Cross-Disciplinary Partnership to Focus Structural Lens on HIV Interventions

(August 31, 2022 - As Reported by Kristen Mitchell for GW Today) -- The George Washington University is launching an interdisciplinary Ph.D. partnership this fall aimed at preparing the next generation of community-engaged researchers to develop and lead intersectional approaches to promote health equity and improve HIV prevention, treatment and care.

This new collaboration—Training Program in Approaches to Address Social-Structural Factors Related to HIV Intersectionality (TASHI)—brings together expertise from both the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) and the Milken Institute School of Public Health to focus a cutting-edge social, structural and community-driven lens on HIV. The program is led by Deanna Kerrigan, Milken Institute SPH professor of prevention and community health, and Lisa Bowleg, CCAS applied social psychology professor and founding director of GW’s Intersectionality Research Institute.

“Typical HIV interventions are focused on things that individuals can or should be doing, but there's this larger context that constrains the ability of people to engage in health prevention behaviors,” Bowleg said. “There are these larger social structural factors that explain why HIV is so disproportionately concentrated in historically oppressed groups.”

Examining how factors like race, gender, legal residency status, addiction and access to transportation factor into HIV prevention, treatment and care brings to the forefront discourse on power and privilege. 

“The field is dominated by individual level factors and biomedical interventions,” Kerrigan said. “Those biomedical interventions are not going to work if people don't have access, if people are struggling with broader structural issues that constrain their ability to participate and get care.”

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