Dr. Andrew R. Spieldenner, of the School of Communication at Hofstra University, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 to travel to London to meet with Dr. Fiona Burns (principal investigator) and Ibidun Fakoya (research fellow), of University College London, to discuss, plan and learn from a community engagement research project started there. Communication methods still have not been used to look at HIV biomedical community engagement. The particular community engagement research project – advancing Migrant Access to health Services in Europe (aMASE) – looks specifically at migrants and immigrants across Europe in health disparity research, with a special focus on HIV/AIDS and gay men. Spieldenner will review research protocols, conduct interviews with Community Advisory Board members and research partners, assess tools for adaptability to the United States framework, and give a presentation on current state and challenges of community engagement in the US. He hopes that this is the beginning of ensuring that the best practices are developed to engage racial/ethnic minority gay men in life-saving HIV/AIDS services.
Background to the project: Even with the advancement of HIV treatment, African American and Latino gay men in the United States still suffer disproportionately from poor HIV-related health outcomes – including infection, late-stage diagnosis and higher mortality – compared to their White counterparts. With the expansion of HIV biomedical interventions, racial/ethnic minority gay men – as well as their service providers – need to be educated on the science, eligibility, solutions and challenges of these interventions. HIV biomedical interventions require community acceptance, access and affordability in order to ensure adherence and success. Community engagement is an ongoing communication process that involves community members, key opinion leaders, service providers and researchers in the identification of issues, barriers and solutions. Research has shown that ongoing community engagement can play a critical role in the community acceptance of HIV biomedical interventions, such as vaginal microbicides, but there is a dearth of activities specifically targeting gay men. In addition, much of this information is framed by clinical practice rather than social science. Communication, as a practice, is ideally situated to provide more relevant theoretical and analytical contributions to community engagement processes.