PHILADELPHIA — Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, have received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study novel approaches to preventing chronic diseases in HIV positive African American men.

"African American men who are infected with HIV are living longer than ever before and are now being impacted by the same chronic diseases that affect the general population of African American men over 40," said principal investigator John B. Jemmott, PhD, professor of Communication in Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine and Kenneth B. Clark Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication. "We know that in addition to standard age-related factors, many of these chronic illnesses have behavioral componentsórisk is influenced by what people do and don't do, their diet, and the amount of physical activity they get. Based on this complex intersection, we need to identify novel strategies to help these men navigate their lives in the healthiest way possible."

Dr. Jemmott says that although the high risk for multiple behavior-linked chronic diseases among HIV-positive individuals has long been recognized, there is a lack of evidence-based interventions specifically tailored to their needs. The risk is heightened by HIV infection, but also its treatment with certain agents used in highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) combinations.

The research teamís broad objective is to verify evidenced-based treatment strategies and reduce the risk of chronic diseases among HIV positive African American men. Specifically, they will test the efficacy of a theory-based, contextually appropriate health promotion intervention to induce positive changes in behaviors linked to risk of chronic diseases among HIV positive African American. The study will utilize a randomized controlled trial of 384 African American HIV positive men age 40 or older who are receiving HAART. The intervention will include a five-a-day fruit and vegetable regimen, weight and cardiovascular monitoring, and prostate and colon cancer screenings.

At the end of the study, the researchers will evaluate each patient's health-related fitness (via a six-minute walk test, one-minute push-up test, one-minute sit-up test, sit-and-reach test), physiological variables (blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-hip ratio), and participation in prostate and colon cancer screenings.

"We hope this research will help in the urgent need for interventions to reduce the risk of non-HIV related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes in HIV positive African American men age 40 and older," said Dr. Jemmott.

Additional Penn faculty involved in the trial are: Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; Ian Frank, MD, Division of Infectious Diseases, Perelman School of Medicine; and Scarlett Bellamy, ScD, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Perelman School of Medicine.

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