on these topics, particularly focusing on evidence-based interventions to reduce health inequities, could help alleviate these negative health outcomes.”
About 3.5 percent of the U.S. adult population is estimated to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to recent research based on national- and state-level population surveys.
Mr. Coulter and his colleagues found 628 NIH-funded studies concerning LGBT health between 1989 and 2011, accounting for 0.5 percent of all NIH-funded studies. The majority of those studies focused on HIV/AIDS and other sexual health matters. When those studies were excluded, there were only 113 LGBT-related studies remaining, or 0.1 percent of NIH-funded studies during this time period.
After analyzing those studies, Mr. Coulter’s research team found further gaps within the 628 LGBT-related studies, with 86.1 percent concerning the health of sexual minority men, only 13.5 percent focused on sexual minority women and 6.8 percent focused on transgender populations, with some of the projects studying more than one subgroup.
The authors also found that there were 202 projects on the development, implementation or evaluation of interventions. When intervention studies concerning HIV and other sexual health matters were removed, the number of projects dropped to 21.
“Studies have shown that specific subgroups of LGBT populations experience health problems like tobacco use, violence and obesity at higher rates than their non-LGBT counterparts. Thus, the lack of intervention studies aimed at reducing these health disparities contributes to the perpetuation of health inequities among LGBT populations,” said Mr. Coulter.
He added that, “The political climate has had a chilling effect within the NIH that constrains LGBT health research and appears to be responsible, at least in part, for the marginalization of LGBT research at the NIH.”
Mr. Coulter and his colleagues noted that a 2003 request by some Republican members of Congress for the NIH to justify the benefits of nearly 200 projects, most of which investigated LGBT or other marginalized populations, was followed by more than half of the researchers leading those studies removing words from their study proposals that might be deemed controversial, such as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “AIDS.” A smaller proportion of researchers completely dropped their LGBT-related studies, with some even changing careers. The research by Mr. Coulter and colleagues showed a substantial drop in LGBT-related projects at NIH during these years as well.
Mr. Coulter and his colleagues believe that NIH is on the path toward lessening the dearth of LGBT-related research. In 2012, NIH supported a workshop about sexual orientation and gender identity in electronic health records and encouraged professional development activities related to LGBT health.
To more efficiently stimulate research projects on LGBT health, the researchers recommend the NIH engage in the following practices to comprehensively address the problem:
- Establish policies that designate LGBT people as priority populations for research that goes beyond HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues.
- Increase evidence-based intervention research to improve LGBT and reduce health inequities.
- Explore new strategies to increase the amount of LGBT health research, including support for diversity among researchers.
- Support efforts to expand the pool of trained researchers prepared to propose LGBT research projects through training grants, fellowships, career awards and the establishment of LGBT Centers of Excellence.
January 15, 2014
Press release date: November 6 2013
The number of HIV positive men who have sex with both men and women is likely no higher than the number of HIV positive heterosexual men, according to a U.S.-based analysis by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers. The finding challenges a popular assumption that bisexual men are responsible for significant HIV transmission to their female partners.
The research, which will be presented at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting & Exposition in Boston, builds a case for federal investment in research on HIV prevalence among bisexually behaving men. “Some observers have exaggerated the idea of viral ‘bridging’ – where a bisexual man contracts HIV from another man and then transmits it to a female partner. But, at least in the U.S., the data supporting the extent of this is quite limited,” said Mackey R. Friedman, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, who led the research.
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not report on HIV data specific to bisexually behaving people, though it does report data on homosexually and heterosexually behaving people, as well as injection drug users. Dr. Friedman and his colleagues reviewed over 3,000 scientific articles to obtain data on HIV prevalence and risks among men who have sex with men only and men who have sex with men and women. The bisexually behaving men were only 40 percent as likely to be infected with HIV as the homosexually behaving men. The researchers propose that this is because the bisexually behaving men reported lower rates of unprotected receptive anal intercourse, the biggest risk factor for HIV transmission among men in the U.S.
The analysis also estimates that there are approximately 1.2 million bisexual men in the U.S., of whom 121,800 are HIV-positive. That estimate aligns with CDC estimates for HIV infection in male heterosexuals and intravenous drug users. Dr. Friedman, who has conducted HIV prevention and research for more than 15 years, believes that while bisexually behaving men may have a lower risk profile than homosexually behaving men, their HIV burden still warrants the development of targeted interventions. “The HIV infection risk that bisexual men pose to their female partners has likely been overstated,” said Dr. Friedman. “However, that doesn’t mean that HIV-prevention campaigns targeting bisexual men and their male and female partners aren’t needed. HIV does exist in the bisexual community, and national, bisexual-specific data collection, research, and HIV prevention and care delivery are necessary to ameliorate this population’s HIV burden.”
Additional collaborators on this research are Chongyi Wei, Dr.P.H., Mary Lou Klem, Ph.D., Anthony Silvestre, Ph.D., Nina Markovic, Ph.D., and Ron Stall, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh.
Contact: Allison Hydzik
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
November 13, 2013
From Pittsburgh’s NPR radio station:
According to Dr. Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, the dearth of investment in sexual health research, especially for the LGBT community, is something of an American tradition. Primarily due to the hot-button nature of conversations about sexuality and sexual practices, “the US has been slow to invest in sexual health in general.”
This additional roadblock makes the advances that have been made in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV all the more impressive. According to Stall, thanks to breakthrough drug research, HIV “has now become a chronic manageable disease much like diabetes,” for those who are aware of their illness and have access to drugs.
“When historians write about this epidemic, they’ll be impressed.” Stall says. Still, members of the LGBT community are disproportionately affected by the disease and the complications that come with it. According to Dr. Stall, the center for LGBT health research seeks to go deeper than treatment, and is focused on understanding why the health disparities exist. Stall notes that mental health, substance abuse issues, and the health of the individuals relationships all have a serious impact on the risk of contracting HIV. And determining how these issues factor in can help prevent transmission of the disease going forward. One of the biggest challenges facing the center is, as it has always been, chronic under-funding. “There’s no question that the funding is not commensurate with the proportion of Americans that are LGBT.” Stall states. “There needs to be a structural change in how this work is funded.”
Listen to the radio interview here.
July 23, 2013