Committee On Psychology and AIDS (COPA)

Committee projects included a resolution on prevention, consultation to the BSSV program and Cyber Mentors, and collaboration on Convention sessions

What is COPA?

In August 1990, the Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA) was authorized by the Board of Directors and the Council of Representatives for a 3-year period. Initially, COPA reported to the Board of Directors and was charged with the following responsibilities: 

  • Provide policy direction and oversight for current APA activities related to AIDS.

  • Advise APA staff and establish liaisons with governance groups regarding AIDS issues. 

  • Formulate new APA initiatives to meet the continually changing challenges posed by the epidemic.

The Council of Representatives reauthorized COPA for an additional 5 years in 1993, 1998, 2004 and 2009. In executive session at its June 2001 meeting, the Board of Directors changed the governance reporting line of COPA from the Board of Directors to the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI).

COPA members serve for 3 years. They are required to attend two face-to-face meetings per year in Washington, D.C., and to participate in monthly conference calls. Between meetings, members devote a substantial portion of time to COPA projects, provide consultation to APA Office on AIDS staff, and participate in advocacy activities.

What has COPA been doing?

In the last year, COPA has been active in a variety of initiatives. Some of these activities are summarized here: 

  • Members of COPA developed a resolution, “Combining Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to HIV Prevention,” which was placed on the cross-cutting agenda for the Fall 2011 APA consolidated committee meetings. Committees reviewed the draft resolution and provided both written and oral suggestions for modification. Those suggestions were incorporated into a revised draft that was approved by BAPPI, and the Board of Directors recommended that the Council of Representatives adopt it. The resolution was adopted by Council on Feb. 25, 2012. 

  • Perry Halkitis, PhD, the current COPA chair, collaborated with members of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns to jointly develop this special issue of the Psychology & AIDS Exchange newsletter examining psychosocial and structural factors that predispose gay, bisexual and other MSM to HIV health disparities. The next issue of the newsletter, organized by Mariana Cherner, PhD, will focus on neuropsychological aspects of HIV/AIDS. 

  • Members of COPA provided consultation and oversight for three federally funded programs administered through the Office on AIDS: (1) the Cyber Mentor Program, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); (2) the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and (3) the HOPE Program, funded by the Center of Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

  • Members of COPA collaborated with other APA Public Interest committees to submit to BAPPI two symposia proposals for presentation at the 2012 APA Convention: (a) “Women Under Siege: Disparities and Despair” and (b) “Immigration, Race, & Disparities: Health Care, Education, and Employment.” Members of COPA also organized a conversation hour, sponsored by Division 12, titled “Do Biomedical Interventions Make Behavioral Ones Obsolete?”. 

  • In collaboration with staff of the Public Interest Government Relations (PI-GRO) Office and the Office on AIDS, members articulated advocacy goals. Members also initiated meetings and developed action steps with the leadership of the CDC and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) related to the integration of mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment in HIV/AIDS prevention and care. COPA members provided expert opinions and recommendations for PI-GRO staff to deliver at two consultations with the Department of Health and Human Services regarding implementation of the National AIDS Strategy. Lastly, COPA members provided input and support for the following bills:

H.R. 1774: Increasing Access to Voluntary Screening for HIV/AIDS and STIs Act of 2011 — Rep. Alcee Hastings (DFL). This bill would reduce financial barriers to getting tested and pay for the development and distribution of sex education materials that promote voluntary screenings. It also includes provisions for referrals to medical or mental health services at the time of screening. Finally, the monitoring of HIV/AIDS and STI screening trends, particularly among special populations, will allow for the tracking and evaluation of efforts to increase voluntary screening.

H.R. 1880: Status Report on the 30th Anniversary of HIV/AIDS Act — Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). This bill would direct the president to transmit to Congress and make publicly available reports on (a) the status of the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and (b) the status of international progress toward achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

H.R. 3053: Repeal HIV Discrimination Act — Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). This bill will outline problems with existing laws, regulations and policies criminalizing HIV/AIDS transmission, including the threat of stigma and infringement on civil, incompatibility with current knowledge about HIV transmission routes, and potential undermining of efforts to promote voluntary screening. Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot met with Rep. Lee’s staff in Washington, D.C., to discuss the pivotal role of psychology in the ongoing domestic and global response to the HIV epidemic and to express APA’s support for the Repeal HIV Act.

COPA members

Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MSPerry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS (COPA chair), is an associate dean for research and doctoral studies, professor of applied psychology, public health and medicine, and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. He is also an affiliate of the Center for AIDS Research and the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research, also at NYU. He is internationally recognized for his work examining the intersection of HIV, drug abuse and mental health and is well known as one of the nation’s leading experts on methamphetamine addiction and HIV behavioral research. He is lead editor of two volumes: "HIV + Sex: The Psychological and Interpersonal Dynamics of HIV-Seropositive Gay and Bisexual Men’s Relationships" (APA, 2005) and "Barebacking: Psychosocial and Public Health Perspectives" (Haworth Press, 2006). His book "Methamphetamine Addiction: Biological Foundations, Psychological Factors, and Social Consequences" was published in 2009, and he is currently working on a new manuscript examining the life experiences of gay men who are long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS. Author of over 120 peer-reviewed academic manuscripts, his research has been funded by NIH, the CDC, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York State AIDS Institute, the United Way, the New York Community Trust, and the American Psychological Foundation. He serves on the APA’s Committee on Psychology and AIDS, is a member of the advisory committee on HIV and STD prevention and treatment of the CDC and the HRSA, and is a member of the College of Reviewers of the NIH Center for Scientific Review. Dr. Halkitis received his PhD from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is currently completing his MPH degree.

Eugene Farber, PhD, ABPPEugene Farber, PhD, ABPP, is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Emory University School of Medicine. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Farber serves as director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in the Grady Health System Infectious Disease Program, which is among the largest HIV/AIDS primary care centers in the United States. The mission of this program is to provide accessible community-based services to underserved individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to his administrative and clinical service activities, he is also active in clinical teaching and supervision in the HIV/AIDS mental health arena. Farber’s research interests and activities focus primarily on factors that influence psychological adaptation to the multiple challenges of living with HIV/AIDS and clinical outcomes of HIV mental health services provided in community-based primary care settings.

Timothy G. Heckman, PhDTimothy G. Heckman, PhD, is a professor of geriatric medicine/gerontology and the director of the Center for Telemedicine Research and Interventions at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. Since 1993, he has conceptualized, implemented, and evaluated innovative interventions for persons living with HIV/AIDS. His AIDS mental health intervention research has focused primarily on rural persons and older adults living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Heckman is particularly interested in the use of teletherapy to deliver mental health support services to geographically and psychologically distant persons living with HIV/AIDS. His AIDS mental health research has been funded by NIH since 1998. Heckman has served on numerous NIH study sections and as a standing member of the Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section from 2007 through 2010. He is an editorial board member of AIDS and Behavior and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous journals.

Amanda Houston-Hamilton, DMHAmanda Houston-Hamilton, DMH, is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. She is also a practicing psychotherapist with clinical, research, and consulting experience emphasizing the health needs of ethnic and sexual minorities as well as the implementation of behavioral interventions to complex, hard-to-reach populations in underserved community settings. She has been clinical director of Tenderloin Health, serving the multiply diagnosed homeless and marginally housed in San Francisco, and the coordinator of community research at the Center for Health and Community at UCSF. She was a research scientist at the Northern California Cancer Center, where she studied health decision making in low-income African American women, and at Polaris Research and Development, where she conducted one of the first population-based studies on HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes and behaviors in the Black community. She has assisted numerous nonprofit organizations in assessing, implementing, and evaluating the service needs of communities disrupted by HIV/AIDS, trauma, substance use and violence and has over 25 years of experience training and educating medical providers in client-centered care. She has designed curricula and managed a range of training and technical assistance efforts at the community, state, and national levels on mental health and issues associated with AIDS treatment, prevention and education. She received her doctorate through a joint doctor of mental health program from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco.

Velma McBride Murry, PhDVelma McBride Murry, PhD, is the Betts Chair in Education and Human Development, a professor of human and organizational development, and director of the Center for Research on Rural Families and Communities at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. She is also the co-director of the Community Engagement and Research Core at the Vanderbilt Medical Center. She has conducted research on rural African American parents and youth for over 15 years and brings a perspective on adversity that includes race, ethnicity and poverty; a strong background in the role that parenting plays in addressing the needs of youth; and extensive experience in designing and implementing randomized control trials. She has served as commissioner of the Georgia Children’s Trust Fund and as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Children, Youth, and Families and of the Standing Committee on Family Planning. She has also served on the board of directors of the Family Process Institute and as co-director of the African American Mental Health Research Scientist Consortium. The Consortium has mentored over 100 early career African American scholars to increase the number of competitive grant applications African American research scientists submit to NIMH; advanced the overall participation level of African American mental health researchers in NIMH initiatives and programs; and fostered the development of high-quality individual and collaborative mental health research on racial/ethnic minority populations. She edits articles, serves on the publication committee and editorial boards of several journals, and has published over 125 peer-reviewed articles.

Monica Rivera Mindt, PhDMonica Rivera Mindt, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Fordham University and has a joint appointment in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She received her PhD in clinical psychology, with a concentration in neuropsychology, from the University of Nebraska. She completed her internship within the neuropsychology track at the University of Washington School of Medicine and her postdoctoral training in clinical neuropsychology at the University of California, San Diego. Her research is focused on neuroAIDS, multicultural issues in neuropsychology, and health disparities. She is the principal investigator of an NIMH-funded study investigating the neurocognitive and sociocultural determinants of antiretroviral adherence among HIV-positive Latinos and is co-investigator on two additional NIH-funded studies. Her clinical practice comprises forensic work and pro bono services for disenfranchised communities. She has been a member of APA since 1997 and has served APA via the advisory board for the Presidential Taskforce on Diversity Education Resources and as a grant reviewer for the APA Science Directorate’s Dissertation Research Award. She has also served APA Division 40 since 2001, currently as an elected member-at-large. She is a grant reviewer for NIMH, the National Academy of Neuropsychology, and the Alzheimer’s Association and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society and as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous other journals. Dr. Rivera Mindt’s research, teaching and contributions to the field have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Early Career Award from APA’s Division 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology) in 2011 and the Early Career Service Award from the National Academy of Neuropsychology in 2010.

Scyatta A. Wallace, PhDScyatta A. Wallace, PhD, received her PhD in developmental psychology from Fordham University and her BA in psychology from Yale University. She also completed a 2-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. Her research interests include examining contextual and cultural influences associated with HIV risk among Black adolescents and young adults. She is currently an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at St. John’s University and is also principal investigator on a 4-year, CDC-funded study to develop culturally tailored and gender-specific health education materials that promote HIV testing among low-income heterosexual young adult Black men recently released from jail/prison. In addition, she has received funding from NIH and other federal agencies and foundations for her work focused on substance use and sexual risk among Black youth. Dr. Wallace is an NIH Loan Repayment recipient (2006–present). Previous honors include receiving a 3-year summer visiting professorship at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco; being named an NIH Health Disparities Scholar (2002–2004); receiving the first Dalmas A. Taylor Summer Policy Fellowship (2000) awarded by the APA; and receiving a Graduate Research Ethics Education Training fellowship from the National Science Foundation (1998–2001). Wallace is currently on the editorial board of Applied Developmental Science.