Newswise — Rutgers School of Public Health instructor, Stephanie Shiau, along with colleagues, has been awarded a Rutgers Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness grant to better understand how the current pandemic impacts people living with HIV, who may be at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to the general population.

The researchers, who include Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School faculty, will design a mixed-methods study that will explore the impact of psychosocial and structural factors and the interactions between COVID-19, HIV, and other conditions associated with HIV infection in Essex County, New Jersey.

Shiau and her colleagues will use a syndemic framework - which demonstrates how two or more co-occurring diseases in a population can exacerbate each other to increase the disease burden on a specific group - to better understand the impact that COVID-19 has on people living with HIV.

People living with HIV, who have multiple other medical conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, require ongoing and frequent contact with HIV care. As HIV is now characterized as a chronic disease, pandemics such as COVID-19 hold the potential to both exacerbate existing underlying conditions and interfere with much-needed access to HIV care and medical treatment

Their research will be among the first to explain how pandemics impact people living with HIV.

Co-principal investigators include: Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies; Pamela Valera, assistant professor in the department of urban-global public health at the Rutgers School of Public Health; Kristen Krause, aging and HIV expert, public health researcher, and manager of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies; and Shobha Swaminathan, associate professor at New Jersey Medical School.


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