A new research study at Temple University is providing data on the factors that contribute to Latino men being so disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic.
The Connecting Latinos En Paraja study is being conducted through the School of Social Work at Temple’s College of Public Health. It will measure factors such as immigration status, access to healthcare and language barriers that lead to the increased HIV risk associated with Latino men who have sex with men (MSM).
The study primarily focuses on HIV prevention within dyads, or two-component relationships, said Omar Martinez, assistant professor in the School of Social Work who conceptualized the study. The study is the only one of its kind that focuses on a wide range of dyadic and long-term sexual relationships.
“What we’re seeing in terms of epidemiological data is that relationships involving couples or longterm, primary partners are where HIV infections are sometimes more predominant,” Martinez said. “There are people who have open relationships or other relationship structures that help spread HIV in a different way than we’ve seen in the past.”
Omar Valentine, study coordinator of Connecting Latinos en Pareja, said the research will educate participants on HIV-prevention methods beyond condom usage.
“Protection has many different faces. It’s not just about using condoms. Protection can mean using PrEp, getting HIV treatment if you are positive and getting tested frequently,” Valentine said. “We want to welcome people who consider themselves hookup buddies to couples that have been together for 10-15 years. There are ways to protect yourself when you’re in a relationship or if you’re in a relationship structure that may be open.”
Temple researchers developed the study two years ago and began recruiting paid participants in February. More than 250 participants have been screened so far, all of whom are couples in which one of the partners self-identifies as Latino. The researchers are looking to recruit 70 additional couples to partake in the study.
Once chosen, couples must then participate in four hour-long sessions in which they provide an overview of their sexual health and sexual behaviors over the past three months, as well as relationship dynamics, access to health services, religion or spirituality practices and other socio-demographic factors. Once the information is collected, participants are then placed into the Connecting Latinos En Paraja study or a study focused on standard care.
The collected data will be available on the Templehealth REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) database when the study concludes in 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2016 that one in four Latino MSMs in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes.
“Community-based organizations such as they ones we partner with, Galaei and Camden Area Health Education, can use our data to support grant proposals and initiatives related to HIV prevention for Latino men,” Martinez said.
Interested in participating in the study? Call 267-804-5612 or visit www.latinosenpareja.com to learn more.