2012 Annual Report for the Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS

Committee Members and Staff

2013 Members

Eugene Farber, PhD, chair 
Perry Halkitis, PhD
Timothy Heckman, PhD
Amanda Houston Hamilton, DMH
Velma McBride Murry, PhD
Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD 

Staff Liaison

John Anderson, PhD
Cherie Mitchell, MHS

Mission, Background & Committee Composition

The mission of the Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA) is to guide the development and implementation of the American Psychological Association’s organizational response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Members of COPA carry out this mission each year by attending two, face-to-face meetings held in conjunction with the spring and fall consolidated board and committee meetings and by participating in monthly, one-hour conference calls. Additionally, members of COPA regularly communicate with AIDS Office staff and each other by email and phone in order to plan and implement the committee’s various initiatives.

COPA was established by the APA Council of Representatives for an initial three year period in 1990, reauthorized for an additional five years in 1993, reauthorized for an additional five years in 1998, reauthorized for an additional five years in 2003, and reauthorized for an additional five years in December 2008.

In 2012, COPA’s membership was diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation — three heterosexual, African-American women; one heterosexual, Hispanic woman; two heterosexual Caucasian men; and one Caucasian, gay man.

Since its formation in August 1990, the membership of COPA has traditionally consisted of six demographically and professionally diverse psychologists with extensive HIV/AIDS experience as well as one non psychologist with community-based HIV/AIDS experience who is self identified as an HIV+ individual. One HIV+ member is currently on the Board.

In the fall of 2007, COPA proposed to its parent board, the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), a revision of COPA membership that would enable community perspectives to be obtained from a variety of individuals who live openly with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The proposed revision of COPA membership was approved by BAPPI and APA governance staff in December 2008.

Instead of having just one non-psychologist member, COPA now identifies and involves different PLWHAs for different initiatives of COPA. This procedure enables COPA to identify individuals with specific expertise related to the specific topics scheduled for discussion. This change was needed because HIV/AIDS research and practice has become highly specialized as efforts are tailored to address distinct sub-populations with each sub-population having specific needs and issues for which there is a need for specialized expertise. It became untenable to expect that one person could fully or accurately reflect “the community perspective” on such a diverse array of matters. COPA has established ongoing relationships with the National Association of People Living with AIDS (NAPWA) and the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) for the purpose of recruiting PLWHAs for specific meetings and specific discussions. This process ensures more meaningful engagement of affected communities because those participating in specific discussions are chosen for their unique capacities to offer consultation about the topic at hand. Additionally, this approach enables COPA to strengthen its relationships with the two major Washington-based national organizations representing people living with HIV/AIDS. By forging this new way of relating to these national organizations, COPA has also strengthened its HIV/AIDS advocacy work which is more effective when done in collaboration with representatives from affected communities.

In the years to come, COPA intends to fill its six formal positions with psychologists who are APA members. Participation of PLWHAs recruited through NAPWA and NMAC for their specific expertise on topics slated for discussion will occur on an ongoing basis.

Major Activities in 2012

During the past year, COPA performed a variety of consultative functions and also was active in various initiatives. Ongoing consultations and projects are briefly summarized below:

Policy and Advocacy Activities Related to HIV/AIDS

In collaboration with staff of the Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) and the Office on AIDS, COPA members articulated advocacy goals for the committee. These included: (1) reauthorization of the Ryan White program, including mental health and substance abuse treatment services; (2) reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); (3) integration of mental health/substance abuse treatment with HIV/AIDS medical care; (4) encouraging combination behavioral and biomedical approaches in HIV/AIDS prevention; and (5) lifting the ban on use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. The 2012 COPA Chair, Dr. Perry Halkitis, in coordination with PI-GRO staff, reached out to key staff in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy and offices of congressional representatives in face-to-face meetings to discuss HIV/AIDS policy matters of concern to APA.

Resolution on Combining Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to HIV Prevention

Originally drafted by COPA in 2011, the resolution entitled Combination Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to Optimize HIV Prevention was formally adopted as APA policy in 2012. The resolution highlights the idea that HIV prevention efforts are optimized by combining biomedical and behavioral intervention approaches, and underlines the key contributions of behavior to the success of newly developing biomedical prevention interventions. Once adopted, this resolution was rapidly disseminated to the relevant government agencies, the professional community, and the public at large. COPA members participated in interviews on the resolution and provided written commentaries as a part of these dissemination efforts.

In response to a 2012 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation to approve the antiretroviral drug Truvada for use as a preventive agent against HIV infection, COPA recommended, and the COPA Chair consulted on an APA press release entitled HIV Prevention Measures Must Include Behavioral Strategies to Work: Truvada Alone not sufficient, Given Adherence and Other Challenges.

Resolution on Counseling in HIV Testing Programs

In 2012 COPA undertook to develop a draft Resolution on Counseling in HIV Testing Programs. The impetus for this resolution is to draw attention to the importance of retaining HIV test counseling as a key element of expanded HIV testing efforts under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in order to ensure that support, education, and active efforts at linkage to care remain core components of the HIV testing process. This draft resolution was reviewed by BAPPI at the Fall 2012 Consolidated Meeting and revised by COPA based on BAPPI input. The resolution is scheduled to be entered into the cross-cutting agenda for the Spring 2013 APA Consolidated Meeting.

Psychology and AIDS Exchange Newsletter

Dr. Perry Halkitis, 2012 COPA chair, collaborated with members of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns (CLGBTC) to develop jointly a special issue of the Psychology and AIDS Exchange newsletter examining psychosocial and structural factors that predispose gay, bisexual and other MSM to HIV health disparities. The newsletter was released in Spring, 2012. The next issue of Psychology and AIDS Exchange, slated to be released in January 2013, was edited by former COPA member Dr. Mariana Cherner, and focuses on HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, including current research and clinical knowledge in this area. Currently in development, the next issue of Psychology and AIDS Exchange will focus on HIV and aging, with Dr. Timothy Heckman serving as lead editor for the issue.

Educational Pipeline for Researchers

The Office on AIDS received three years of funding support in 2008 for, Cyber Mentors: A Sustainable Model for Developing Minority HIV Researchers. This innovative research mentorship program is designed to prepare behavioral scientists for successful independent research careers in the area of HIV/AIDS and health disparities. A renewal application, which currently is under consideration by NIMH, incorporates the following specific aims: (1) to maintain and strengthen the Cyber Mentor Program, an innovative mentorship program delivered by the APA that is national in its scope and uses web-based technologies to prepare mentees to become independent HIV/AIDS researchers; (2) to expand and sustain the network of volunteer senior mentors who support the selected mentees in developing successful independent research careers in the HIV/AIDS arena; and (3) to recruit, train, and support mentees who are committed to independent research careers focused on HIV/AIDS in ethnic minority communities. COPA member Dr. Velma McBride Murry would serve as a co-principal investigator for this program, along with Dr. Tiffany G. Townsend.

Training of Psychologists

In October 2009, the APA Office on AIDS was awarded funding from the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue the HIV Office for Psychology Education (HOPE) Program for another five years. In Oct. 2011, additional funding was provided to expand its HIV/AIDS training efforts in the 12 metropolitan areas most affected by HIV/AIDS. Members of COPA have assisted by providing ongoing consultation to program staff as they develop new programs. In 2012, COPA members also assisted the HOPE office in identifying highly qualified psychologists for the HOPE Program’s train-the-trainers curriculum. This curriculum is designed to generate a cadre of expert HIV/AIDS psychology trainers who provide state-of-the-art training on psychology and AIDS for professionals nationwide.

COPA continues to work with the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program, a national HIV prevention technical assistance program to support evidence-based HIV prevention practices in community-based organizations (CBOs) across the country. In 2012, COPA members provided consultation, technical assistance, and logistical support to the BSSV in the pilot testing of a three-day workshop for front-line CBO providers on integrating mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment into HIV/AIDS prevention programs. In addition to providing technical assistance on workshop content, COPA member Dr. Eugene Farber served as the on-site co-coordinator for the pilot training held in Atlanta.

Black Entertainment Television

Since 1998, Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks has teamed up with the Kaiser Family Foundation on Rap It Up (RIU), a comprehensive and sustained media campaign to inform African-Americans about HIV/AIDS. The partnership includes targeted public service announcements (PSAs), long-form documentary and entertainment programming, and free resources. The campaign also includes on-the-ground community events around the country.

In 2012 the Office on AIDS and COPA continued their partnership and collaboration with BET to develop and implement evidence-based strategies for facilitating positive communication among African-American teens, and between African-American teens and their families, related to the topics of sex, sexual health, dating/sexual relationships and HIV/AIDS. This included the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding between APA and BET to formalize this collaboration. The Office on AIDS, COPA and expert psychologists, including Dr. Chanda Graves, PhD from the Emory University Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, have worked with BET partners to develop educational fact sheets on sexual health and HIV/AIDS for youth. Graves also has continued to participate as a panel member expert at BET-sponsored teen forums across the country. COPA members Dr. Scyatta Wallace and Dr. Velma McBride Murry have been involved in developing and conducting youth focus groups centered on learning more about youth knowledge of HIV and sexual health issues. These focus groups also have yielded opportunities to obtain input and ideas from the youth participants regarding future outreach initiatives currently in the planning stages and educational fact sheets under development. Efforts are underway to establish a Youth Advisory Board to provide additional input regarding programmatic issues. An additional focus in 2012 has been on development of program evaluation methods, including surveys to assess the effectiveness of educational initiatives.

Conference on Advancing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in Metropolitan Washington: Science-Practice Partnerships

This conference was held in April 2012, at Howard University in Washington, D.C. COPA members provided consultation to the Office on AIDS regarding program content for this conference.

Annual APA Convention

Two programs resulting from collaboration among PI committees, including COPA, were presented at the 2012 APA convention: (1) Women Under Siege: Disparities and Despair ; and, (2) Immigration, Race, & Disparities: Health Care, Education, Employment . Additionally, 2012 COPA Chair, Dr. Perry Halkitis, and former COPA member, Dr. Willo Pequegnat were discussants at a conversation hour entitled Do Biomedical Interventions Make Behavioral Ones Obsolete? The discussion incorporated ideas and issues characterized in the COPA-sponsored APA resolution on Combination Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to Optimize HIV Prevention.

In coordination with other PI committees, COPA developed a proposal for a BAPPI-sponsored symposium entitled Health Disparities: Emerging Biopsychosocial Challenges of Older Adults that has been accepted for presentation at the 2013 APA convention. COPA members Dr. Timothy Heckman and Dr. Monica Rivera-Mindt are co-chairs for this symposium. A symposium proposal describing the APA partnership with BET entitled APA and BET Networks Partnership: Using Media as a Platform to Address HIV Disparities Among Youth also was submitted and accepted for presentation at the 2013 APA convention. Chaired by the APA Public Interest Directorate Executive Director Dr. Gwendolyn Keita, this symposium includes a presentation by COPA member (and 2011 COPA Chair) Dr. Scyatta Wallace, with COPA member Dr. Velma McBride Murry serving as a discussant.

COPA Psychology and AIDS Leadership Awards

In 2012 COPA invited nominations for its Psychology and AIDS Leadership award. This award serves to demonstrate COPA's commitment to ensure that issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS are kept at the forefront of psychological research, education, training and practice. Awards are given in the categories of "emerging" and "distinguished" leaders in service provision, research, teaching/mentoring and/or policy/advocacy. Awardees were Dr. David J. Moore (emerging leader) and Dr. John R. Anderson (distinguished leader). The awards will formally be presented at the 2013 annual APA convention.

Future Directions

Consistent with its mission, COPA is committed to the ongoing pursuit of the following objectives: (1) to educate psychologists and society at large on the various and unique roles psychology can contribute to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic; (2) to encourage and support psychologists in their efforts toward eliminating this epidemic through effective strategies of preventive education and intervention; (3) to stimulate behavioral research in a variety of areas associated with HIV prevention and mental health services for persons affected by HIV/AIDS; (4) to facilitate linkages between APA, behavioral researchers, medical researchers and community-based organizations for the purpose of coordinating and improving HIV-related research and mental health services; (5) to create educational resources about HIV/AIDS to APA members and the public; (6) to provide guidance and direction for APA HIV/AIDS advocacy activities at federal, state and local levels; and, (7) to serve as an oversight committee for APA Office on AIDS activities.