Columbia University Researchers Receive $1M NIH Challenge Grant in Health and Sciences Research

October 20, 2009 @ 4:00 am

For Immediate Release

October 20, 2009

Professors Miguel Muñoz-Laboy (Principal Investigator) at the Mailman School of PublicHealth and Vincent Guilamo-Ramos (Principal Investigator) at the School of Social Work have received a $1M dollar Challenge Grant from theNational Institute of Health. The grant will be used for a two-year study to examine the social network factors of drug use and sexual risk behavior among formerly incarcerated Latino men (FILM) in order to develop a network-based intervention to reduce HIV and sexually transmitted infections for this population.

Latinos in the United States are disproportionally affected bythe HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has led to AIDS being the fourth leading cause of death for Latinos.  Among Latinos, FILM are a critical group for understanding HIV transmission dynamics.  Latino men are overrepresented in U.S. correctional facilities and incarceration has been identified as a major risk factor for HIV.  Despite the high level of vulnerability to HIV-infection, HIV-prevention interventions targeting the unique needs of FILM are scarce.  The proposed study will be one of the first studies to investigate the risk factors of HIV and drug use of formerly incarcerated Latino men.

“The majority of HIV prevention interventions have failed to consider the role of social-familial networks in the post-incarceration experiences of FILM,” says Drs. Guilamo-Ramos and Muñoz-Laboy. “The lack of attention to contextual factors is worrisome, as research supports the importance of understanding cultural, familial and social network factors for reducing HIV-infection among disproportionately affected populations, including Latinos and formerly incarcerated men.”

Drs. Muñoz-Laboy and Guilamo-Ramos and colleagues will be conducting open-ended interviews and a closed-ended survey with FILM to obtain information about their reentry experiences into the community, network leisure activities with special emphasis on marijuana and binge drinking, and sexual risk behavior.  Data collected will be used to develop a linguistically and culturally appropriate measurement of network and individual HIV risk, and examine the relationships between network and behavioral determinants on FILM HIV risk behavior.

NIH Challenge Grants are funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The NIH designated approximately $200 million for the use of grants in health and science research.  Challenge Grants are intended to support research on high priority topics within broad challenge areas focused on specific knowledge gaps that would benefit from targeted funds to rapidly advance the research area in significant ways.