Volume 48 Number 2
Spring 2015

Student Issues

Edited by Chuck Sepers and Meagan Sweeney (

Spring Update

Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 Graduate Student Research Grants. In 2014 there were two dissertation level and two master thesis level awards. The dissertation grant winners were: First Place) Erin Ellison from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Department of Psychology, for her project, Collaborative competence as embedded social practice among community organizers: The interpersonal reproduction of, and resistance to, systems of oppression, and Second Place) Jennifer Marceron from The George Washington University, Department of Psychology, for her project, Disability and Disasters: The Role of Self-Efficacy in Emergency Preparedness and Health Outcomes. The winners for the master’s level grant were: Jennifer Lawlor from the University of Michigan, Department of Community Psychology, for her project, Stakeholder engagement in systems change; and Second Place) Alexa Queen from University of Massachusetts, Department of Community Psychology, for her project, Subtle Biases toward Asian American Women. The first place grants were $1,000 each and $500 was the second place award. Please see for more information.

Improving Health for LGBT Individuals Living with HIV: Some Opportunities for Community Psychology

Written by Kaston D. Anderson-Carpenter (, University of Kansas Medical Center

Although much progress has been made to reduce HIV infection over the past 30 years, it still affects millions of individuals worldwide. In the United States alone, some estimates indicate that more than one million individuals are infected with HIV, and nearly 20% are not aware that they are infected (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011). Moreover, recent data indicate that as many as 50,000 new cases of HIV infection occur in the United States each year, with slightly more than 48,000 new cases occurring in 2009 (CDC, 2011). The LGBT population is especially affected by HIV. More than one-quarter of LGBT youth and young adults have HIV, and more than 60% are unaware that they carry the virus (CDC, 2014). Although there are not uniform methods of collecting data on the prevalence of HIV among transgender men and women, some research suggests that as many as 27% of transwomen tested positive for HIV (Herbst et al., 2008). In addition to suppressed immune systems and challenges in accessing treatment services, many LGBT individuals also experience family and peer rejection, discrimination, and stigmatization. For some, the experiences may include being kicked out of their homes and a loss of financial, emotional, and other social support.

Multisectoral Engagement in LGBT Health

Most of the research on HIV and LGBT health concentrates on the individual level. This is not surprising, given that over the past 30 years, much effort has been directed toward understanding the mechanisms of HIV and individual-level risk behavior that contribute to HIV infection. In addition, many of the current policies in LGBT health are aimed at addressing individual-level behavior, such as increasing condom use and reducing substance use while engaging in sexual encounters. However, many opportunities exist in the LGBT health and HIV literatures for community psychology to contribute to understanding how higher-level ecological structures can support behavior change and long-term improved health outcomes. For example, community psychology provides an understanding of interlocking ecological levels contribute to individual behavior. Furthermore, understanding the multiple ecological systems would allow for more comprehensive interventions using multisectoral engagement to address HIV risk among LGBT individuals.

Multisectoral collaboration and engagement is a core principle of community psychology, and it has been consistently shown to improve outcomes across a variety of areas. With respect to LGBT health, using multiple sectors as agents of change can provide an infrastructure to empower individuals living with or at risk of getting HIV. Additionally, multisectoral collaboration can enhance efforts to support sustainability of community-based interventions. For instance, faith-based and civic organizations can provide social support programs and referrals to services, health care agencies can provide extended sites and hours for HIV testing and counseling, and the media sector can support the dissemination of culturally appropriate information about existing services and supports for LGBT individuals living with HIV.

Opportunities for Community Psychology

Community psychology is well suited for assuring the conditions that improve LGBT health and well-being. Its history of using empirically sound research to advance social justice, empowerment, and multisectoral collaboration has been well documented in the literature. Although the knowledge base in HIV among LGBT individuals focuses a great deal on individual-level interventions, community psychology has a great deal to contribute to our understanding of how broader conditions can be modified to improve individual behavior and well-being. Of community psychology’s many contributions, two areas for continued research and practice are: (1) the use of participatory approaches and (2) interventions that target social support.

As community-based interventions are developed and tested, LGBT individuals living with HIV should be fully engaged in all aspects of the intervention process. The development and implementation of evidence-based interventions targeting HIV are often influenced researchers and policy makers who have studied HIV among LGBT individuals from a scientific perspective. However, the researchers and policy makers may not have any personal experience with living with HIV. By including members from the community, initiatives have a greater likelihood of being culturally sensitive and institutionalized for sustainability.

As research advances our understanding and prevention of HIV-related health outcomes, the role of social support systems could prove to be an important factor in improving LGBT health and well-being. Because social support can improve individual empowerment and is associated with better psychosocial health outcomes (Golub, Walker, Longmire-Avital, Bimbi, & Parsons, 2010; Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010), it is important for community sectors to provide these support services for LGBT individuals living with HIV. In addition, community sectors can provide culturally appropriate interventions that integrate social support to improve self-esteem and overall quality of life in LGBT individuals living with HIV.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). HIV in the United States. [Web page]. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). HIV among gay and bisexual men. [Web page]. Retrieved from

Golub, S. A., Walker, J. J., Longmire-Avital, B., Bimbi, D. S., & Parsons, J. T. (2010). The role of religiosity, social support, and stress-related growth in protecting against HIV risk among transgender women. Journal of Health Psychology, 15(8), 1135-1144. doi: 10.1177/1359105310364169

Herbst J. H., Jacobs, E D., Finlayson, T. J., McKleroy, V. S., Neuman, M. S., Crepan, N., et al. (2008). Estimating HIV prevalence and risk behavior of transgender persons in the United States: A systematic review. AIDS and Behavior: 12(1), 1-17. doi: 10.1007/s10461-007-9299-3

Ryan, C., Russell, S. T., Huebner, D., Diaz, R., & Sanchez, J. (2010). Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT young adults. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 23(4), 205-213.

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