The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) selected Dr. Diana Sheehan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Florida International University’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, to be an HPTN Scholar.
[Photo: Dr. Diana Sheehan]
Dr. Sheehan will be part of the eighth domestic cohort for the Scholars Program and receive salary and travel support for an 18-month period. The Scholars Program includes substantial research mentorship, and the implementation of a study.
Dr. Sheehan’s proposed study, entitled “Perceived network sexual norms and HIV sexual risk behavior among drug users and their risk partners,” will conduct secondary analyses of data collected as part of a phase III randomized controlled study (HPTN037) to evaluate the efficacy of a network-oriented peer education intervention for the prevention of HIV transmission among injection drug users and their network members. The purpose of Dr. Sheehan’s study will be to better understand the relationship between perceived network sexual norms and HIV sexual risk behavior among people who inject drugs and their risk partners, and to examine the potential geographic clustering of perceived network sexual norms and HIV sexual risk behavior.
Dr. Sheehan worked closely with Dr. Carl Latkin, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and protocol chair of HPTN037, on the grant and research proposal, as well as with her local mentor Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at FIU. Dr. Latkin will mentor Dr. Sheehan throughout the implementation of her HPTN Scholars study.
The HPTN Scholars Program will allow Dr. Sheehan to conduct highly significant research among a vulnerable and disproportionately affected population. Although HIV infection due to injection drug use has declined, people who inject drugs continue to be at high risk through risky sexual behaviors. Furthermore, geographic disparities exist even within the disadvantaged neighborhoods that many people who inject drugs live. Information gained in this study can be used to design network-level interventions and to target place-based individual- and community-level interventions.