UAB professor receives research grant for HIV suppression study

Scott Batey received his second NIH R01 award in the past six months — a five-year, $2.98 million award that will help examine the social support networks of young Black men living with HIV.
Written by: Eric-Lamar Burts
Media contact: Yvonne Taunton

virus cellsScott Batey received his second NIH R01 award in the past six months — a five-year, $2.98 million award that will help examine the social support networks of young Black men living with HIV.The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Scott Batey, Ph.D. has received a $2.98 million grant from the National Institute on Mental Health.

The award will help Batey, associate professor in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Social Work, investigate the effectiveness and implementation implications of the Project nGage intervention, ultimately leading to human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, suppression among participants.

The project is called “Harnessing Social Network Support to Improve Retention in Care and Viral Suppression among Young Black Men in Chicago and Alabama: A Hybrid Type I Effectiveness-Implementation Trial of Project nGage.” It examines the social support networks of young Black men between the ages of 18 and 35 to identify an organic support confidant to provide assistance in achieving one’s HIV health outcomes.  

“The intervention will make use of sociograms, a strategy completed with an interventionist to identify the most organic person within their social network who can travel one’s HIV journey with them, help them remember to take their antiretroviral therapy medicine and keep their medical appointments around HIV,” Batey said.  

Batey will be the study’s multiple principal investigator. He partnered with colleague Alida Bouris, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Chicago and MPI on the study, five years ago to further develop the nGage intervention. Batey says the team wants to examine, among other things, what the translation of the intervention might look like from an urban setting like Chicago to a rural setting like Alabama.  

The NIMH research grant was awarded March 26 and will allow Project nGage to enroll 600 male participants and 300 support confidants. The new study is an implementation science application that evaluates methods used throughout the Project nGage study, providing later research on implementing interventions at various sites.  

Batey says they will study the differences between the sites to determine how the intervention works in those two different geographic locations.

“We will look at various mediators and moderators to optimize care as well, including substance use, stigma and self-efficacy, among other things,” he said.

The intervention will be implemented at four sites throughout Chicago and Alabama. Two of the locations, the University of Chicago Health Clinic and the UAB School of Medicine 1917 Clinic, are academically affiliated HIV clinics. The Howard Brown Health Center and Thrive Alabama are community-based health clinic sites.

“Recruitment for the intervention is through word-of-mouth, which relies on distributing study flyers and referrals from health care centers,” Batey said.

Although the project matches individuals with a support confidant, Batey says previous pilot work demonstrated that less than 5 percent of participants did not have a supportive social network. In those rare cases in which a support confidant is not available, the case manager or interventionists would serve in this role. 

Birmingham AIDS Outreach, a nonprofit organization that serves to enhance the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS, is another partner of Project nGage. BAO staff members will serve as recruiters and interventionists for the study.   

“We believe that an intervention like this — that activates this support network — is one way to help support men in their HIV care,” Batey said.

To qualify for the study, participants must:

  • Be men between the ages of 18 and 35
  • Be sexually involved with other men
  • Be previously diagnosed with HIV 12 months ago or longer
  • Have missed one or more appointments with a health care provider since diagnosis

To enroll, participants can leave Batey a voicemail at 205-996-7984 or call Mary Scheinert, program coordinator at BAO, at 205-739-1603.