Substance Use & HIV Scientific Working Group

Substance Use Scientific Working Group (SU SWG) Consultation Service

This free consultation service will provide guidance and assistance on biobehavioral and clinical trial design involving substance use disorders and HIV treatment and prevention, substance use assessment, as well as drug testing and basic science related to substance use. Drs. Abigail Batchelder and Peter ChaiHU CFAR Substance Use Scientific Working Group (SU SWG) directors, will field requests and identify members of the SU SWG with relevant expertise to provide the consultation.

Scientific Working Group Leadership:

Abigail Batchelder, PhD, MPH, Director
Dr. Batchelder is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, a licensed clinical staff psychologist in the Behavioral Medicine Program in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and an Affiliated Investigator at the Fenway Institute. She is a highly trained new and early-stage investigator with experience developing, refining, and conducting interventions with people who are sub-optimally engaged in HIV care with active substance use disorders. She has expertise in qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as close to 15 years of experience conducting clinical research and over 10 years of experience working clinically and in research contexts with people with substance use disorders, including people who inject drugs. Her work predominantly focuses on intervening on psychological barriers to HIV self-care among people with active substance use disorders, with a focus on stigma and shame. She has been awarded seven grants as principal investigator, including a K23 from NIDA, which she is starting her final year. Her responsibilities with the SWG will include directing the standing meetings, the symposium planning, and the mentorship program.

Peter Chai, MD, MMS, Co-Director
Dr. Chai is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology and Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is also an affiliate researcher at The Fenway Institute, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on utilizing sensor systems to understand the context around real-time PrEP adherence at the individual level as well as population level substance use. He additionally focuses on intervention development that utilizes sensor technology as an architecture to make contextual decisions around adherence and substance use. His responsibilities with the SWG will include mentorship and consultations regarding substance use testing in collaboration with HU CFAR cores, and co-leading meetings, symposium planning, and mentorship planning.

The purpose of this SWG is to facilitate innovative and fruitful collaborations focused on substance use and HIV across the HU CFAR. While the role of substance use in the perpetuation of the HIV epidemic is well established in the literature, collaborations focused on substance use in the context of HIV treatment and prevention is underdeveloped at the HU CFAR. Over 20 million people in the US alone are living with substance use disorders.‎ Among people living with HIV, those who use substances typically achieve lower levels of antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence and worse HIV outcomes. People with substance use disorders additionally have fewer opportunities to accept and utilize HIV prevention strategies including condom use and access to chemoprophylaxis in the form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Further, substance use has been identified as one of the most common predictors of poor ART and PrEP adherence. It therefore presents a significant barrier in the effort to curb the HIV epidemic in the United States. The scope of research topics involving substance use and HIV is broad including treatment and prevention in relation to HIV and a range of substances (e.g., opioids, stimulants, marijuana, and tobacco), specific populations who use substances (e.g., people who inject drugs (PWID) and men who have sex with men who use stimulants), and common combordibities (e.g., HCV). The scope also includes understanding and intervening on relationships between substance use and sub-optimal engagement in HIV treatment and HIV risk behavior in the context of psychological and structural challenges such as mental illness and stigma. Recent advances in treatment and prevention strategies including injectable pharmacotherapy for HIV prevention (cabotegravir), broadening access to medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, harm reduction through universal naloxone access, all have significant implications in people who use substances. Across these longstanding and more recent topics involving substance use and HIV there are opportunities to develop innovative collaborations across the HU CFAR.

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