FRI is pleased to announce that Cathy J. Reback, Ph.D. was awarded a HRSA SPNS grant entitled, “Enhancing Linkages to and Retention in HIV Primary Care for Transgender Women of Color: The Alexis Project.” Transwomen of color experience a number of psychosocial challenges including discrimination, prejudice, stigmatization, and social/economic marginalization, which stand as obstacles to HIV care and other needed services. The Alexis Project will incorporate three proven models, Social Network Recruitment (network), Peer Health Navigation (individual) and Conditional Cash Transfer (structural), into one multi-leveled project to identify, recruit, test, link, treat and retain transwomen of color into quality HIV care. Through Social Network Recruitment, local transwomen will recruit transwomen of color from their social, sexual and drug-using networks into the project for either testing (HIV unknown status) or (for those who are aware of their HIV infection but not in care) to the combined Peer Health Navigation and Conditional Cash Transfer intervention. The project goals are 1) to conduct formative evaluation to develop the design, measures, and procedures for The Alexis Project, 2) to identify, recruit and test transwomen of color in Los Angeles County through the Social Network Testing Program, 3) to directly link HIV-infected transwomen of color identified through the Social Network Testing Program to a Peer Health Navigator, 4) to identify transwomen of color who are already aware of their HIV infection but have never been engaged in care or have refused a referral to care or have dropped out of care and to directly link to a Peer Health Navigator, 5) to link HIV-infected transwomen of color to quality HIV care, 6) to work with HIV-infected transwomen of color to address the barriers in their life that limits or impedes their access to HIV care and, 7) to retain HIV-infected transgender women of color in HIV care to reach and sustain HIV milestones. Peer Health Navigators will work with participants to identify HIV care services and other needed services, develop specific client-centered treatment plans, remove barriers to those services and access those services. Conditional Cash Transfer will provide increasing valuable incentives for attending HIV medical visits and reaching and sustaining HIV milestones. This multi-tiered, comprehensive approach, which includes network, individual and structural components, will serve to optimize HIV health outcomes for transwomen of color.
The Alexis Project is named after Alexis Rivera who died on March 28, 2012, – while the grant application was in development – at the age of 34, from complications related to HIV. Alexis was a proud Latina transwoman; a community activist, a peer advocate and a gatekeeper. When she was just 20 years old, Alexis worked with Dr. Reback as a community outreach worker targeting and reaching high-risk transwomen. Alexis’ premature death spoke to the ardent need of the HRSA application. During the development of the grant, the research team chose to honor the life of Alexis Rivera through this project.