Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

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Loyola School of Social Work Launches Innovative HIV/AIDS Study
Study Focuses on HIV/AIDS Prevention within African-American Community

CHICAGO, December 3, 2012 –- Prior to joining Loyola University Chicago, Darrell Wheeler, PhD, current dean of Loyola’s School of Social Work, was heavily involved in HIV/AIDS prevention research that has contributed to the development of HIV/AIDS education, training, testing, and more. Now, more than a year after joining Loyola, Dr. Wheeler is leading a new HIV/AIDS prevention study called Black Men Evolving, also known as B-ME.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been a pressing health issue for the last three decades, and as of March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are currently 1.2 million people living with the disease in the United States. Although people infected span across all ages, ethnic groups, and lifestyles, a handful of groups tend to see higher rates of infection than others. One of those groups is African-American men who have sex with other men. After studying these trends, Dr. Wheeler and Loyola’s School of Social Work developed the B-ME study to evaluate the efficacy of preventative treatment in reducing this group’s percentage of infection.

“Something is wrong. We shouldn’t be seeing these rates of infection within this group, given the population,” said Dr. Wheeler, who will be the principal investigator of the study. “If you think about this epidemic, this study is a fitting action for Loyola because of the University’s commitment to social justice and integrating intellectual resources to unlock problems here in Chicago.”

The five-year study, ending in April 2015, is a home-grown study, meaning it is being conducted in the community instead of within a University, and it is funded by the CDC. The study will look at whether behavioral intervention, focusing on critical thinking and cultural affirmation, can help lower this group’s rate of high-risk sexual behavior. The primary goal of the study is to promote safe-sex norms, positive attitudes toward condom use, and self-protection from HIV/AIDS through behavioral intervention.

Stephen Armstead, the B-ME study coordinator, describes B-ME as different from other HIV/AIDS studies in two main ways. First, the intervention is behavioral instead of biomedical. The study is looking at how effective behavioral change is as opposed to the changes brought about by medical drugs. Second, the study does not focus on identity. The researchers are purposely are using the term “men who have sex with other men” instead of labeling participants as gay or homosexual.

“We are attempting to not be labeled as a gay study so as not to stigmatize people. HIV is not transmitted by identity, it is transmitted by behavior,” said Armstead.

The study calls for 438 African-American men who have sex with other men. All participants will be given a survey at the start of the study regarding their sexual practices. They will then be split into two groups: a control group and an intervention group. Those in the control group will receive monthly text messages that positively reinforce cultural ideas and self-affirmation. The participants in the intervention group will attend a weekend retreat, as well as receive the monthly text messages. All the men will take the surveys again at the three-month mark and the six-month mark.

For more information on this study, or to participate, contact 312.291.9399, or bme@luc.edu.

About Loyola University Chicago
Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic universities, with nearly 16,000 students. Almost 10,000 undergraduates hailing from all 50 states and 82 countries call Loyola home. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy, as well as course locations in Beijing, China; Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Vernon Hills, Illinois (Cuneo Mansion and Gardens); and a Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Illinois. The University features 10 schools and colleges, including the Quinlan School of Business, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Stritch School of Medicine, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Law, School of Social Work, and Graduate School. Consistently ranked a top national university by U.S.News & World Report, Loyola is also among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations like the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. To learn more about Loyola, visit LUC.edu, “like” us at Facebook.com/LoyolaChicago, or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaChicago.

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