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Arnold School of Public Health

Epidemiology assistant professor Monique Brown wins grant to improve health of older adults living with HIV

October 23, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

Monique Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, has won a four-year, $615K K01 Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health. She will use the funding to advance her research expertise through various trainings (e.g., mixed methods research approaches, trauma-focused interventions) while conducting an HIV-related study. Committed to HIV-related research throughout her life, Brown’s K01 study will build on her previous projects by developing a trauma-focused intervention for older adults living with HIV.

“HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health issue for older adults,” says Brown, who notes that by 2020 an estimated 50 to 70 percent of people living with HIV in the U.S. will be age 50 and older. “Research has shown that childhood sexual abuse, depressive symptoms and substance use are common among older people living with HIV, however, intervention research, especially those that are trauma-focused, are truly limited among older people living with HIV.”

Childhood sexual abuse rates may range from 16 to 22 percent for this population, and close to four in 10 older adults with HIV report depressive symptoms. Previous research has shown a positive association between childhood sexual abuse and depressive symptoms and a negative association between depression and HIV treatment outcomes (e.g., antiretroviral therapy adherence). Former studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of group interventions to improve coping among adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse, yet none have done so in the context of aging with HIV.

“Addressing childhood sexual abuse among older adults living with HIV may help to reduce depression, which may help to improve antiretroviral adherence, viral suppression, and overall health-related quality of life,” Brown says of her study’s main goal. “This research will also assess the impact of a psychosocial intervention on biomarkers among older adults living with HIV, which has previously been understudied.”

Throughout her training and research, Brown will benefit from a key component of the K01 program: mentorship. Xiaoming Li, Arnold School professor of health promotion, education, and behavior and Endowed Chair of Clinical Translational Research for the South Carolina SmartState Center for Health Care Quality, who already serves as Brown’s primary mentor, will provide guidance in intervention development. University of Georgia professors Timothy Heckman and Nathan Hansen will provide training in interventions for older adults living with HIV as well as HIV/childhood sexual abuse and trauma-focused interventions, respectively. William Haley and Brent Small, both professors at the University of South Florida, will guide Brown in the application of gerontological theories and longitudinal data analysis techniques for clinical trials, respectively.    


Monique J. Brown joins epidemiology and biostatistics department, bringing expertise in HIV intervention and prevention

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