According to its director, Associate Professor of Social Work Nabila El-Bassel, CUSSW’s Social Intervention Group is arguably the only center in the country looking at the intersecting public health and social problems of HIV, substance abuse, and domestic violence — and at the elements that link all three epidemics.

“Women are put at risk for HIV because they want to prevent violence from an intimate partner,” says El-Bassel. “They’re at risk of violence if they say no to sex, or if they use condoms.”

Women who use illicit drugs are also three times more likely than those who do not to suffer from physical abuse from their spouse or partner, according to a study by the Social Intervention Group. However, little is known about effective treatment on the overlapping problems of intimate partner violence and drug abuse.

The Social Intervention Group is following 416 women over time to design gender-specific interventions.

“The other unique piece of our work is designing HIV intervention for heterosexual couples,” added El-Bassel.

“One-third of new HIV infections are among women in heterosexual relationships; we wanted to be creative in bringing new studies for the science of intervention research to women in long-term relationships.

“We’ve just been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health for its first multi-site study. We’ll work for five years from four project sites — UCLA, Emory, University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia.

The study is designed to test the efficacy of a contextually appropriate intervention to reduce the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases among 800 African American serodiscordant couples. The Ackerman Institute for the Family and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Science are also involved in this multidisciplinary study.

Couples will be recruited from community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, hospitals, and other sites. State-of-the-art behavioral and biological technologies will be employed to promote multidisciplinary research and advance the science of HIV/AIDS intervention research.

The Social Intervention Group was formed at the School in 1990 to address the critical need for empirically-based community intervention research. Its interdisciplinary research studies in HIV and drug abuse prevention have won significant national and international recognition.

SIG designs, implements and disseminates effective, sensitive and self-sustaining intervention programs for highly vulnerable populations. It employs a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods and sustains working relations with scientists and staff from more than a dozen universities and research centers throughout the United States and the world.

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