The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) Professor of Sociology Matt G. Mutchler a three-year $656,000 grant to create a support program that addresses the disproportionate rate of new HIV infections among young African American men, and help improve their overall health and well-being.
Mutchler and a team of investigators, including student and community health educators, are working with a community advisory board and participants to develop, pilot, and evaluate “PrEP-Talk,” an innovative intervention support program for young gay African American men and their close friends who use or would benefit from the preventative drug treatment know as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The grant project is a collaboration with the RAND Corporation and AIDS service organizations throughout Los Angeles County, such as APLA Health.
”I was so excited to find out that we were awarded the grant because it will fund such important community research and involve CSUDH students in hands-on research activities,” said Mutchler, who is also director of the CSUDH Urban Community Research Center. “This funding is important because there are relatively few PrEP uptake interventions for young gay black men that have been found to be effective.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gay and bisexual black men ages 25 to 35 are among those at highest risk for new HIV infection. A daily PrEP protocol has been shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by up to 99 percent.
Matt G. Mutchler, who serve as director of assessment and lead investigator for the grant, said the project is innovative since it works with friendship pairs instead of just individuals. Through PrEP-Talk pairs of friends will meet regularly with a PrEP counselor to discuss the benefits of PrEP, barriers to uptake, and plans for HIV prevention activities for both friends.
“The hope is that the friends will learn ways to support each other’s sexual health more effectively, and that some of the young black gay men will begin taking PrEP on their own to help protect themselves from HIV infections,” Mutchler said. “If the findings are promising, then PrEP-Talk can be made available for others to use in their communities, further helping to address this critical public health issue.”
If results of the project are promising, Mutchler will apply for additional funding to conduct a full-scale randomized controlled trial to test for statistically significant results to determine if the participants in the program are more likely to start PrEP than those not in the program.