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Network-Based Interventions Can Have Positive Effects on HIV Prevention and Treatment Outcomes for Latinos, Study Finds

Many Latina seasonal workers reside and work in Miami-Dade County, the county with the highest HIV incidence in the United States. As the rate is four times the national average, there is a need for social network interventions that aim to decrease HIV risk among Latina seasonal workers.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health compared the outcomes of two social network-based interventions. The interventions, called VOICES and HEALTHY, were culturally adapted to include a sociocentric network approach. This approach consists of a social network structure and its properties to have a substantial influence on the outcome of interest.

Mariano Kanamori, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, who was the lead author on the study, said, “Using a social network approach allowed our research team to insert new HIV prevention messages in these social networks, as well as to reconfigure the structure of these networks, this and working together with the community were key for the success of these interventions.”

Researchers collected data at baseline, as well as during the six and 12 months after the interventions. A total of 261 Latina seasonal workers participated in either of the two interventions.

There were significant changes in cognitive factors, such as in HIV knowledge, condom use self-efficacy, and adequate knowledge of condom use, behavioral factors, such as condom use, female condom use, and HIV testing, and communication factors, such as talking with friends about HIV prevention and intention to negotiate safe sex with male partners.

“Participants wanted to be involved in the study because they want to help the community. At the end of the project, they expressed that they felt empowered with this HIV knowledge and now they have the tools to talk to their children about HIV prevention while reducing their HIV risk. They were grateful that this project could help the community,” said Ms. Yesenia Rosas, a member of Dr. Kanamori’s Lab and a member of the seasonal worker community.

“I am very grateful to have received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to implement this translational social network study that is very much needed in the social-network analysis field,” added Dr. Kanamori.

To expand this work by developing and pre-testing a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) social network-based intervention component, Dr. Kanamori received additional support from the University of Miami Center for Latino Health Research Opportunities, a center that is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. PrEP, approved by the Florida Drug Administration, is a pill that prevents HIV infection if taken daily.

Co-authors of the paper also included Miller School of Medicine’s Guillermo "Willy" Prado, Ph.D., dean of the University of Miami Graduate School and professor of public health, Ms. Cho-Hee Shrader, a Ph.D. in Prevention Science and Community Health candidate at the Department of Public Health Sciences, Susanne Doblecki-Lewis, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine, and University of Miami’s Steven Safren, Ph.D., professor and director of the UM Center for HIV and Research in Mental Health and the Health Promotion and Care research program.

Kayo Fujimoto, Ph.D., from the University of Texas’ Health Science Center at Houston, Mario De La Rosa, Ph.D., and Mary Jo Trepka, M.D., M.S.P.H., both from Florida International University, and Cesar Munayco, M.D., M.Sc., M.P.H., Dr.PH., from Centro Nacional de Epidemiologia, Prevencion y Control de Enfermedades in Peru.

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on January 21, 2020