Filed under: News
From the insideUPMC blog…
For Leigh Bukowski, M.P.H., having the opportunity to present her LGBT-related research at the 2016 AIDS International Conference in South Africa was a dream come true.
A few short hours after her presentation, the experience was made even more special when she was awarded the 2016 Joep Lange and Jacqueline van Tongeren Prize for Young Investigators for Track D, Social and Political Research, Law, Policy and Human Rights. Her abstract, “Physical assault partially mediates the impact of transgender status on depression and poly-substance use among Black MSM and Black transgender women in the United States: results from POWER,” was selected from over 6,700 other abstracts for the prestigious award.
“It’s really important we have people advocating for change on all levels: community, direct service and policy change,” she said. “My goal is to use my skills to explore health disparities in this population and ultimately find solutions.”
Bukowski researched the differences between gay black men and black transgender women. Though they are not the same, the two groups are often clumped together as one in HIV/AIDS-related research, she said. This is because the two groups engage in similar sexual relations. However, they have very different identities and are therefore treated differently in society.
She compared the rates of physical assault, substance use and depression between the two populations, and found that those incidences occur much more often in black transgender women than gay black men, proving that the two populations have very different experiences and should be treated as such.
“Though they have similar behaviors, their lived experiences are vastly different,” Bukowski said.
Bukowski currently serves as a project coordinator for Promoting Our Worth, Equality, and Resilience (POWER) in the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Before receiving a master’s degree in public health at Pitt, she worked at an organization trying to improve the lives of refugees and minority groups in Vermont.
She credits Ronald Stall, Ph.D., and Robert W.S. Coulter, M.P.H., both of Pitt Public Health, for providing mentorship with her analysis, abstract and presentation. She plans on donating part of her award to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the Transgender Law Center.
August 5, 2016
In response to a landmark study concerning LGBT health, scientists at the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh published an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health. The study in question, entitled Sexual Orientation and All-Cause Mortality Among US Adults Aged 18 to 59 Years, 2001–2011, demonstrated that sexual minority populations in the United States have higher mortality rates than do heterosexuals.
“While the study presented data that move the field forward in many important ways,” says Dr. Ron Stall, the Center’s director, “it also raised as many questions as it answers.”
The Center scientists are hoping their editorial can promote a research agenda that could be used to address health disparities in LGBT populations in the United States. Their agenda starts with careful documentation of which disparities exist in sexual minority populations, addresses the causes of those disparities, and then tests the efficacy of interventions designed to address those disparities.
“The editorial points out that this work will probably take generations of scientific investigation to achieve,” Stall went on to say. “Which means that training programs in LGBT health research and the support of new generations of scholars are essential to our ability to address ongoing health problems in LGBT populations.”
You can find the Center’s editorial The Continuing Development of Health Disparities Research on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals on the American Journal of Public Health Website.
May 11, 2016
From Pittsburgh’s Trib Review…
Treatments for HIV have evolved through several generations since August “Buzz” Pusateri tested positive for the virus 30 years ago. The latest drugs promise a near-normal life span with few side effects for people newly diagnosed. But side effects of earlier drugs, and damage the drugs couldn’t prevent, linger in Pusateri’s 77-year-old body.
In addition to two pills for HIV, he takes medicine to relieve numbness in his feet likely caused by early treatments. He wears a beard to cover facial scarring that new patients won’t get, and some of his body’s fat has migrated to his midsection, creating a condition known as lipodystrophy. “It’s been an up-and-down battle,” said Pusateri, of Oakland. “Really, with this HIV, you never know what’s going to happen to you.” Pusateri is among the oldest in a group of people observing a milestone many never imagined: 2015 is the first year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated more than half of people living with HIV may be older than 50.
“No one would have believed this 30 years ago,” said Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Stall recently received a $2.1 million National Institutes of Health grant for a three-year study of what he calls “resiliencies” or the social and emotional characteristics of men who stayed healthy while living with HIV or who are at risk of contracting it.
Stall is beginning the study amid increased attention from doctors and medical researchers on how the human immunodeficiency virus and its treatments affect aging. Without treatment, life expectancy for someone with the virus is about 10 years, he said.
Read the full article
November 20, 2015
As the U.S. reaches an important milestone this year in the fight against HIV with more than half the people living with the virus older than age 50, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is launching a study to determine ways to promote health among aging gay and bisexual men, who make up about two-thirds of the people aging with HIV.
In an effort to create strategies for use in public health outreach nationwide, the research team will be taking an innovative approach to the study by looking for protective factors – called “resiliencies” – that are helping keep some men with HIV healthy and could be extended to other men, rather than simply fixing health problems as they arise. This research is funded with a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“We celebrate that medications now exist to enable people with HIV to live well into old age,” said study principal investigator Ron Stall, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at Pitt Public Health. “But we also need to recognize that the health complications that come with aging – both mental and physical – are compounded when you’re living with HIV. It is critical that we develop research-based programs to support HIV-positive people as they age.”
Read the full article.
November 2, 2015
For the third consecutive year, the GMT Initiative has teamed up with the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health to offer scholarships to four researchers from low- or middle-income countries as part of the amfAR HIV Scholars program.The program aims to strengthen responses to HIV by offering leading GMT community-based researchers five months of graduate-level study on LGBT health research, study design, and grant writing.
The 2015 amfAR HIV Scholars (left to right): Sheryar Kazi associated with the Naz Male Health Alliance, Pakistan; Liesl Theron, a consultant supported by Gender DynamiX, South Africa; Erika Castellanos from the Collaborative Network of Persons Living with HIV (C-NET+), Belize; and Weibin Cheng from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention
“The strategies that work best for addressing HIV are those developed by community-based scholars and activists, and they have to have solid research skills and data or their brilliant strategies won’t get funding,” says Dr. Ron Stall, chair of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at Pitt Public Health, who oversees the program. “The scholars are local heroes often doing this work at great risk to themselves, and we invest in them to help them get their programs off the ground.”
By the end of their stay, the scholars will have not only sharpened their research skills, but also drafted a proposal to investigate culturally appropriate strategies for improving HIV services for GMT individuals in their countries. Earlier this month, they travelled to New York City to present their proposals to amfAR’s staff for possible funding. Watch them discuss their work and the HIV Scholars program in this Youtube video.
May 4, 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