Request Info
Young latino man in city face portrait serious jpeg Young latino man in city face portrait serious jpeg

Doctoral Student Receives Prestigious F31 NIH Diversity Fellowship Grant for Groundbreaking HIV Research

In a significant recognition of his dedication and groundbreaking research, Jahn Jaramillo, M.P.H., a third-year Ph.D. student in the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health within the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been awarded the prestigious F31 Diversity Fellowship Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health – an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The highly competitive F31 is renowned for providing opportunities to promising pre-doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds, allowing them to pursue individualized and mentored research training under the guidance of exceptional faculty mentors. Jaramillo's remarkable achievement is underscored by the fact that he secured a perfect score, placing him within the top 2 percentile of applicants.

Jaramillo's research will be conducted in Miami-Dade County, which holds a unique position as a priority area under the "Ending HIV Epidemic (EHE)" plan due to its alarmingly high HIV prevalence in the United Sates, especially among Latino men who have sex with men (LMSM).

Jahn Jaramillo Headshot
Jahn Jaramillo, M.P.H.

This project shines a spotlight on the structural challenges faced by LMSM in Miami-Dade County, including unemployment, financial stress, and poverty, which significantly increase their vulnerability to the disease.

“While effective biomedical interventions like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment exist, immigrant LMSM often face unique barriers that make accessing this valuable HIV prevention tool difficult,” said Jaramillo.

His research strategy is pioneering in its approach, involving the adaptation of an HIV-status neutral structural intervention known as "Work2Prevent (W2P)" to specifically address these barriers for LMSM with recent immigration histories, many of whom are monolingual Spanish-speaking or undocumented.

W2P is a proven evidence-based structural intervention that has demonstrated its efficacy in improving HIV prevention outcomes among English-speaking Black and Latino MSM and transgender women, as indicated by several studies, according to Jaramillo. However, W2P has not yet undergone adaptation to cater to the specific needs of immigrant LMSM populations or individuals living with HIV.

Focusing on obtaining valuable feedback from immigrant LMSM and topical experts, the project has two main aims: the first aim is to culturally ground W2P for recent immigrant LMSM and make it HIV-status neutral. The second seeks further adaptations to W2P and comprehensive implementation planning based on expert input. The entire research and training plan adheres to the ADAPT-ITT framework, a systematic approach for adapting interventions.

The training plan, which includes coursework, seminars, and individual meetings, will enable Jaramillo to gain expertise in culturally adapting and improving the feasibility of implementing evidence-based interventions that address structural factors driving HIV disparities among immigrant LMSM with support from mentors who excel in the fields of Latino health disparities, intervention tailoring, adaptation science, and implementation science.

Guillermo Willy Prado Headshot
Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., M.S.

As one of Jaramillo’s mentors, Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., M.S., interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, and alumnus of the Ph.D. program in Epidemiology and Public Health program in the department, highlighted the significance of Jaramillo's work.

“The training that Jahn will receive in adaptation science and implementation science will allow him to establish a program of research focused on reducing HIV disparities caused by structural barriers that impede the dissemination of evidence-based biomedical interventions for HIV prevention and treatment for Latino men who have sex with men.” 

Jaramillo’s research project benefits from the guidance and expertise of a distinguished team, including primary mentor Audrey Harkness, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and research assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. 

Audrey Harkness Headshot
Audrey Harkness, Ph.D.

“Jahn’s work exemplifies the University of Miami's commitment to fostering innovative research and addressing pressing health disparities in our communities,” said, Dr. Harkness. “Research holds immense promise in addressing health disparities and contributing to health equity goals in areas with high HIV prevalence among immigrant Latino men who have sex with men,” she added.

Other supporting mentors include Dr. Steven Safren, Department of Psychology University of Miami, Dr. Jose Parra-Cardona, University of Texas, and Dr. Brandon J. Hill, Vivent Health. 

Jaramillo’s proposed project is in alignment with the NIH-funded research led by Principal Investigator Dr. Harkness, which focuses on the expansion and distribution of PrEP, HIV testing, and behavioral health services among LMSM in South Florida. 

“The next steps include using the study findings to inform a subsequent proposal K01 to pilot test the culturally adapted W2P program for immigrant LMSM using employment as prevention,” said Jaramillo. The adapted version of W2P is expected to improve the effectiveness of HIV preventive and treatment services in this underserved community, helping to efforts to reduce HIV-related health inequalities and promote health equity.

“Innovative methods in adaptation that focus on the unique needs of immigrant LMSM are urgently needed in geographic hotspots to achieve health equity and Ending HIV Epidemic goals.”

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on October 12, 2023