Doctoral Student Receives NIH Grant for Groundbreaking HIV Research

Jahn Jaramillo, M.P.H., a third-year doctoral student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been awarded the prestigious F31 Diversity Fellowship Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The highly competitive F31 grant provides individualized, mentored research training under the guidance of faculty mentors to promising pre-doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds. Jaramillo secured a perfect application score, placing him within the top 2 percent of applicants.

HIV Rates for LMSM in Miami-Date County

Jaramillo’s research will be conducted in Miami-Dade County, which has an alarmingly high HIV prevalence among Latino men who have sex with men (LMSM). This project shines a spotlight on the structural challenges faced by LMSM in Miami-Dade County, including unemployment, financial stress, and poverty, which significantly increase vulnerability to the disease.

Miller School doctoral student Jahn Jaramillo is developing interventions for men with HIV in Miami-Dade County.

“While effective biomedical interventions like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment exist, immigrant LMSM often face unique barriers that make accessing this valuable HIV prevention tool difficult,” said Jaramillo.

His research strategy adapts an HIV-status neutral structural intervention, Work2Prevent (W2P), to specifically address these barriers for LMSM who immigrated recently, many of whom speak only Spanish and/or are undocumented.

Building on the Success of Previous HIV Interventions

W2P has improved HIV prevention outcomes among English-speaking Black and Latino MSM and transgender women, according to Jaramillo. However, W2P has not been adapted to the specific needs of immigrant LMSM populations or individuals living with HIV.

Focusing on obtaining valuable feedback from immigrant LMSM and topical experts, Jaramillo’s project aims to culturally ground W2P for recent immigrant LMSM, make it HIV-status neutral, and plan implementation based on expert input. The research and training plan adheres to the ADAPT-ITT framework, a systematic approach for adapting interventions.

The training plan, which includes coursework, seminars, and individual meetings, will enable Jaramillo to gain expertise in culturally adapting and improving the feasibility of evidence-based interventions that address structural factors driving HIV disparities among immigrant LMSM. He’ll work with mentors with expertise in Latino health disparities, intervention tailoring, adaptation science, and implementation science.

Working to Reduce HIV Care Disparities

One of Jaramillo’s mentors, Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the Miller School, highlighted the significance of Jaramillo’s work.

“The training that Jahn will receive in adaptation science and implementation science will allow him to establish a program of research focused on reducing HIV disparities caused by structural barriers that impede the dissemination of evidence-based biomedical interventions for HIV prevention and treatment for Latino men who have sex with men,” Dr. Prado said.

Jaramillo’s research project benefits from the guidance of a distinguished team, including primary mentor Audrey Harkness, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and research assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies; Steven Safren, Ph.D., director of the University of Miami Center for HIV and Research in Mental Health, Jose Parra-Cardona, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Texas, and Brandon J. Hill, Ph.D., CEO, Vivent Health

“Jahn’s work exemplifies the University of Miami’s commitment to fostering innovative research and addressing pressing health disparities in our communities,” said Dr. Harkness. “Research holds immense promise in addressing health disparities and contributing to health equity goals in areas with high HIV prevalence among immigrant Latino men who have sex with men.”

Jaramillo’s proposed project aligns with Dr. Harkness’ NIH-funded research on the expansion and distribution of PrEP, HIV testing, and behavioral health services among LMSM in South Florida.

“The next steps include using the study findings to inform a subsequent proposal K01 to pilot test the culturally adapted W2P program for immigrant LMSM using employment as prevention,” said Jaramillo.

The adapted version of W2P is expected to improve the effectiveness of HIV prevention and treatment in this underserved community.

“Innovative methods in adaptation that focus on the unique needs of immigrant LMSM are urgently needed in geographic hotspots to achieve health equity and Ending HIV Epidemic goals,” Jaramillo said.

Tags: HIV, HIV prevention