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HIV Center News

Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez and team win award from Microbicide Trials Network


Pictured above are team leader Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez (at right) with team members (from left) Ms. Rebecca Giguere and Dr. William Brown III. At center, presenting the award, is Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS at NIAID, the institute that provides the funding for their work. Pictured at the podium is Dr. Sharon Hillier, a principal investigator of the MTN

On March 16, 2016, the closing day of the annual meeting of the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), a team of HIV Center investigators received the MTN Innovation Award based on their work on the MTN 017 study.


MTN 017 was a Phase II study that evaluated whether a reduced glycerin formulation of tenofovir gel is safe and acceptable as a rectal microbicide. The study enrolled 195 men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women at trial sites in Peru, South Africa, Thailand and the United States, including Puerto Rico.  


Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Ph.D. headed the MTN-017 behavioral team in implementing a comprehensive adherence support and measurement program, which included an adherence counseling training component led by Ivan Balán, Ph.D. of the HIV Center.


The award was presented before an audience of several hundred national and international members of the MTN. Dr. Sharon Hillier, a principal investigator of the MTN, highlighted the multilingual capacity of the HIV Center’s team and the challenging work that it undertook interviewing participants remotely in Thai, Xhosa, Spanish and English. She also cited the team’s innovative use of SMS text messaging to monitor adherence in real-time.


Dr. Carballo- Diéguez, a Co-Director of the HIV Center, is a member of the leadership group of the MTN, an HIV/AIDS clinical trials network established in 2006. The MTN brings together international investigators and community and industry partners whose work is focused on the development and rigorous evaluation of promising microbicides – products applied inside the vagina or rectum that are intended to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.



A message from HIV Center Director Dr. Robert Remien on the passing of Dr. Ward Cates


The HIV Center mourns the passing of our friend and colleague Willard (Ward) Cates Jr., MD, MPH. Dr. Cates was a pioneering leader in HIV prevention and reproductive health with a distinguished career spanning for more than 40 years. Ward was a friend, colleague and mentor to many of us at the HIV Center and to countless others in the United States and internationally.


Dr. Cates, President Emeritus of FHI 360,  served on numerous government and scientific panels including advisory committees for the Office of Global AIDS Coordination, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, and North Carolina's Chapel Hill Gillings School of Public Health. Most recently, he was awarded the distinguished 2015 Allan Rosenfield Award for Lifetime Contributions to International Family Planning from The Society of Family Planning.


Dr. Cates led the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) from 1999 to 2007, and served as the principal investigator of a grant evaluating oral Tenofovir for HIV prevention. In addition, Dr. Cates had been was an important member of the leadership team at the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) since 2006. His contributions to the field have left a legacy of groundbreaking studies and programs on the prevention of both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.


We will greatly miss Ward’s inspiring passion and his ability to motivate others to excel, but his legacy will surely live on through all the people he has touched and motivated, and, especially, through the many programs and efforts he pioneered and inspired.


It is with fond memories and heartfelt sadness that the HIV Center and our colleagues in the Division of Gender Sexuality, and Health and beyond  mourn our dear colleague, and we and extends its sympathies to the Cates Family.




In Memoriam: Robert L. Spitzer, MD


The HIV Center mourns the loss of one of its founding Co-Directors, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer.  Dr. Spitzer was a prominent psychiatrist known for his pioneering leadership in providing psychiatry with its first set of rigorous standards to describe mental disorders, and providing a framework for diagnosis, research, and legal judgments.  He is also known for his leadership in removing “homosexuality” as a “mental disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1973. 

The HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies was first funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 1987 under the leadership of Dr. Anke Ehrhardt (Clinical Psychologist) as its Director, along with Drs. Zena Stein (Epidemiologist) and Robert Spitzer (Psychiatrist) as Center Co-Directors.  The mental health aspects of HIV disease and HIV prevention have been central themes in the HIV Center from its inception. 


The HIV Center sends its deepest condolences to Dr. Spitzer’s wife Dr. Janet Williams, who was the first Director of the HIV Center’s Psychiatric & Psychosocial Assessment Core, and to their five children: Laura and Daniel Spitzer, and Noah, Ezra and Gideon Spitzer-Williams, and the entire Spitzer-Williams family.


For more on Dr. Spitzer's life and contributions, you can visit the obituary in the New York Times, a statement from the Columbia Department of Psychiatry/NYSPI, or a statement from the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health.


Events during the week of December 1, 2015 to mark World AIDS Day throughout New York City and State


For a listing of 2015 World AIDS Day events in New York City and State, please visit the "Ending the Epidemic" Dashboard.


The purpose of the End of the Epidemic (EtE) Dashboard System is to measure, track and disseminate actionable information on progress towards achieving New York State’s Ending the Epidemic (EtE) Initiative’s goals to all interested stakeholders. The EtE dashboard was designed and developed by a team led by Dr. Denis Nash of Hunter College and the School of Public Health  of the City University of New York, who is also Co-Director of the HIV Center's Public Health Policy and Practice Core and an investigator on the Statistics, Epidemiology, and Data Management (SED) Core.



Poster session highlights range of research by HIV Center and other Division investigators


More than two dozen posters featuring research -- on topics including HIV testing, LGBT elder health, preventive microbicides, and adherence to treatment regiments -- were presented at a special session on September 24, 2015 at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The session was organized by the Development Core of the HIV Center.


The posters, in particular, reflected contributions by HIV Center investigators at two major conferences held during the summer of 2015: the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC) conference in Miami, Florida in June and the International AIDS Society meeting in Vancouver, Canada in July. For a full listing of posters presented, click here.










(Photos: Eve Vagg)




HIV Center Welcomes Three New Postdoctoral Research Fellows



Alissa Davis, Ph.D., received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Indiana University-Bloomington and her M.A. in International Relations from Syracuse University. Dr. Davis’ research focuses on the socio-cultural risk factors that contribute to the acquisition of HIV and STDs and on commonly occurring co-problems. Her research interests also include improving access to HIV and STD testing and care, particularly through the use of innovative technologies. Her international regions of focus include post-Soviet Central Asia, Russia, and China.


Angela Parcesepe, Ph.D., received her Ph.D. in Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her MPH and MSW at Columbia University. Dr. Parcesepe is interested in the prevention of gender-based violence and the impact of violence on physical and mental health, with particular attention to the intersection of violence, substance use and HIV prevention and treatment. Her research works with key populations at risk of HIV, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. Her past work investigated the impact of alcohol harm reduction on interpersonal violence and HIV sexual risk behaviors among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya, as well as violence and HIV sexual risk behaviors among women engaged in sex work in adolescence.


Christine Rael, Ph.D., received her Ph.D in Health and Behavioral Science from the University of Colorado in Denver. Dr. Rael’s research focuses on how social and cultural factors influence HIV exposure, prevention, and treatment behaviors, particularly within the context of concentrated epidemics. Her work primarily focuses on groups with disparate access to health resources and/or stigmatized populations, such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex workers (FSW). Prior to her appointment at the HIV Center, her research focused on identifying relationships among stigma, depression, and poor health outcomes in children of FSW, women living with HIV/AIDS (WLWHA), and Haitian women in the Dominican Republic.



Congratulations to Graduating Fellows and to 2015 Publication Award Winner


At a Division-wide meeting on June 17, congratulations were extended to the HIV Center's graduating postdoctoral Fellows: Dr. Meka Anyamele and Mr. Omar Martinez (at left, they are pictured at center with Dr. Theo Sandfort. Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt, and Dr. Katherine Elkington).


Dr. Anyamele will be staying on this summer to complete research projects, while Mr. Martinez will be joining the social work faculty of Temple University.


Also graduating the HIV Center Fellowship program were Dr. Shenell Evans, who has taken a position at the Bronx Psychiatric Institute, and Dr. Anya Spector, who is now working in the HIV division of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.



The occasion was also used to announce this year's Junior Investigator Publication Award, which is administered by the Development Core of the HIV Center. The 2015 award went to Rebecca Giguere, M.P.H. (pictured at right with Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt). Ms. Giguere was lead author of the article "Influence of Partner Type on Acceptability and Likelihood of Use of a Rectal Microbicide among Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in the USA and Puerto Rico." The article was co-authored with Rebecca Giguere, Curtis Dolezal, José A. Bauermeister, Timothy Frasca, Juan Valladares, Irma Febo, Ross D. Cranston, Kenneth Mayer, Ian McGowan, and Alex Carballo-Diéguez.


The review committee commended the article, stating that: "This focused and well-written paper uses an effective combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to address an important emerging area of HIV prevention — rectal microbicides. The paper examines the acceptability of rectal microbicides in the context of different types of MSM relationships, in particular highlighting the role of appeal and sexual pleasure in promoting their use as an HIV prevention method that, unlike condoms, can be under the control of receptive partners, who are at greater risk of HIV infection."





SHIFT Study sponsors interdisciplinary conference on campus sexual violence


A full-day conference on "Transforming the Campus Climate: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sexual Violence," was one of the first public activities sponsored by the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation, or SHIFT.


This research initiative was announced in February by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to explore the evidence and theoretical perspectives of campus sexual violence. SHIFT is co-led by two Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) professors from the Departments of Sociomedical Sciences and Psychiatry: Jennifer S. Hirsch, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist, and Division investigtor Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.  With the HIV Center, Dr. Mellins is Co-Director and Dr. Hirsch is a Co-Investigator.


"Sexual violence has deep roots within our society," noted Dr. Hirsch. "In order to address it effectively, we need to understand more about the individual, social, and institutional factors that make it more likely to occur." She added that "our capacity to respond effectively to the challenge of building campus climates where everyone is safe must not be held back by a lack of empirical knowledge."


Speaking about the conference, Dr. Mellins stated: "We gained a better understanding of what research has been done around the country, what interventions have been tried, and what research is still needed to inform prevention programs that will help eradicate the presence of sexual assault on the campuses of colleges and universities around the country."


A full account of the day's proceedings and key findings is available online on Medical Xpress.



HIV Center hails submission of final "blueprint" to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State



On April 28, 2015, the final "blueprint" to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State was submitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The ceremony was held at the New York City LGBT Community Center, and was attended by HIV Center Director Dr. Robert Remien, Co-Director Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez, and Investigator Dr. Don DesJarlais. All were members of the statewide “Ending the Epidemic” Task Force that produced the document, as was HIV Center Investigator Dr. Denis Nash.


Dr. Remien, who was also Co-Chair of one of the Task Force’s four subcommittees, stated: “After nearly 30 years of working towards ending the AIDS epidemic, the HIV Center is honored to help make this an achievable reality. Our investigators look forward to continuing our engagement with partners in government and the community sector by bringing the tools of social and behavioral science to the task of reducing and eventually eliminating HIV/AIDS in New York City, New York State, and beyond.”


The blueprint includes recommendations to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections to just 750 (from an estimated 3,000) by the end of 2020, and thereby achieve New York’s first-ever decrease in HIV prevalence. The blueprint addresses a three-point plan to decrease new HIV infections by: 1) identifying undiagnosed people with HIV and linking them to health care; 2) retaining people diagnosed with HIV to health care to keep them healthier and to prevent new infections; and 3) providing access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people who are at high risk of infection.


Several of the blueprint's 30 recommendations are related to the HIV Center's research agenda, and were informed in part by the participation of Drs. Remien, Carballo-Diéguez, DesJarlais, and Nash. Among the behaviorally-related recommendations are: to make routine HIV testing truly routine; to expand targeted testing; to address acute infection; to improve referral and engagement; to continuously act to monitor and improve rates of viral suppression; and to use client level data to identify and assist patients who are lost to care or are not virally suppressed.


As Dr. Remien also noted: “Now is when the real work begins. We all need to work together vigorously to implement the recommendations in the blueprint in order to ensure its success by 2020.”


To view the full text of the blueprint, click here.





Congratulations to Early-Stage Investigators on recent NIH grant awards






HIV Center Investigators Jennifer S. Hirsch and Claude Ann Mellins to Co-Lead SHIFT Research Study to Reduce Sexual Violence among Undergraduates


A major new research initiative has been launched under the leadership of two Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) professors from the Departments of Sociomedical Sciences and Psychiatry: Jennifer S. Hirsch, Ph.D. , a medical anthropologist, and Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.  The study is entitled the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation or “SHIFT.” Dr. Mellins is Co-Director of the HIV Center and also of its Development Core, while Dr. Hirsh is an Investigator with the Intervention Science Core.


“As we work to address gender-based misconduct, our highest priority remains to prevent sexual violence before it occurs,” noted University President Lee Bollinger, J.D., in his announcement of the initiative“But to do this most effectively, we need to help remedy what is a national deficit

in evidence-based information relevant to creating the most effective prevention programs and policies.  This study, focused on undergraduate life at Columbia, also will consider more broadly what can be done to promote healthy relationships and identify important risk factors that must be addressed in order to establish a safer and more protective environment.”


Dr. Hirsch is Professor and Deputy Chair of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, where Dr. Mellins has a secondary appointment. Dr. Mellins is Professor of Medical Psychology in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health in the Department of Psychiatry, and also Co-Director of the Office of Clinical Psychology at CUMC.  Both have served as principal investigators of NIH-funded studies and have led training programs at Columbia. Dr. Hirsch is also incoming Co-Director, as of July 2015, of the NIH-funded Columbia Population Research Center.


Drs. Hirsch and Mellins (pictured from right to left above), who are joint Co-Principal Investigators of the study, are assembling a research team from throughout the university comprised of a diverse group of faculty with expertise in gender, sexual health, sexual violence, young adult development, mental health, trauma, and the use of research to develop evidence-based programs and policies directed at behavioral change.  In addition, to account for the diverse experiences and perspectives of students, faculty, and administrators, they will consult regularly with the study’s Student and Institutional Advisory Boards. 


“We are fortunate to be able to assemble these intellectual resources from our own community,” added President Bollinger, “and to have the leadership of Professors Hirsch and Mellins, who possess a mix of intellectual acuity and energy for the project that, undoubtedly, will allow this initiative to make a substantial contribution to preventing sexual violence at Columbia and on campuses across the nation.”

(Photo: Eve Vagg)






HIV Center Investigator Dr. Don DesJarlais receives NIDA "Avant-Garde" Award



Dr. Don Des Jarlais

Five winners of the 2015 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS Research, including Don DesJarlais, Ph.D., have been announced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The five scientists will each receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research. NIDA's annual Avant-Garde Award competition, now in its eighth year, is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug users.


Dr. DesJarlais was among the awardees for his project "Combined Prevention to Reduce Initiation into Injecting Drug Use."   He will lead a multi-component HIV prevention intervention study in two sites with growing concerns about heroin use — New York City and Tallinn, Estonia in Eastern Europe. Researchers will focus on combining a number of interventions with demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the number of drug users who transition to injection drugs. “There are a number of evidence-based programs for reducing initiation into injecting drug use, including the Heroin Sniffer project, the Break the Cycle project, Couples-based HIV counseling and low threshold drug treatment,” said DesJarlais. “This project will apply a combined prevention approach to reduce initiation into injecting drug use.”


Dr. DesJarlais is an Investigator with the HIV Center's Public Health Policy and Practice (PHPP) Core, a Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Columbia University, Director of Research at the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center, and a Senior Research Fellow with the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.



Events during the week of December 1, 2014 to mark World AIDS Day at Columbia University and throughout New York City and State





This year to mark World AIDS Day, HIV Center Rounds will feature Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine speaking on the topic of "Topical ARVs to Prevent HIV."


This will be just one event of a number that will feature our investigators, collaborators, and colleagues from throughout Columbia University, New York, City, and New York State. These include the following:



HIV & Ebola: Fear versus Evidence

Join a conversation on HIV and Ebola: Similarities, differences, lessons learned

Welcome by Dean Linda Fried (Mailman School of Public Health)

Moderated by Wafaa El-Sadr (ICAP at Columbia University)

Invited Speakers: Emmanuel d'Harcour (International Rescue Committee), Gregg Gonsalves (Yale Global  

Health Justice Partnership); Imam Soleimane Konate (Masjid Aqsa, Harlem), and Jay K. Varma (NYCDOHMH)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 2:00-4:00 pm (new time)
Hess Commons, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 722 W. 168th Street



The RED Ball: Remembering. Empowering. Doing.

In commemoration and celebration of World AIDS Day, NYC Health and its community partners will hold the first ever RED Ball, an opportunity for us to celebrate life while remembering friends we've lost in the fight against HIV.


With: Ana Matronic, DJ Seth Ninja, DJ Sammy Jo, DJ Byrell, Dashaun Williams and Symba


Monday, December 1 (6:00-11:00pm)

The OUT NYC, 510 West 42nd Street, New York, NY

The event is free and open to the public. Bring your friends!




PrEP/Truvada: Redefining HIV/AIDS Prevention
Come to hear a panel on PrEP and its potential for HIV/AIDS p[revention in NYC and globally.


Panelists include: Demetre Daskalakis (NYCDPHMH), Wafaa El-Sadr (ICAP at Columbia University), Laura Pinsky (Gay Health Advocacy Project -- GHAP); James Krellenstein (ACT UP). Moderated by Daniel Chiarilli (GHAP)

Tuesday, December 2, 4:00pm-6:00pm

Altschul Auditorium (Room 417), International Affairs Building (SIPA), Columbia University




Be Part of the Plan to End AIDS in New York State

Visit information booths, participate in many scheduled discussions. Free confidential HIV testing.


Events include:

“Let’s Talk About Empowering Ourselves”
“Ending the Epidemic”
“PrEP: Provider and Community Voices - Sorting through the Noise”
“Recognizing HIV Heroes/Sheroes”
" World AIDS Day 2014 Commissioner’s Special Recognition Awards Ceremony"
“Human Video” Theater Performance
“Let’s Talk About Sexual Health Rights!”
“Building Partnerships”
“Let Us Remember”
"Candlelight Vigil"
“Let’s Talk About Empowering Ourselves”
“Sexual Health Care Rights”
"Minors and Health Care"
“Save A Life: Community Opioid Overdose Training”



December 1, 2014 – December 2, 2014
Empire State Plaza Convention Hall - Albany, New York

Concourse Meeting Rooms 4 & 5
Monday, December 1 - 9 am-7 pm
Tuesday, December 2 - 9 am-2 pm
Free and Open to the Public


To access further information about this event, click here.


To access a complete listing of World AIDS Day events sponsored by community organizations in New York City and State, click here.


To access information about an event sponsored by the NYC World AIDS Day Coalition, click here.



HIV Center researchers named to Task Force to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State


Four investigators with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies have been named by Governor Andrew Cuomo as members of a Task Force that will work to implement the Governor’s plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York.


The Task Force will support the effort to reduce the number of new HIV infections to 750 per year by 2020. Its members include Psychiatry Department Professors Robert H. Remien, Ph.D. and Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Ph.D., (pictured from left to right) who are Director and Co-Director, respectively, of the HIV Center, based in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.


The members of the Task Force also include two members of the HIV Center’s Public Health Policy and Practice Core: Denis Nash, Ph.D., who is the Core’s Co-Director and an associate professor of public health at Hunter College, and Don DesJarlais, Ph.D., a Core investigator and professor of clinical psychology (in psychiatry) at Columbia. A range of other experts and community advocates from throughout New York State round out the panel’s 63-person membership.


Dr. Remien, who is Co-chair of the Task Force’s Data Subcommittee, stated that “We have the knowledge and we have the tools to dramatically reduce new infections and improve the health of people living with HIV. The development of this Governor’s Task Force represents the determination and will to have a significant impact in New York State.


“However, there is hard work ahead, and it will take sustained effort and resources to address the multiple sub-epidemics among the most vulnerable populations in our communities.  This is an important moment in time, and I am hopeful that we can make a difference by putting forth a model of action that will move us towards the beginning of the end of the HIV epidemic across the country and around the world.”


The Governor’s plan seeks to decrease new HIV infections to the point where the number of people living with HIV in New York State is reduced for the first time. The end of the AIDS epidemic in New York will occur when the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths. The plan focuses on identifying persons with HIV who remain undiagnosed; linking all infected people to HIV health care and getting them on HIV care to keep them healthy and to prevent new infections; and providing high-risk HIV-negative individuals with access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).                                                                       (Photo by Eve Vagg)





HIV Center welcomes three new postdoctoral Fellows




Three new postdoctoral Fellows have joined the HIV Center this academic year. We wish them much success at the HIV Center and beyond as they join five continuing Fellows.

Anisha Gandhi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.P.H. in Maternal and Child Health from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on how structural forces and social environments shape sexual behavior, HIV/STI vulnerability, and key outcomes on the continuum of HIV care. She is particularly interested in exploring these relationships in marginalized and minority populations, both globally and domestically. Her work at the HIV Center includes investigating the roles of mobility and socioeconomic status on linkage to and engagement in HIV care. (Pictured above fourth from left.)

Margo Bennett Mullinax, Ph.D., M.P.H. received her Ph.D. in Health Behavior from the School of Public Health at Indiana University and her master of public health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Mullinax’s research pushes the bounds of existing public health models by evaluating the very framing of public health research and policy agendas related to sexual and reproductive health in domestic and global contexts. Margo is interested in innovative approaches that translate public health policies and programs into meaningful change in peoples’ lives, especially with regards to HIV. Her previous research has used a feminist and critical inquiry framework to examine the interpersonal and contextual dynamics of contraceptive and condom use, including a focus on interpersonal communication about sexual health topics. (Picured above third from right.)


Jack Ume Tocco, Ph.D., M.P.H. received his doctorate in anthropology and his master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. Tocco investigates the acculturation of biomedical technologies in diverse contexts. His scholarship examines how sexuality, gender, morality and political economy relate to health and access to care, particularly for socially disadvantaged groups. He conducted extensive ethnographic research on Islamic responses to HIV in Northern Nigeria, emphasizing the migration from prophetic to antiretroviral therapy and how local ideals of masculinity affect HIV prevention, transmission and treatment. Dr. Tocco is also currently involved in a multi-phase HIV prevention study with male and female sex workers and their clients in Mombasa, Kenya. (Pictured above fourth from right.)


(Photo by Eve Vagg)








Do you think that social science research is an important part of the solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic? Do you have a doctoral degree (Ph.D., M.D., etc.), or are you about to complete one? Do you want to receive further training to become an independent HIV/AIDS researcher?  If so (or if you know anyone to whom this might apply), you might be interested in our NIMH-funded postdoctoral training program, focusing on HIV, gender, and human sexuality at the HIV Center.


Trainees receive up to three years of support for stipends, health insurance, travel for conferences, and research. Further information and an application form can be found by clicking here.


Positions for our training program will be available as of July 2015. Make sure that we receive your application form not later than November 1, 2014, if you want to be considered for this position.


Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Persons from underrepresented groups (including those with disabilities and disadvantaged background) are strongly encouraged to apply.





Remembering Dr. Mervyn Susser (1921-2014)


With great sadness, all of us at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies note the death of Dr. Mervyn Susser on August 14, 2014.


Mervyn Susser was a Professor of Epidemiology in the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. For many years he was the Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health and was the Founding Director of the Sergievsky Center at Columbia. Mervyn Susser was an extraordinary activist for human rights and a world-renowned scholar, and his life and work had a major impact in the fields of epidemiology and public health. He will be missed by friends and colleagues across the globe.


Our thoughts are particularly with Dr. Zena Stein, his wife and our beloved colleague who has played a major role in our work since 1987 as the founding Co-Director of the HIV Center and an intellectual partner in research and activism into the present. (The couple are pictured above on the occasion of Dr. Stein's retirement.) All of us extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Susser family.


For more about the life and legacy of Dr. Mervyn Susser, please visit his obituary in the New York Times.





HIV Center research is presented at the 2014 International AIDS Conference




The work of HIV Center investigators is represented in nearly two dozen presentations at the 20th International AIDS Conference being held in Melbourne, Australia, from July 20-25. For a full listing, click here.


As the conference was beginning, we learned that among those who died in the disaster of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were several delegates on their way to the conference. We extend our sincere condolences to all the family, friends, and colleagues of the deceased, who included some cherished colleagues from institutions outside the United States.




Timothy Frasca named recipient of Annual Manuscript Award for Junior Investigators



Research Project Director Timothy Frasca, M.P.H. was named the recipient of the 2014 Manuscript Award, which is presented each year by the HIV Center's Development Core to a junior investigator for an outstanding paper. Frasca was the lead author of the winning article, entitled “Attitude and Behavior Changes Among Gay and Bisexual Men After Use of Rapid Home HIV Tests to Screen Sexual Partners.” The article was published in 2013 in the journal AIDS Behavior (Vol. 18 No. 5, pages 950-957). Co-authors on the article were Ivan Balan, Mobolaji Ibitoye, Juan Valladares, Curtis Dolezal, & Alex Carballo-Dieguez.



The reviewers cited the direct public health relevance of this paper in reporting on a harm reduction strategy that anticipates technological developments likely to make home testing more convenient and economical. The paper not only pushes the envelope of what we know in this field, but addresses the issue of effectiveness in real-world settings. The qualitative approach that was used was detailed and thorough and the reported findings elegantly articulated. The paper was further judged to be innovative in that it focused on resilience -- rather than a deficit approach -- to HIV harm reduction in high-risk populations.



Above: Tim Frasca (left) receiving award from Division Director Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt, June 26, 2104 (Photo by Omar Martinez)





Congratulations to the 2014 graduates of the HIV Center Fellowship Program




Farnaz Kaighobadi, Ph.D. and Zoe Edelstein, Ph.D. are this year's graduates of the HIV Center's Postdoctoral Fellowship program.

Dr. Kaighobadi is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Bard College.  Dr. Edelsteinis now Director of Research in the HIV Prevention Program, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Pictured from left to right are Psychiatry Department Chair Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman; Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health Director Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt; Drs. Kaighobadi and Edelstein; and Training Program Director Dr. Theo Sandfort. (Photo: Eve Vagg)








Dr. Ronald Bayer elected to lead World Health Organization bioethics network



Dr. Ronald Bayer, a long-time HIV Center investigator and professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, was elected to a two-year term (2014 to 2016) to chair the World Health Organization’s Network of Bioethics Collaborating Centers, of which the Mailman School’s Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health is a member. Most recently, the Network worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the ethical challenges of HIV treatment prevention, tuberculosis control, and vaccination. Dr. Bayer is currently also the Co-Director of the HIV Center's Public Health Practice and Policy Core.







HIV Center Investigators contribute to book "HIV/AIDS and Psychiatry" from World Psychiatric Association


HIV Center investigators Drs. Robert Remien, Francine Cournos, Milton Wainberg, Karen McKinnon, and Reuben Robbins are contributors to the important new resource book "HIV/AIDS and Psychiatry" published in conjunction with the World Psychiatric Association. The investigators co-authored chapters on "Epidemiology of Psychopathology in HIV," "Intervention in HIV and Psychiatry: Behavioral and Psychotherapeutic Approaches," and "Special Populations and Public Health Aspects." Two of the books editors, Drs. John Joska and Dan Stein of the University of Cape Town are longstanding close collaborators with the HIV Center; the volume was also co-edited with Dr. Igor Grant of the University of California at San Diego.

This book provides clinicians with a comprehensive evidenced-based and practical approach to the management of patients with HIV infection and co-morbid mental disorders. It provides up-to-date and clear overviews of current clinical issues, as well as the relevant basic science. Information and data from studies of different HIV groups (eg men who have sex with men) make the text relevant to a broad spectrum of clinicians, including those working with low socioeconomic status groups in high income countries and those working in the developing world.


The book uses the popular format of the World Psychiatric Association’s Evidence and Experience series. Review chapters summarize the evidence on the epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical aspects of mental disorders in HIV, and interventions (both psychotherapy and psychopharmacology including drug-drug interactions). These are complemented by commentaries addressing particular facets of each topic and providing insight gained from clinical experience.


Psychiatrists, psychologists and all mental health staff working with HIV-infected patients will find this book of great benefit. For more information, visit:




HIV co-sponsors event on HIV risk among prisoners in the Caribbean



HIV Center to Co-Sponsor "Building the Fourth Wave of HIV/AIDS Activism: An Activist-Scholar Panel"


HIV/AIDS activism has been back in the news, and activists have been back in the streets. After three great waves of HIV/AIDS activism, this may be the start of a fourth wave. What can be done to build a fourth wave? What might the experience of the first three waves suggest about its direction and impact?

This event is co-sponsored by the HIV Center and the Baruch College Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management. It is being held in association with media sponsor The Stanford Social Innovation Review and coincides with the launch of the new three-volume bookset Global HIV/AIDS Politics, Policy, and Activism: Persistent Challenges and Emerging Issues(Raymond A. Smith, Editor; Praeger, 2013).


Monday, February 3, 2014, 4-6pm
Baruch College, 135 East 22nd Street, Room 301, New York, NY


Michael Seltzer, Baruch College, CUNY

Amanda Lugg, African Services Committee
Jeff Maskovsky, Graduate Center, CUNY
Mathew Rodriguez, & ACT UP/NY
Eric Sawyer, UNAIDS
Raymond Smith, Columbia University


Admission is free. Space is limited – RSVP Required
RSVP: or 646-660-6806


To access the flyer for this event, click here.







HIV Center mourns the passing -- and celebrates the life -- of Nelson Mandela


 HIV Center Director Dr. Robert H. Remien and Co-Directors Drs. Claude Ann Mellins and Alex Carballo-Dguez issued a statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela:


"The HIV Center mourns the passing – and celebrates the life and accomplishments – of the great South African and world leader Nelson Mandela. We greatly admire his tenacity and dedication to justice and human rights, his courage, patience and resilience in the face of adversity, hostility and aggression, his demonstration of forgiveness, redemption and humility, and his pursuit of peace and unity. His whole life was a lesson and remains an inspiration to us all.


"Among several causes in his fight for human rights and justice, Nelson Mandela demonstrated a strong commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa and around the world. For over 25 years, it has been the great privilege of the HIV Center to work in South Africa and collaborate with colleagues there in pursuit of our shared goals of HIV prevention, treatment access, stigma reduction, and the promotion of the health and human rights of all. Since our first HIV research program in South Africa began in 1992, we have watched with admiration as South Africa reinvented itself under President Mandela."


To read the full statement, please click here.




Screening and panel discussion of How to Survive a Plague documentary



To mark World AIDS Day 2013, the HIV Center hosted a screening of the highly acclaimed and Academy Award-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. The film highlights the critical role of ACT UP, TAG, and other AIDS activists in the search for treatments for HIV in the 1980s and 1990s.


The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by HIV Center Director Dr. Robert Remien (at right in photo) and including the film’s director and producer David France (holding microphone). The panel also included three key activists featured in the film (from left to right): Jim Eigo, Peter Staley, and Ann Northrop. The event was co-sponsored by the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU.






Dr. Alex Carballo-Diéguez is cited in New York Times article on HIV and gay men


 The article, "Rise in Unprotected Sex by Gay Men Spurs H.I.V. Fears" states in part:


"Federal health officials are reporting a sharp increase in unprotected sex among gay American men, a development that makes it harder to fight the AIDS epidemic...


Two leading independent AIDS researchers agreed only partly with those explanations. “Young guys are less worried,” said Alex Carballo-Diéguez, a researcher at the H.I.V. Center of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University who has studied gay men’s behavior since the 1980s. “H.I.V. has become a chronic disease, and everyone knows some behaviors are bad for you, like smoking and trans fats. But in the moment of excitement, they’re going to do what they enjoy.”


To read the full article, click here.






Dr. Joanne Mantell discusses her work on medical male circumcision



Dr. Mantell and colleagues recently published a paper titled: "Medical male circumcision and HIV risk: perceptions of women in a higher learning institution in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa" in the journal Sexual Health. The study was conducted in partnership with MATCH Research (Maternal, Adolescent, and Child Health) at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.


With support from NIMH and from amFAR, Dr. Mantel is the Principal Investigator of studies on the integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV care and medical male circumcision in South Africa, and a co-investigator on studies of women in antenatal clinics and men in Lesotho and men who have sex with men in South Africa.


To read more about the study and its findings on the science website, click here.






Bookset published on Global HIV/AIDS Politics, Policy, and Activism



The new three-volume bookset Global HIV/AIDS Politics, Policy, and Activism: Persistent Challenges and Emerging Issues was published on October 31. The bookset includes 45 chapters by over 80 contributing authors from 16 countries, including HIV Center-affiliated investigators Drs. Robert Remien, Richard Parker, Zena Stein, Joanne Mantell, and Raymond Smith, who is also editor of the bookset. The idea originated with an HIV Center-sponsored conference in 2009. For more information on the bookset, click here.


Symposium honors HIV Center Investigator Dr. Ronald Bayer's 25 Years at Columbia


Dr. Ronald Bayer's 25 years at Columbia were honored at a symposium on October 25 entitled “Risky Business: Confronting the Moral and Political Foundations of Public Health.” Dr. Bayer has been affiliated with the HIV Center since 1988 and is currently Co-Director of the Public Health Policy and Practice Core. The event brought together health scholars and leaders who have been centrally engaged in the issues that have defined Dr. Bayer's career and will continue to be focal points of controversy and conflict. Thematically, the conference was be organized around three topics: AIDS, which was responsible for bringing Dr. Bayer to Columbia; tobacco control, and the challenge of confronting mass behavior and corporate practice; and the politics of decision making, with a focus on the role of evidence in public policy. It was sponsored by the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School; and the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.





HIV Center Director Dr. Robert Remien Speaks at
ICAP Forum on New Opportunities and Challenges in HIV Prevention

ICAP at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health convened a group of leading HIV researchers for a special symposium on October 10, 2013 to discuss opportunities and challenges in HIV prevention. The event also launched a supplement of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS), on state-of- the-art HIV prevention. The symposium featured contributing authors including Drs. Wafaa El-Sadr, Myron Cohen, Andrea Howard, and Robert Remien, who all participated in a panel discussion joined by Dr. Elaine Abrams.

Robert Remien, Ph.D. (at center above) presented on the global HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM), the multifactoral nature of MSM HIV vulnerabilities, the diversity of MSM and the role that plays in designing and targeting interventions, and recent findings and new directions for combating the epidemic among the MSM population.
To read more about the symposium, please click here. (Photo courtesy of ICAP)


Development Core sponsors poster session held on September 12, 2013

Investigators Drs. Mary McKay (left) and Claude Ann Mellins (right) were among the Division/HIV Center researchers who presented their work, in this case"The VUKA Family Project: A family-based mental health and HIV prevention program for perinatally HIV-infected youth." As with several of the posters, this one was originally presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. during July 2012. In total, 27 posters co-authored by Division/HIV Center investigators were on display. The event was sponsored by the HIV Center’s Development Core. For more on the poster session, click here. (Photo by Eve Vagg)



The HIV Center Receives NIMH Renewal Under New Leadership

In February 2013, the HIV Center was renewed by NIMH with Dr. Robert H. Remien (left) as Director. Dr. Claude Ann Mellins and Dr. Alex Carballo Diéguez (at right) are the new Co-Directors. Dr. Anke A. Ehrhardt (second from left), who founded the HIV Center in 1987, continues on as Director and Research Chief of the Division of Gender, Sexuality and Health.

The HIV Center has been renewed by National Institute of Mental Health for the five year period of 2013 to 2018, and will highlight new leadership, new research Cores, and expanded collaboration with other academic institutions such as the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and New York University, and with health departments in New York State and New York City. A major focus will be on developing new approaches to HIV prevention, treatment, and care through the combination of behavioral and biomedical interventions. The HIV Center also aims to apply the principles of implementation science to maximize public health impact.


Based within the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health, the HIV Center brings together nearly 100 investigators who are at the forefront of HIV biobehavioral science. Through the NIMH AIDS Research Center (ARC) mechanism, the HIV Center provides the value-added infrastructure to ensure methodological and theoretical rigor, identify and respond to new trends in the epidemic, support critical partnerships across research and practice sectors, and train new behavioral scientists. The Center is unique among the NIMH ARCs in being based in New York City – home to over one-third of people living with HIV/AIDS in the US, the highest number of new infections of any US city, and large ethnic/racial minority populations coping with extreme economic and health disparities.


For more on the HIV Center, please visit:



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