HEADING OFF HIV

Study seeks to help women avoid infection

Since HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed among gay, mostly white men more than 25 years ago, its primary targets have changed. Today AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women 25 to 34 years old and the fourth leading cause for Hispanic women in the same age group. Such grim statistics make it clear that African- American and Hispanic women need interventions that can help them lower their risk for HIV/AIDS.

Several culturally sensitive, highly effective HIV prevention programs for these women have been developed; they include RESPECT and SISTA for African-American women and SEPA (developed by a team led by Dean Nilda Peragallo) for Hispanic women. Yet their use among the providers and clinics that serve such women is inconsistent.

Associate dean and associate professor Elias Vasquez, Ph.D., N.P., F.A.A.N., F.A.A.N.P., and Nilson Mejia, B.S.N. '06, a graduate student in the school's family nurse practitioner program, are determined to find out why. "We want to bring prevention strategies that have been proven to work into clinical practice," Vasquez says. The two co-authored an article about the issue that was published last year in Hispanic Health Care International.

With Vasquez's guidance, Mejia has played an active role in writing literature reviews, preparing and submitting grant applications to the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and authoring and co-authoring journal articles.

Mejia plans to make a presentation about the NIH study at the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurses Association Conference in San Antonio this spring. "As a young nurse researcher," he says, "I'm gratified to think that our work might benefit thousands of women at risk for HIV."