A $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will go to a research team adapting and testing an HIV prevention program for young men who have sex with men (MSM). Specifically, the initiative focuses on an app that offers life skills training and community-based HIV prevention resources.
The program, named iCON (as in “I connect”), is based on a Herb Ritts Foundation initiative, according to a press release from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, one of three groups working together in the research team. The other two are University of Michigan School of Nursing and Emory’s School of Public Health in Atlanta.
The research team will test iCON on a sample of 600 young MSM in four U.S. regions. The young men will be able to learn 16 different types of life skills related to safer-sex education, employment, legal issues and coming out, among others.
If successful, iCON will be expanded across the nation.
“Our aim is to empower young gay and bisexual men to find the services they need and enable them to make positive changes in their lives,” said lead researcher José Bauermeister, PhD, MPH, of Penn Nursing in the release. “By empowering change we hope to allow young men to be able to reduce their vulnerability to HIV and to seek the care they need.”
“At a time in the United States when new HIV diagnoses are declining among most groups, new infections in young gay and bisexual men continue to rise,” said study co-lead Patrick Sullivan, PhD, DVM, of Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “It is critical that we develop new and scalable interventions for these young men.”
In fact, HIV diagnoses among young MSM more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, with racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately hit.