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Drexel Researcher Receives Career Development Award to Implement Program to Reduce HIV Transmission Among Disproportionally Vulnerable Group

October 12, 2016

Alexis Roth, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Community Health and Prevention in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, has received the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association’s Career Development Award. The $100,000 grant runs from October 2016 through September 2018 and was announced at the National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

Roth will use the grant to study an intervention focused on preventing HIV in women who inject drugs by pairing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with community-based syringe exchange programs. PrEP is a biomedical HIV prevention intervention approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 as one of several HIV prevention strategies for persons who inject drugs. To date, little research has focused on scaling these interventions in real world settings. 

The groundwork for this project began in 2015 when Roth was awarded pilot funds from Philadelphia’s Community-Driven Research Day. This annual event encourages collaboration between researchers and community-based organizations to build local capacity to conduct program evaluation and address research questions. Since partnering with the Camden Area Health Education Center, Roth and the students she mentors have documented high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among syringe exchange clients and multi-level barriers to uptake of PrEP interventions.

Roth’s career development award will use a prospective design to evaluate the impact of packaging PrEP, screening for sexually transmitted infections, and syringe exchange services to increase PrEP utilization among this disproportionately vulnerable group.  She is hopeful her findings will impact local and national infectious disease surveillance policies while also providing critical background for the development of an intervention to increase PrEP uptake, adherence and retention in care.