UH Awarded Grant To Improve Health Outcomes For Black Americans Living With HIV

Lorra Garey, a researcher from the University of Houston RESTORE Lab, has been granted $1.3 million from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to lead a research project assessing the effects of a mobile health (mHealth) application in reducing smoking among Black people living with HIV. 

The global population has been greatly affected by HIV, a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 40 million people have died from the virus, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs noted that 20 percent of US citizens with HIV don’t realize they have it. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that 13 percent of Black Americans with HIV are unaware of their condition. This has caused a low rate of treatment and viral suppression among Black Americans compared to their White and Hispanic peers. Smoking has been identified as a key factor in HIV disease management, and it is known that HIV patients are more likely to smoke, which can have serious health consequences. People of color living with chronic and stigmatized diseases, like HIV, often face an accumulation of stressors that go beyond the average daily life stressors of being a person of color, such as microaggressions, racism and discrimination. This combination can make it especially difficult to manage the disease and its associated stress, and can lead to substance use as a coping mechanism.

Garey and her team have been awarded a $1.3 million Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to create an app-based intervention for Black HIV patients who smoke. This supplemental award was given under an existing award for the University of Houston’s HEALTH Center for Additions and Cancer Prevention led by Ezemenari Obasi, PhD. This mobile app, titled “A Fully Automated and Culturally Adapted Health Intervention for Smoking Cessation Among Black Smokers with HIV,” provides real-time interventions and motivational messages to support HIV symptom management. 

This research project is an important step in improving the health outcomes of Black Americans living with HIV. Garey and her team are hopeful that this project will provide a platform to better understand how mHealth interventions can be tailored to reduce smoking in this population and ultimately help to improve health outcomes.