Preventing HIV

Sullivan and Stephenson
Patrick Sullivan (left) and Rob Stephenson are using a grant from the MAC AIDS Fund to pilot Testing Together in Atlanta and Chicago.

Researchers target male couples

What do Rollins researchers and Lady Gaga have in common? They both want men and women to protect themselves from HIV/AIDs.

The entertainer is the spokesperson for the MAC Cosmetics VIVA GLAM campaign. All proceeds from purchasing VIVA GLAM lipstick or lipglass are donated to the MAC AIDs Fund, which to date has raised more than $218 million to support HIV/AIDs programs globally. A project directed by Patrick Sullivan, associate professor of epidemiology, is among the beneficiaries of the MAC AIDs Fund this year.

lady gaga mac

Lady Gaga is the spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics VIVA GLAM lipstick products. Proceeds support HIV/AIDS programs worldwide.

Sullivan leads Testing Together, an HIV testing and counseling service that began in Atlanta and Chicago on September 1. Testing Together, which will target 200 male couples in each city over the next year, brings a previous study out of the research setting and into public health practice.

In their initial study, researchers conducted focus groups with male couples in Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle to examine their attitudes toward couples-based voluntary counseling and testing (CVCT) for HIV.

“Although some were hesitant at first, the focus group participants indicated overwhelming support for CVCT,” says Rob Stephenson, associate professor of global health, who led this portion of the study. “They also saw CVCT as a forum for discussing risk-taking in a relationship.”

The concept of CVCT was developed in Africa 20 years ago to prevent HIV among women, based on research by Emory pathology professor Susan Allen. Her studies in Rwanda and Zambia show that more than 75% of HIV infections among heterosexual couples come from their main sex partner.

In another study, Sullivan analyzed CDC data to look at new HIV infections among men who have sex with men and how many of those occurred among casual sex partners. He found that two-thirds of new infections come from main sex partners. “That observation started us thinking about adapting Allen’s intervention and applying it for male couples,” says Sullivan.

During the next year, Sullivan and Stephenson will oversee testing and counseling among male couples at AID Atlanta and AID Gwinnett,while the Howard Brown Health Center and Broadway Youth Center will offer testing and counseling in Chicago. When Testing Together concludes next year, researchers in both cities will use the results to develop best-practice guidelines for hiv prevention organizations desiring to provide the new service to male couples. To learn more about the initiative, visit—Pam Auchmutey

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