The substantial burden of mental illness in the Asia-Pacific threatens efforts to control regional HIV epidemics. There is an urgent need to increase research capacity in Asia-Pacific low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for integrating HIV and mental health (MH), in order to generate the data needed to guide public health policies and improve clinical care and patient outcomes. CHIMERA (Capacity development for HIv and MEntal health Research in Asia) will be the region?s first HIV-MH implementation science research training program, and will be established through our existing LMIC research network, IeDEA Asia-Pacific. Importantly, the program meets the trans-NIH priorities to a) address HIV-associated comorbidities and complications, through the study of MH disorders and dementia; and b) support the cross-cutting areas of behavioral science, training, and information dissemination, through training in HIV, MH, and implementation science research that leverages innovative partnerships. The program also meets the Fogarty International Center?s Strategic Plan Goals by a) addressing the dual burdens of HIV and MH disorders; b) building research capacity while strengthening existing partnerships; c) stimulating the use of technology; and d) supporting implementation science research and training that can inform local health policies in LMICs. Under the leadership of amfAR?s TREAT Asia program in Thailand and with collaborators at Columbia University, the program will include 4 of our network?s partner institutions: 1) the National Centre for HIV, AIDS, Dermatology, and STDs with the National Program for Mental Health, Ministry of Health, Cambodia; 2) the University of Malaya Medical Centre, Malaysia; 3) the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Philippines; and 4) the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre, Thailand. The research training program will recruit 16 Master?s and Doctoral-level candidates from these countries to participate in overlapping 36-month programs. The curriculum will combine in-person workshops, online seminars, local and remote mentorship, and specialized didactics through a program designed to be locally relevant for our youth- and key population-driven HIV epidemics. Program Fellows will learn to identify key implementation research questions, design and conduct studies that address how to integrate HIV and MH services and improve their delivery, write grant funding proposals to extend their research, and present and publish their work. They also will learn about informatics for research and public health, MH intervention theories, intervention adaptation, and methods of community engagement. By the end of the program, the research network will have a built a team of Asia-Pacific researchers with the capacity to lead a regional HIV-MH implementation science research agenda that will inform public health policy and improve the quality of clinical care. Program Leadership will be guided by experts and policymakers within the region through an external Training Advisory Committee and a Policy Advisory Committee to ensure achievement of training objectives and enhance the impact of our program.
Although mental illness compromises HIV treatment adherence and retention in care, public health programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the Asia-Pacific region do not link HIV and mental health prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services, which exacerbates the burdens of these dual epidemics. Our proposed research training program integrates HIV, mental health, and implementation science to build a team of researchers in Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand who can design and study interventions to address HIV-associated mental illness. The training program will be nested within an existing HIV research network (IeDEA Asia-Pacific), and will bridge the gaps between HIV and mental health in order to guide health policy and improve the quality of clinical care.