Filed under: Press Release

Pitt Public Health alum receives award for groundbreaking LGBT/HIV research study

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.

Leave a Comment August 5, 2016

Dr. Rachel Levine visits with Center scientits

Center scientists meet with the Physician General of Pennsylvania, Dr. Rachel Levine, who made time during a visit to the University of Pittsburgh to discuss research projects we’re working on concerning LGBT health.

Leave a Comment March 8, 2016

amfAR’s GMT Initiative supports grassroots organizations that respond to the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS

From amfAR.org

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.

Leave a Comment May 4, 2015

2015 amfAR HIV Scholars Program announcement

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.

Application Instructions
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 rstall@pitt.edu. If you have any questions or comments regarding this announcement, please send them to Dr. Stall at the same email address.

Application Format:

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.

Leave a Comment September 16, 2014

Pitt Public Health analysis challenges assumptions about bisexual men and HIV transmission

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
hydzikam@upmc.edu
412-647-9975
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Leave a Comment November 13, 2013

Statement by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., on opportunities for advancing LGBT health research

In March 2011, the Institute of Medicine issued its report of the NIH commissioned  study on The  Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation  for Better Understanding External Web Site Policy. At  that time, I asked the NIH institutes, centers, and offices (ICOs) to form  the NIH LGBT Research Coordinating Committee (RCC).  I charged this committee  to consider carefully the report’s recommendations and to suggest strategies  for how the ICOs can support research to increase the knowledge base for promoting  the health of the LGBT community. I am pleased to say that the RCC has fulfilled  their charge.  I thank them for their thoughtful analysis of the NIH portfolio  on LGBT research and for identifying several important opportunities for promoting  research and knowledge in LGBT health. The NIH is now developing a multi-pronged  plan to implement a number of these opportunities to extend and advance the  knowledge base for promoting LGBT health.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Director, National Institutes of Health

Leave a Comment January 7, 2013

New Pitt Study Shows Gay and Bi Youth Experience Abuse More Often

PITTSBURGH, June 22, 2011 – Young people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, experience same-sex attractions or engage in same-sex sexual ehaviors are more likely to experience sexual abuse, parental physical abuse and bullying from peers than other youth, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study.

In addition, these adolescents – identified as “sexual minority youth” in the study – are more likely to miss school due to fear. The American Public Health Association recently published the findings online; the study will appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

“The higher rates of abuse experienced by sexual minority youths are clearly one of the driving mechanisms underlying higher rates of mental health problems, substance use, risky sexual behavior and HIV by sexual minority adolescents and adults,” said Mark S. riedman, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral and community health sciences. “However, I cannot stress enough that these youth experience sexual and physical abuse and bullying because they identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual or experience same-sex attraction; abuse does not ‘cause’ sexual orientation or identification.”

Go to the UPMC Media Relations Website for the full press release.

Leave a Comment February 9, 2012


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