Dr. Brian Pence

Brian Wells Pence, PhD

Department of Epidemiology
2103C McGavran-Greenberg Hall
CB #7435
Chapel Hill, NC 27599


Dr. Pence is a behavioral, psychiatric and infectious diseases epidemiologist. His research spans three inter-related areas: global mental health, including scaling up mental health treatment interventions for vulnerable populations; the intersection of mental illness with other health crises included the HIV and opioid epidemics; and suicide prevention research. His work integrates intervention research, implementation science, advanced epidemiologic methods for observational data, and research leveraging large administrative data sources. Examples of current or recently funded projects include SHARP (the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Partnership for Mental Health Capacity-Building, an NIMH U19 implementation science project focused on integrating depression treatment into general medical care in Malawi); TRACE (Tailored Response to Address Psychiatric Comorbidity and HIV Care Engagement, an NIMH R34 project to pilot-test a mental health intervention for people living with HIV in the southern US); INSPIRE (Innovations in Suicide Prevention Research, an NIMH R01 to establish a suicide surveillance system in North Carolina and use it to identify intervention points for suicide prevention); and a NIDA R21 (acronym needed!) to examine the relationship of different long-term opioid prescribing patterns with opioid-related (overdose) and infectious disease (HIV, HCV, syphilis) outcomes. He is also the director of a NIAID T32 pre- and postdoctoral training program in infectious diseases epidemiology and associate director for research of an NIMH D43 training program in mental health research for Malawian scientists. He is Professor of Epidemiology, Associate Director of the Division of Global Mental Health in the department of Psychiatry, Member of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, and Affiliate Faculty of the Injury Prevention Research Center at UNC.

With Dr. Kathryn Whetten, Dr. Pence co-authored the second edition of You’re the First One I’ve Told: The Faces of HIV in the Deep South (Rutgers University Press, 2013). This book presents the life histories of 25 individuals infected with HIV and living in the US Deep South, and highlights in particular the high prevalence and profound influence of traumatic life experiences for these individuals. In the second edition, the original qualitative findings are substantiated with new quantitative research, primarily drawn from the Coping with HIV/AIDS in the Southeast (CHASE) longitudinal cohort study of over 600 HIV-infected individuals from across the Southeastern US.

Brian Pence in the Gillings News

Representative Courses

EPID 718, Analytical Methods in Observational Epidemiology, beginning fall 2014

Key Publications

Factors associated with change in sexual transmission risk behavior over 3 years among HIV-infected patients in Tanzania. Dafrosa Itemba, Venance Maro, Brian Pence, Kristen Shirey, Nathan Thielman, Rachel Whetten, Kathryn Whetten, Jia Yao (2013). PLoS ONE, 8(12).

Trauma History and Depression Predict Incomplete Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapies in a Low Income Country. Julie Adams, Bernard Agala, Kyle Hamilton, Amy Hobbie, Dafrosa Itemba, Beatrice Lema, Yombya Madukwa, Venance Maro, Amiri Mrema, Restituta Mvungi, Karen O'Donnell, Jan Ostermann, Brian Pence, Elizabeth Reddy, Wendy Ricky, Ludovic Samora, Kristen Shirey, Nathan Thielman, Rachel Whetten, Kathryn Whetten, Jia Yao, Blandina Zenze (2013). PLoS ONE, 8(10).

Postpartum depression and HIV infection among women in Malawi. Anna Dow, Queen Dube, Brian Pence, Annelies Rie (2014). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 65(3), 359-365.

Providers' attitudes towards treating depression and self-reported depression treatment practices in HIV outpatient care. Julie Adams, Kiana Bess, Bradley Gaynes, Amy Heine, Julie O'donnell, Brian Pence, James Raper, Nathan Thielman, Melissa Watt, Anne Zinski (2013). AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 27(3), 171-180.

Treating depression within the HIV medical home: A guided algorithm for antidepressant management by HIV clinicians. Julie Adams, Bradley Gaynes, Teena McGuinness, Riddhi Modi, Brian Pence, James Willig (2012). AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 26(11), 647-654.

Validity of an interviewer-administered patient health questionnaire-9 to screen for depression in HIV-infected patients in Cameroon. Julius Atashili, Bradley Gaynes, Dmitry Kats, Peter Ndumbe, Alfred Njamnshi, Julie O'Donnell, Brian Pence, Gladys Tayong, Kathryn Whetten, Rachel Whetten (2012). Journal of Affective Disorders, 143(1), 208-213.

Assessing the effect of Measurement-Based Care depression treatment on HIV medication adherence and health outcomes: Rationale and design of the SLAM DUNC Study. Julie Adams, Bradley Gaynes, Amy Heine, Riddhi Modi, Michael Mugavero, Brian Pence, E. Quinlivan, Nathan Thielman, Quinn Williams (2012). Contemporary Clinical Trials, 33(4), 828-838.

Prevalence of psychological trauma and association with current health and functioning in a sample of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected Tanzanian adults. Julie Adams, Bernard Agala, Dafrosa Itemba, Brian Pence, John Shao, Kristen Shirey, Rachel Whetten, Kathryn Whetten, Jia Yao (2012). PLoS ONE, 7(5).

Falling through the cracks: the gaps between depression prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, and response in HIV care. Bradley Gaynes, Julie O'Donnell, Brian Pence (2012). AIDS (London, England), 26(5), 656-658.

Childhood trauma and health outcomes in HIV-infected patients: An exploration of causal pathways. Tandrea Carter, Jane Leserman, Michael Mugavero, Brian Pence, Rae Proeschold-Bell, James Raper, Susan Reif, Nathan Thielman, Kathryn Whetten (2011). JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

A comparison of the wellbeing of orphans and abandoned children ages 6-12 in institutional and community-based care settings in 5 less wealthy nations. Lynne Messer, Karen O'Donnell, Jan Ostermann, Brian Pence, Nathan Thielman, Rachel Whetten, Kathryn Whetten (2009). PLoS ONE, 4(12).

Prevalence Estimation and Validation of New Instruments in Psychiatric Research: An Application of Latent Class Analysis and Sensitivity Analysis. Bradley Gaynes, William Miller, Brian Pence (2009). Psychological Assessment, 21(2), 235-239.

The impact of mental health and traumatic life experiences on antiretroviral treatment outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS. Brian Pence (2009). Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 63(4), 636-640.

Relation of lifetime trauma and depressive symptoms to mortality in HIV. Jane Leserman, Michael Mugavero, Brian Pence, Dalene Stangl, Marvin Swartz, Nathan Thielman, Kathryn Whetten (2007). American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(11), 1707-1713.

Psychiatric illness and virologic response in patients initiating highly active antiretroviral therapy. Bradley Gaynes, Joseph Jr., William Miller, Brian Pence (2007). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 44(2), 159-166.

Prevalence of DSM-IV-defined mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders in an HIV clinic in the southeastern United States. Joseph Eron, Bradley Gaynes, William Miller, Brian Pence, Kathryn Whetten (2006). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 42(3), 298-306.

Validation of a brief screening instrument for substance abuse and mental illness in HIV-positive patients. Bradley Gaynes, Joseph Jr., William Miller, Brian Pence, Robert Ryder, Kathryn Whetten (2005). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 40(4), 434-444.


  • PhD, Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005
  • MPH, Epidemiology, Columbia University, 2000
  • BA, Economics, Yale University, 1996