While a number of NIH-funded research areas have been formally linked through official networks and centers (e.g., Cancer Disparities Network, Healthy Communities Study), much of the NIH-funded research related to HIV disclosure is connected through informal networking among the researchers and directors of these projects. In an effort to convene both the researchers and their findings, researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, Drs. Xiaoming Li* and Shan Qiao, and colleagues Dr. John de Wit (University of New South Wales) and Dr. Lorraine Sherr (University College London) approached AIDS and submitted a publication proposal for a special issue in the journal.
“AIDS is the leading journal in the world on AIDS-related research, publishing the very latest ground-breaking research on HIV and AIDS and has the highest impact of all AIDS-related journals,” says Dr. Li. “They typically publish clinical research so we were excited to work with them to disseminate the findings of this psychosocial and behavioral research.”
After receiving approval from AIDS to move forward with producing the supplement, Dr. Li and his colleagues worked with NIH program directors to add to the list of NIH-funded research projects they already knew about. Armed with this exhaustive list, they invited each investigator to submit abstracts for consideration.
The editors at AIDS selected 10 of the papers for their special issue and AIDS Care agreed to publish another 10 papers in a second special theme issue. “AIDS Care is the leading journal that addresses the psychosocial aspects of AIDS through research in disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, epidemiology, social work, ethics, education, etc., so this medium is a great fit for sharing our work as well,” says Dr. Li.
Sharing a common goal to move the field forward towards more effective interventions in HIV disclosures, the articles in the AIDS special issue represent a range of novel studies that address various issues related to the design, development and evaluation of HIV disclosure intervention programs, while the articles in the AIDS Care special issue focus more on psychological, social and behavioral factors influencing pediatric HIV disclosure, parental HIV disclosure and partner HIV disclosure as well as psychosocial sequels of HIV disclosure. The backdrops for these research projects included low-and middle-income countries and multisite studies. “The primary purpose for these two special issues was to provide a collection of findings and best practices from NIH-funded research on HIV disclosure, and I believe we’ve done that” says Dr. Li.
His collaborators agree. “These special issues will be wonderful resources for researchers and clinicians,” says Susannah Allison, Ph.D., a program officer with NIH and the lead author on one of the papers in the AIDS special issue. “This has been a very challenging problem for us in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and I see, it’s not easy anywhere,” says Assistant Professor Dr. Consuelo Beck-Sague, another lead author on one of the AIDS papers. “But it is encouraging and exciting that there really is a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Now that they have assembled many NIH-funded HIV disclosure researchers, Dr. Li and his colleagues plan to build on their successful partnership that resulted in these special issues. “We will continue to work with this informal international network of HIV disclosure researchers to promote this research,” he says. “We will also find some common issues, such as the ethical, social and legal implications of HIV disclosure, to collaborate on across various cultural settings.”
*Dr. Xiaoming Li recently joined the Arnold School of Public Health as a professor in the department of health promotion, education, and behavior and the S.C. SmartState Endowed Chair of Clinical Translational Research and Director of S.C. SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality. Previously a professor and director of the Pediatric Prevention Research Center at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Dr. Li has been conducting social and behavioral HIV-related research in China with National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds since 2001. He is currently the principal investigator on two NIH RO1 grants in these areas.