Andrew Spieldenner-Microgrant report

NCA Microgrant Report
Andrew R. Spieldenner, Hofstra University

ARSpieldenner at Sigma
I applied for one of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue‘s microgrants funded by the National Communication Association  to explore the possibilities of meeting with researchers in London. Currently, I am looking at using communication methods to better implement and evaluate the roll out, implementation and uptake of HIV biomedical interventions among gay and bisexual men in the United States. Because of the disproportionate impact of HIV in the United States on certain groups, my work focuses on African American, Latino and HIV-positive gay men – all populations that experience persistent structural barriers in the healthcare system.

Matching funds
The Hofstra University School of Communication supported this project with a faculty research support grant. The matching funds covered the costs of housing and food while at the host institution.

Local host
The Global Forum on Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) hosted a Pre-Conference focused on gay and bisexual men at the International AIDS Conference 2012 in Washington, DC. I chaired the panel on HIV, community mobilization and immigrant MSM. On the panel, Ibidun Fakoya, Research Fellow at University College London presented her formative assessment of African gay men living with HIV in London. Ibidun Fakoya works with Dr. Fiona Burns on the advancing Migrant Access to health Services in Europe (aMASE). aMASE uses a multi-site Community Advisory Group to assess clinical and health care access for migrants in Europe with some focus on MSM and substance users. As such, aMASE is constructing a framework for effectively working with mobile and marginalized populations in assessing healthcare. In follow up conversations and through social media, a relationship emerged on common research interests. Through these conversations, the project emerged and additional meetings were made through Ibidun Fakoya and social media. In the past few years, I have developed a network of other advocates and researchers who are active on twitter and whose specialty is health disparities and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

Ibidun Fakoya, Andrew Spieldenner
Ibidun Fakoya, Andrew Spieldenner

Trip itinerary
My colleagues were generous with their time. I visited University College London, Birkbeck College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Each meeting opened up other doors to consider – with other researchers, community groups, medical providers, and health policy institutions.

Uni College London

Ibidun “Ibi” Fakoya and Dr. Fiona Burns of University of College London aMASE project were my primary hosts. Ibi and I met with the Community Mobilization Coordinator to discuss the Community Advisory Group and the implementation of the research survey in multiple countries in clinic and community settings.  We brainstormed on possible community partners to achieve the target survey populations in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Spain and Italy. I was able to review the processes that aMASE has implemented to get a shared research tool and protocols across all partner sites. In addition, Ibi and I reviewed social marketing and health messaging in order to develop marketing materials. Ibi was instrumental in coordinating with the other researchers for my trip.

At the University College London, I met with Professor Graham Hart on HIV and gay men in the London and New York City, focusing on the vastly different healthcare systems in the two countries. Professor Hart is Dean of the School, and he has extensively researched HIV and gay men. Professor Hart was interested in how the differing healthcare systems and social attitudes about health impact the treatment and service environment for gay men of varied racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. He gave several referrals to visit community groups and health policy institutions.

Professor Matthew Weait of Birkbeck College is an expert on HIV criminalization laws. We discussed the ways that HIV criminalization laws operate in various countries, and how cultural views frame the laws. We also examined the concurrent passage of gay marriage legislation in Maryland alongside an enhancement of the state’s HIV criminalization law. We discussed the importance of translating research and policy into accessible language in order to mobilize community members.

Matt Weait, Andrew Spieldenner
Matt Weait, Andrew Spieldenner

Dr. Catherine Dodds and Dr. Ford Hickson of the Sigma Research Group are currently housed at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Sigma Research Group has been on the forefront of research in the UK on gay men and HIV. They have conducted surveys at gay prides in the UK for over a decade, and have implemented several Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) projects alongside community partners. We had an intense discussion about harm reduction in HIV, the limits to current public health discourse on gay men and HIV, methods of conducting CBPR projects (including the use of Skype), and how communication – as a field – can be used in public health research.

Further activities
There are several future activities possible in the future. Many of these involve future correspondence and research support. We acknowledged that there were several meetings about HIV and our respective fields that may be of interest to the others. Dr. Hickson, Dr. Dodds  and Professor Weait committed to ongoing communication about projects and possible next dates for meetings when we happened to be in the same event (such as the International AIDS Conference 2014).

Ibidun Fakoya and I sketched out two different research projects to advance, and we are looking to collaborate over the next two years on these projects.

Finally, I plan to return to Europe summer of 2014 on another project, where I will be renewing my relationships with these researchers.

[NOTE: Andrew Spieldenner’s original project proposal is available here.]

Andrew R. Spieldenner – micro grant

Andrew SpieldennerDr. 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.

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