Newswise — PHILADELPHIA (August 9, 2016) – A research team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), the University of Michigan School of Nursing and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health has been awarded a $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to adapt and test a HIV prevention intervention for adolescent men who have sex with men. The intervention, referred to as iCON (“I Connect”), builds on an Herb Ritts Foundation initiative and seeks to address the growing disparity in new HIV cases among young men by offering life skills training and community-based HIV prevention resources through an online app.

“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, Presidential Associate Professor of Nursing in the Department of Family and Community Health at Penn Nursing. “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.”

From 2000-2010, the annual number of new HIV diagnoses among young men who have sex with men more than doubled, with racial and ethnic minorities encumbering a disproportionate number of these new infections. Given the rapid growth in HIV infection rates among young men, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities and youth living in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, interventions that provide opportunities to adopt risk reduction behaviors may reduce these young men’s long-term vulnerability and exposure to HIV infection.

"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, Professor of Epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. “It is critical that we develop new and scalable interventions for these young men."

As part of the sponsored award from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the research team will test iCON’s efficacy in a sample of 600 gay and bisexual adolescent men living in four regions across the United States. Participants will be able to learn from 16 life skills modules including: education, employment, legal advice, coming out, and safer sex education. Each topic will allow the user to read information, find local services and set goals to make changes in their life, and receive coaching from a peer educator. If effective, iCON will be expanded to other regions of the country.

“With high levels of technology use among young people, particularly smart phones and social media, online interventions offer an acceptable and efficient way to reach this highly vulnerable population,” said study co-lead Rob Stephenson, PhD, MSC, Director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.The research team hopes that this investigation will lead to significant new understandings about how to reduce HIV among youth in the United States. Research reported in this news release was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under award number U01MD011274.

# # #

Editor’s NotesThe researchers report no conflicts of interest.

About the University of Pennsylvania School of NursingThe University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world’s leading schools of nursing, is consistently ranked as one of the top graduate nursing schools in the United States, and is among the nation’s top recipients of nursing research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through research, education, and practice. Follow Penn Nursing on: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram & YouTube.

About the University of Michigan School of NursingThe University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) is consistently ranked among leading nursing schools in the country and is also one of the leading schools for research funding from NIH. Offering innovative and rigorous academic programs taught by distinguished faculty, the school gives students the opportunities to make a global impact through cutting-edge research, education, and practice. UMSN enrolls more than 1,000 students in the graduate and BSN programs. To learn more, visit

About The Rollins School of Public HealthThe Rollins School of Public Health is a top-ranked public health program comprised of the six academic departments: behavioral sciences and health education, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, health policy and management, and global health. Rollins also hosts over two dozen interdisciplinary centers and more than 200 full-time, doctoral-level faculty members who teach and conduct research in areas such as mathematical modeling of infectious disease transmission, exploring relationships between nutrition and chronic disease, and investigating cancer causation and control. Other research interests include identifying the social determinants of health-risk behaviors, AIDS, developing church-based health promotion programs to foster changes in nutrition and other health-related behaviors, detecting and preventing adverse outcomes in occupational settings, and evaluating the cost of health care and the allocation of health resources. Students join the Rollins community from all 50 states and from more than 40 foreign countries to contribute to the school and apply knowledge to promote health and prevent disease in human populations.