Community Based Research
The Community-Based Research (CBR) program at APLA Health conducts research designed to improve the lives of people and communities affected by HIV/AIDS. It additionally serves as a resource to other organizations conducting community-based research. Principles guiding our program include community collaboration, responsiveness to community needs, innovation, and rigorous scientific methods. Our study findings are used to identify needs for new services, improve existing services, and highlight trends in the field. These findings are presented at local, statewide, national, and international levels.
We study social and psychological factors that influence the health and health behaviors of people living with HIV and populations at high risk of HIV infection. Topics explored in our research include: sexual risk behavior; sexual communication; HIV/AIDS treatment education; Medicare policy; substance use; social and cultural factors shaping HIV risk among sexual and racial/ethnic minorities; health disparities; and social stigma and discrimination. Funding sources for the program include the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. Collaborative research partners include: UCLA; Harvard University; RAND Corporation; California State University, Dominguez Hills; Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science; AIDS Alabama; the University of Alabama; and the University of California, San Francisco.
We are currently conducting several research projects in various stages of preparation, data collection, analysis, and publication:
- A clinical trial of Project Rise, an APLA treatment education program that supports people living with HIV to be actively engaged in and informed about their health care. The goal of the trial is to see whether this program results in better health outcomes and adherence to medication.
- The Friends Study: A three-year qualitative study that examines how young black gay and bisexual men communicate with friends about sexual health and HIV testing. The goal is to understand how sexual health values are shared, modified, or developed within communication between friends.
- Project MedNet: a large longitudinal study of black people living with HIV examining how misconceptions about HIV may spread within networks of friends, family, and others. Data collection is complete, and we are currently conducting community presentations at local organizations to share the findings and foster dialogue about these issues.
- A qualitative research project exploring how substances become associated with sex among black and Latino young men who have sex with men.
- A study on the use of text messaging for sexual health promotion among young men who have sex with men.
Gap Year Internship
Our gap year research internship is a program for students who will have completed a BA or BS and are considering graduate studies leading to a PhD or MD.
Gap year interns work 24-32 hours per week on a range of different projects over the course of their year at APLA. They obtain extensive training in research planning, recruitment, interviewing, analysis, and writing, while taking on progressively more challenging responsibilities over the course of the year. Many of our gap year interns have chosen this internship to help them explore whether a career in research is right for them, while adding a unique set of experiences to their graduate school applications.
We also accept a limited number of applicants for three-month fall, spring, and summer internships.
The Internship Experience
This is an unpaid internship that would involve working on multiple APLA research projects. Interns may participate in scheduling or conducting interviews, qualitative data analysis, collaborative team meetings, entering survey data, searching research literature, and assisting with preparation of grant proposals, as well as materials for presentation and publication. Other activities might involve screening participants or doing outreach at community venues, including nighttime outreach at gay-identified bars and clubs. Interns in our program are active team members involved in many aspects of the research projects, and expected to contribute independently and creatively to the research process. Self-motivated interns typically develop many new skills during the program, along with a hands-on understanding of community-based research.
Candidates for Internship
This is a good opportunity for someone who is considering a career in research or medicine, or who is interested in sociological and psychological perspectives on HIV and the experiences of people living with HIV or Black and Latino young gay and bisexual men. An ideal candidate would have strong writing skills, as well as some knowledge of research methods. Equally important is experience in or eagerness to learn about recruitment methods, writing about qualitative research findings, qualitative analysis procedures, and guidelines to protect study respondents’ confidentiality and welfare. We particularly encourage candidates who have experience with diverse populations, such as ethnic minority, HIV-positive, or LGBT individuals.
We also accept a limited number of applicants for three-month fall, spring, and summer internships, designed for students who are currently in school. Fall and spring three-month internships require a minimum commitment of 15 hours per week, while summer internships are 40 hours per week.
How To Apply
Prior to applying, please email Keshav Tyagi, MPH, at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if we are currently accepting applications for the gap-year or three-month internship programs. If we are currently accepting applications, please send Mr. Tyagi your résumé, one letter of recommendation, and a writing sample (preferably related to the social sciences, research, or health). Please indicate the dates of your availability, whether you are applying for the gap year internship or the three-month internship, and the number of hours per week you can work. Greater availability and/or hours will be preferable to more limited availability.
Applications are due by the following dates:
- March 31 for internships starting in June
- June 30 for internships starting in September
- August 31 for internships starting in January
Comments from Current and Former Interns
“When I first applied to the APLA research internship program, I was unsure whether I would enjoy working in research. Yet I knew that I was interested in the social impacts and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and felt that to truly understand these issues I would need to learn about the process of conducting research in this field. I applied for the internship on the notion that, while I thought I would not ultimately work in research, the experience would be valuable to me. However, as I finish my time in the program, I find myself in a place I had never expected: I love doing research. This internship gave me a rare opportunity: I felt valued as an intern (I never went on coffee runs and never spent my days standing mindlessly at the copying machine), I felt a part of a warm and welcoming team, I began to understand how much hard work goes into research and publishing, and I was challenged intellectually by my supervisors to achieve more than I expected of myself. I cannot overstate how appreciative and fortunate I feel about my experience here. I grew intellectually, professionally and personally—everything one would want from an internship. Today I feel confident in my decision to pursue a career in the HIV/AIDS field, and that assuredness is due to my internship at APLA.”
—Emily Brown, Washington University, St. Louis
“The AIDS Project Los Angeles gap year internship is an incredible opportunity to get hands-on exposure to the field before pursuing higher education in medicine, public health, psychology, or sociology. There are several ongoing research projects I work on that are unique and in different stages of completion, which gives me the chance to tackle diverse research challenges and goals. As an integral part of the research team, I feel that my contributions are meaningful and impactful, and I am given the independence to practice and refine my own skills of writing and analyzing scientific information. Additionally, my supervisors are great mentors and teachers who are invested in my growth and do so much to provide me an incredible educational experience. Most importantly, working with HIV care and prevention has shown me the important intersection between medicine, society, and culture. Having this broader perspective on what factors go into the health of a person has undoubtedly better prepared me for medical school and a career in medicine.”
—Mansur Ghani, Yale Medical School
Our research findings are published in leading national and international journals, as well as presented to numerous local service providers and community forums. A partial list is outlined below:
HIV/AIDS TREATMENT EDUCATION
Mutchler, M.G., Wagner, G., Cowgill, B.O., McKay, T., Risley, B., & Bogart, L. (2011). Improving HIV/AIDS care through treatment advocacy: Going beyond client education to empowerment by facilitating client-provider relationships. AIDS Care, 23(1), 79-90. (pdf)
Bogart, L.M., Wagner, G.J., Mutchler, M.G., Risley, B., McDavitt, B., McKay, T., & Klein, D. (2012). Community HIV treatment advocacy programs may support treatment adherence. AIDS Education and Prevention, 24(1), 1-14. (pdf)
SEXUAL HEALTH NORMS & SEXUAL COMMUNICATION
McDavitt, B., Mutchler, M.G. (2014). “Dude, you’re such a slut!”Barriers and facilitators of sexual communication among young gay men and their best friends. Journal of Adolescent Research, 29(4), 464-498. (pdf)
George, S., Phillips, R., McDavitt, B., & Mutchler, M.G. (2012). The cellular generation and a new risk environment: Implications for texting-based sexual health promotion interventions among minority young men who have sex with men. Published in the proceedings of the American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium, 247-256. (pdf)
Mutchler, M.G, & McDavitt, B. (2011). “Gay boy talk” meets “girl talk” HIV risk reduction assumptions in young gay men’s sexual health communication with best friends. Health Education Research, 26(3), 489-505. (pdf)
INNOVATIVE RESEARCH METHODS
McDavitt B., Bogart L.M., Mutchler M.G., Wagner G.J., Green H.D. Jr, Lawrence S.J., Mutepfa, K.D., Nogg, K.A. (2016). Dissemination as dialogue: Building trust and sharing research findings through community engagement. Preventing Chronic Disease (13)150473. (link)
Mutchler, M.G., McKay, T., McDavitt, B., Gordon, K.K. (2013). Using peer ethnography to address HIV-related health disparities among urban young Black and Latino men who have sex with men. American Journal of Public Health, 103(5), 849-852. (pdf)
SUBSTANCE USE & SEXUAL RISK BEHAVIOR
Mutchler, M.G., McDavitt, B., Gordon, K.K. (2013). “Becoming bold”: Alcohol use and sexual exploration among African American and Latino young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Journal of Sex Research, 51(6), 696-710. (pdf)
McKay, T., McDavitt, B., George, S., Mutchler, M.G. (2012). ‘Their type of drugs’: perceptions of substance use, sex and social boundaries among young African American and Latino gay and bisexual men. Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care, 14(10), 1183-1196. (pdf)
Mutchler, M.G., McKay, T., Candelario, N., Liu, H., Stackhouse, B., & Ayala, G. (2011). Sex, drugs, peer connections, and HIV: Use and risk among African-American, Latino, and multiracial young men who have sex with men (YMSM) in Los Angeles and New York. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Service, 23(2), 271-295. (pdf)
SEXUAL RISK & PROTECTIVE BEHAVIOR
Mutchler, M.G., Bogart, L.M., Elliot, M., McKay, T., Suttorp, M. & Schuster, M.A. (2008). Psychosocial correlates of unprotected sex without disclosure of HIV-positivity among African-American, Latino, and White men who have sex with men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37(5), 736-748. (pdf)
McKay, T. & Mutchler, M. G. (2011). The effect of partner sex: Nondisclosure of HIV status to male and female partners among men who have sex with men and women (MSMW). AIDS & Behavior, 15(6), 1140-1152. (pdf)
Mutchler, M.G. (2003). Gay bathhouses and public policy. Journal of Homosexuality, 44(3-4), 221-242. (pdf)