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Lina Rosengren Hovee, MD

Lina Rosengren-Hovee, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases, received a 2020 Gilead Research Scholar Award for an HIV study that will yield insights into the social media ecosystem that prominently affects uptake Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) among Young Black Men who have Sex with Men (YBMSM). Types of stigma promulgated on social media will be highlighted and evaluated for impact on PrEP use. Strategies for addressing stigma to support PrEP adoption will be identified, providing the formative work for a future directed PrEP stigma intervention. Following is the introduction from Rosengren-Hovee’s study:

In its initiative “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A plan for the United States,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has prioritized the widespread adoption of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce HIV transmission among the most vulnerable populations, particularly Young Black Men who have Sex with Men (YBMSM). Despite similar PrEP awareness and a higher need for PrEP among YBMSM, there are grave disparities in PrEP uptake between YBMSM and other MSM. Stigma plays a critical role in PrEP adoption for YBMSM. Stigma has been directly linked to the acquisition of HIV by impeding prevention efforts along the HIV continuum. Identification of strategies to eliminate stigma barriers to PrEP has remained a challenge to public health, and new threats to PrEP adoption have emerged on social media. Advertisements for class action lawsuits filed against Gilead Sciences have appeared in great numbers, raising consumer concern about PrEP. Social media is a source of significant stigma, but also acts as a facilitator of resilience among YBMSM. A data-driven approach to study stigma using social media can facilitate a nuanced understanding of YBMSM’s stigma experiences and address disparities in PrEP uptake, and facilitate understanding of how eliminating stigma can reduce HIV vulnerability.

A methodology that captures the language of YBMSM Twitter users, using qualitative methods will demonstrate stigma as a barrier to PrEP adoption. Through retrieval and classification PrEP-related Tweets will be analyzed for stigma and barriers to PrEP uptake. Using a population-informed process, targets for a social media stigma intervention will be identified.