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Yale Researchers Join with APNH: A Place to Nourish Your Health to Expand New Haven HIV Prevention

June 04, 2020
by Colin Poitras

APNH: A Place to Nourish Your Health, formerly AIDS Project New Haven, is working with Yale University researchers to develop an intervention that uses social networking apps to engage more young Black and Latino gay and bisexual men in HIV prevention.

The project, called Chat4Change, is a collaboration between APNH, Yale’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA), the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and the Yale School of Medicine.

Chat4Change will connect young Black and Latino gay and bisexual men to peer health counselors using popular social networking apps to support conversations about sexual health and community resources. The project is supported by a 3-year, $1 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Health that was awarded to APNH, a New Haven-based non-profit that has been serving people with or at-risk for HIV for over 35 years.

“APNH is thrilled to have this unique opportunity to lead a project, in partnership with Yale, to develop a new intervention and increase awareness and access to PrEP,” said Chris Cole, executive director of APNH.

Several researchers from the YSPH Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences are working on the intervention including professor and department chair Trace Kershaw, PhD; Susan Dwight Bliss Associate Professor of Public Health John Pachankis, PhD; and Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health E. Jennifer Edelman, MD, MHS. All are affiliated with CIRA.

“APNH is at the forefront of providing important HIV prevention services in New Haven,” said Kershaw. “It is important for Yale to work with organizations like APNH in order to help New Haven and Connecticut get to zero HIV transmissions.”

Young Black and Latino men who have sex with men continue to be highly impacted by HIV and are less likely to use the HIV prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an antiviral medication that is strongly protective against acquiring HIV. Chat4Change is intended to leverage peer-to-peer communication and popular location-based social media apps to increase engagement with PrEP among young men of color.

“By facilitating real conversations in real contexts, this project helps legitimize PrEP as an important sexual health option for gay and bisexual men of color in New Haven,” said Skyler Jackson, PhD, a CIRA postdoctoral fellow working in the Pachankis Lab and a member of the project team.

The project builds on the strong existing partnership between Yale, CIRA, and local community partners, and is a powerful example of bridging scholarship and public health practice work to improve community health.

“It is essential to work with our community partners on initiatives that bring evidence-based approaches to public health practice,” said project team member Daniel Davidson, assistant director of CIRA’s Community Research and Implementation Core.

“APNH has been a leader in meeting the needs of people with and impacted by HIV since the early years of the epidemic,” Edelman said. “Given their trusted role in the community, they are in an ideal role to now extend their work to promote HIV prevention. I am thrilled that we will be able to work on this together and build on our 10 years of collaboration.”

The initiative is funded as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Integrated HIV Surveillance and Prevention Program Demonstration Project, one of 20 innovative projects competitively awarded to health departments across the country in 2019.

CIRA helped the Connecticut Department of Public Health develop the application to the CDC for this project, which in total is bringing over $2 million to the state. Katie Clark of CHER Solutions, a consulting firm, is also a member of the project team.

Submitted by Sayuri Gavaskar on June 04, 2020