June 25, 2018

Central America’s first study to critically document the process of creating a community-based clinic for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for gay men has been selected to receive the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations’ (ICASO) 2018 Robert Carr Research Award.

The project, “Expanding the Options: A Case Study of Collective Action to Create a Community-based Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Clinic for MSM [men who have sex with men] in Guatemala City,” was a collaborative endeavor between Guatemala-based Colectivo Amigos contra el Sida (CAS) and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Dr. Clare Barrington

Dr. Clare Barrington

Clare Barrington, PhD, associate professor of health behavior at the Gillings School, is the leader of the UNC research team.

The study followed the establishment in 2015 of the first PrEP clinic in the region, examining how operators assessed and attempted to mitigate barriers to gay men’s access to this emergent HIV prevention method.

In its most common form, PreP involves people who are HIV-negative taking daily HIV medications as a means of preventing infection if they come in contact with the AIDS virus.

Daily use of PrEP has been shown in multiple studies to be between 92 percent and 99 percent effective in preventing HIV infection, making it among the most effective forms of prevention available. Despite PrEP’s having been available in many countries for five or more years, issues of access, affordability and political resistance continue to limit rollout in Guatemala and most other Latin American countries.

“Positioning new prevention methods such as PrEP has been difficult, especially in the very conservative Guatemalan society,” said Cesar Galindo-Arandi, CAS director. “It has taken us years, but we have advanced awareness, acceptance and access to PrEP. This award is an important recognition of this effort. It also generates a new commitment for CAS to continue our work toward the elimination of HIV in the gay and bisexual community and improve the health of those affected by HIV.”

Barrington said the research project would not have been possible without CAS’ initiative and determination.

“This is truly a community-based effort, and our research has aimed to capture and assess the context, process and outcomes of that effort,” Barrington said. “That CAS values the role of research within the work they do was a critical factor in our developing and carrying out this collaborative project.”

The award, established to memorialize the late Dr. Robert Carr, a renowned researcher and powerful advocate for community-academic research partnerships, will be presented at the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2018), to be held July 23-27 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Barrington and Galindo-Arandi will deliver the Robert Carr Memorial Lecture on July 24. The prize also will fund conference attendance by Dirk Davis, MPH, doctoral student in health behavior at the Gillings School.

Information about the lecture and other ICASO activities can be found online.


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