This mentored scientist award application has been designed to enable the trainee, Dr. Kelika Konda, a current post-doctoral fellow to become an independent investigator in the field of international HIV prevention research. The research training program designed herein takes into account Dr. Konda's current education and experience and seeks to add specific statistical, ethical, and subject related educational opportunities as well as formalizing her relationship with the proposed multi-disciplinary mentoring team to provide advice and guidance to her during the award period. The expert, multi-disciplinary mentoring team will provide Dr. Konda with invaluable guidance for her training plan and in the execution of the proposed research. The proposed research will span five years in order to include the necessary training and research experiences proposed. The training plan includes both classroom based education and directed readings with members of the mentoring team to build critical knowledge of areas related to the proposed research and to Dr. Konda's career path as an independent researcher in the area of international HIV prevention. The research plan addresses an issue of importance to public health given the HIV burden among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Latin America and Latino MSM in the United States. The plan includes mixed methods data collection on sexual relationships between MSM and the knowledge and acceptance of various HIV prevention strategies including newer strategies such as using HIV treatment as prevention (Aims 1 and 2). Dr. Konda will use the information gathered during Aims 1 and 2 to design and implement a pilot HIV prevention intervention with MSM in Peru including small group sessions and couples voluntary counseling and testing. The goal of the pilot intervention will be to establish its feasibility, acceptability, and an estimateof its effect. The pilot will be the basis for a future R01 application to test the efficacy of this HIV prevention intervention with MSM in Peru. The goals of the proposed study are closely aligned with the mission of the National Institute of Mental Health, which investigates behavioral and community-based methods of HIV/STI prevention. Through close collaboration with the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, this research will be rapidly disseminated and inform future interventions in a timely and effective manner. The proposed training and research stem from the past work of Dr. Konda and that of her experienced mentoring team and will contribute to her career path toward becoming an independent researcher.
This project is highly relevant to public health given its focus on HIV prevention among the most at risk population in Latin America, men who have sex with men (MSM);MSM in Peru have a very high burden of HIV (10-15% prevalence), many new HIV infections (3% HIV incidence per year), and there is an absence of effective HIV prevention interventions. This study aims to better understand and describe sexual relationships between MSM and how these relationships affect the use and acceptability of HIV prevention programs (including condom use, pre and post exposure prophylaxis, antiretroviral therapy, and male circumcision). Based on the information gathered, we will also design and pilot an intervention incorporating the information learned about these sexual relationships and their influence on HIV prevention options to improve the use of HIV prevention strategies among MSM.