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NIDA grant to develop brief intervention for gay male couples

March 22, 2017

Dr. Tyrel Starks, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and faculty affiliate of the Hunter College Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), totaling $666,900, to develop a couples-based drug use intervention for gay male couples.

Studies of partnered gay men suggest that drug use is closely related to how the couple handles sex outside their relationship. This association between drug use and sex with outside partners is particularly important for the health of partnered gay men. Gay and bisexual men continue to account for a significant majority of all new HIV infections in the U.S. and many -- possibly most -- of these new infections are transmitted between main (not casual) partners.

While their risk is unique, partnered gay men also have the potential to draw upon their relationship as a source of support and motivation to reduce their health risks. This grant sets out to utilize this relational resource to reduce drug use -- and also related HIV infection risk -- among partnered gay men. Brief Motivational Interviewing approaches to drug use and HIV prevention have shown efficacy with gay and bisexual men; however, few couples-based interventions are currently available. The intervention integrates couples-based HIV testing and counseling into an evidence-based intervention developed at CHEST -- the Young Men's Health Project (YMHP). This brief 3-session intervention seeks to enhance couples' communication and reduce drug use and HIV infection risk through the development of joint goals and behavioral planning.

Doctoral students from the Health Psychology and Clinical Science PhD program at CUNY will be trained to deliver the intervention, and the project will involve many students and interns from Hunter College.
CHEST's mission is to conduct research to identify and promote strategies that prevent the spread of HIV and improve the lives of people living with HIV. We have been advocating for and working with the LGBT community since 1996.

The City University of New York

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