Volume 4, Issue 1
Early Career Leadership
My New Investigator Award to conduct a study entitled, Development of an Intervention to Increase HIV Testing among Latino Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM)
By Maria Rosa Solorio
I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health, Department of Health Services. I obtained my medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and completed a residency in Family Medicine at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles County. I obtained my MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Washington. My research is focused on developing community level interventions to prevent HIV in Latino youth. My original research studies have been published in Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health, Journal of AIDS, AIDS and Behavior, Journal of Adolescent Health, and Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
My background is somewhat unique for a researcher and involves many years of experience as a physician serving the Latino population and leadership experience including serving as the statewide lead discussant for the California-Mexico AIDS Initiative (2002) and serving as a Founding Board Member of the Latino Coalition Against AIDS (LCAA) in Los Angeles (2004-2008). In addition, I have substantial media experience including working for the makers of Tylenol and serving as a spokesperson for the “Just Keep Moving Campaign” in which I promoted physical activity among older adults; I was interviewed by 35 television and radio programs which were broadcast nationally. I have previously consulted with communications firms and have received specialized training in storytelling; this is considered one of the most effective means of communication. I am bilingual in English and Spanish and also read and write in both languages.
These combined experiences have led me to a new area in research; to develop effective mass media HIV prevention messages for Latino youth. I am interested in youth who are heterosexual as well as those who are homosexual. Considering that the HIV epidemic is having a severe impact on homosexual youth, I have decided to target this group first with interventions. Due to over 50% of new HIV infections occurring among foreign-born Latinos in the U.S., I have decided to target Latino immigrant Spanish speakers. Two years ago, I was awarded the University of Washington, Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), New Investigator Award (P30 AI027757; PI Holmes, King; Project PI Solorio, Rosa) to conduct a study entitled, Development of an Intervention to Increase HIV Testing among Latino Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM). This study used qualitative methods to examine barriers and facilitators associated with HIV testing among young Latino MSM Spanish speakers. Among 60 Latino MSM who tended to identify with being gay, one-half had never been tested for HIV. Many barriers to HIV testing were identified, including fear from a positive result, stigma, confidentiality concerns and lack of perceived benefits.
To address these barriers, we developed an intervention by creating a storyboard script in Spanish, that involves a peer model, storytelling and marketing principles, including a marketing mix of the 4 Ps (i.e. Product, Place, Price, Promotion) to reduce the “price” (i.e. barriers) of HIV testing; this approach is based on our preliminary data that shows that Latino MSM perceive the price of HIV testing to be too high. The marketing mix involves a peer model who tests HIV negative; he promotes HIV testing by using storytelling to describe the benefits from timely testing and ways to overcome barriers. The script has been tested with 10 focus groups (each group 6-8 MSM); in the last two focus groups, over 50% of the MSM report to having intentions to undergo HIV testing in the next 6 months.
The next step necessary to reach a large segment of the target population is to translate the developed storyboard script into public service announcements in collaboration with a communications firm. My goal now is to conduct a pilot of a mass media campaign that targets young Latino MSM Spanish speakers with HIV prevention messages including ones focused on sexual risk reduction messages and promotion of HIV testing. I plan to submit an R34 grant application to the National Institutes of Health. The proposed project will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. King Holmes, Chair of the Global Health Department and Director of the Center for AIDS Research, Dr. Mark Forehand, Associate Professor of Marketing and a communications firm.