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College of Public Health professors receive funding to study adverse childhood experiences

Contributed • Feb 23, 2020 at 12:03 AM

Dr. Megan Quinn and Dr. Shimin Zheng, associate professors in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, have been awarded a Research Development Committee Major Grant for a pilot study to assess how adverse childhood experiences affect a patient’s readiness to adhere to HIV treatment.

The researchers will collaborate with ETSU Health’s Center of Excellence for HIV/AIDS and the Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity. This project stemmed from work that Quinn completed with Elaine Loudermilk, a doctor of public health student in the Department of Epidemiology. This project will be conducted as part of Loudermilk’s doctoral dissertation.

Southern Appalachia has a higher HIV prevalence than other parts of Appalachia, and people living with HIV/AIDS have reported ACEs and substance abuse as reasons for not adhering to treatment, according to Quinn.

Life traumas like ACEs are known to play a role in HIV risk behaviors, however, little information exists to aid health care providers in understanding how ACEs might impact a patient’s motivation and readiness to adhere to HIV treatment.

The Center of Excellence for HIV/AIDS treats patients from rural Appalachia who report a wide range of sociodemographic backgrounds and trauma histories.

Although the Center has a multidisciplinary health care team approach and provides financial and social support services to assist patients with quality of life, it also aims to increase current understanding of factors that influence HIV adherence among patients.

In order to aid the Center in overcoming barriers to HIV treatment adherence that may be related to ACEs in rural Appalachia, Loudermilk, Quinn and Zheng will develop a screening tool, specifically designed for the Center’s patient population.

This screening tool, combined with patient interviews, will help to better understand ACEs, other life traumas and barriers to medication adherence.

“I would really like to create a tool that is beneficial to the clinic and that allows the providers to get more insight,” Loudermilk said.

Results from this project will hopefully improve patient care, particularly for those who report challenges with medication adherence.

This research will be among the first in rural Appalachia to assess and quantify the relationship between ACEs and perceived barriers to care for people with HIV/AIDS.

To learn more about the Center, visit www.etsu.edu/com/coe-hiv

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