Pilot Project Abstracts


Annie Belcourt (Dittloff), PhD (Hidatsa, Mandan, Blackfeet, and Chippewa)
Assistant Professor, School of Public and Community Health Sciences
University of Montana

Proposed pilot project: “Culturally situated narratives of mental health needs and intervention development”

Annie Belcourt works collaboratively to explore the constellation of risk and protective factors associated with posttraumatic stress, depression, and mental health status within American Indian communities. Her IHART-supported project will investigate associations between traumatic exposure, depression symptoms, substance abuse, and sexual health behaviors in tribal populations.

Daniel Dickerson, DO, MPH (Inupiaq)
Assistant Research Psychiatrist, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs
University of California, Los Angeles

Proposed pilot project: “Analyzing the effectiveness of the Red Circle Project, a culturally relevant HIV prevention program for AI/ANs”

Dan Dickerson has recently completed a study analyzing substance abuse characteristics among at-risk urban American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) in Los Angeles County, and is interested in conducting further research that could decrease the rates of HIV/AIDS and comorbid substance abuse.

Tommi L. Gaines, DrPH (Navajo) Research Project Scientist
University of California, San Diego

Proposed pilot project: “The social epidemiology of HIV/STIs among American Indian women”

Abstract: The risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, is multifaceted, associated with a myriad of factors not solely explained by individual characteristics.  Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in understanding the social epidemiology of HIV/STI by identifying macro-level factors that interact with individual behavior to shape health and disease.   Although there have been numerous studies examining the social and environmental contexts that influencing HIV/STI risk, less attention has focused on quantifying these effects within American Indian (AI) Populations, where HIV prevalence is ranked 3rd across all racial groups (10.4 per 100,000 in 2005) and STIs are as much as 4 times greater than non-Hispanic whites in the United States.  Therefore, this project seeks to contribute to the current knowledge by examining the contextual factors affecting HIV/STI risk among American Indian communities through a secondary analysis of survey data.

Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan, DrPH (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)
Assistant Professor, College of Public Health
University of Oklahoma

Proposed pilot project: “Feasibility study assessing the efficacy of a narrative versus informational video in promoting HIV testing among Native American women”

The purpose of this pilot study is to assess the efficacy of a narrative vs. informational video in promoting HIV testing among Native American women. The specific aims include: developing key messages about HIV risk; creating two videos of the same length (10 minutes each) that communicate these key HIV risk messages; selecting 75 women using a convenience sample from the waiting rooms of 3 different Native American health centers (a rural, an urban, and a reservation health center) in Oklahoma; randomly assigning each woman to watch either the narrative or informational video; contacting women by phone at 3 and 6 months post-baseline to complete a follow-up questionnaire.

Melissa Walls, PhD (Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe & Couchiching First Nation)
Assistant Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences
University of Minnesota, Duluth

Proposed pilot project: “A three-generations study reconnecting with Healing Pathways study communities in the Midwest and Canada”

The specific aims of this project are to engage and partner with health and human service workers and homeless outreach service providers in the Duluth, Minnesota, area to implement a pilot qualitative study of HIV/AIDS risk behaviors and awareness among a purposive sample of homeless American Indian people. The PI has established key contacts in the Duluth, MN area from which to gain insight and guidance on local knowledge gaps and agency needs and resources.  A working luncheon to discuss the project has been initiated and includes representatives from the American Indian Community Housing Organization and Life House for Youth. The current plan, pending feedback from community partners, is to hear homeless community members’ perspectives on HIV/AIDS resources in the area, and to ascertain awareness of behavioral risks associated with HIV/AIDS.   One-on-one semi-structured qualitative interviews are proposed with the possible inclusion of innovative methodologies like photo voice.


Tessa Evans-Campbell, PhD (Snohomish)
Associate Professor
University of Washington School of Social Work

Title: “HIV/AIDS and urban American Indian women: A prevention study”

Tessa Evans-Campbell’s research explores the relationship between trauma, mental health, and HIV risk in Native women with a particular focus on cultural protective factors.

Michelle Johnson-Jennings, PhD (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)
Assistant Professor
College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota

Title: “Preventative factors against prescription drug abuse, other substances use, risky sexual behavior, and HIV risks among American Indians”

Michelle Johnson-Jennings seeks to explore the influences of chronic pain, tobacco misuse, and prescription drug misuse on those at high risk for contracting HIV. She conducts community-based research in American Indian reservation communities regarding cultural health beliefs about medication, substance misuse, and HIV screening, and she hopes to develop culturally relevant health care provider interventions to improve HIV screening practices.

Andrew Jolivette, PhD (Opelousa/Atakapa-Ishak/Creole)
Associate Professor and Chair American Indian Studies
San Francisco State University

Title: “Mixed Race Native American Gay Men and HIV: A Study of Social Stigmatization and the Impact of Social Stigmas on Risk Behavior among Mixed Race Native American MSM Living in Urban Areas”

Andrew Jolivette is building a culturally specific intervention designed to reduce mental stress, high-risk behavior, and substance abuse as factors for HIV transmission. The IHART-funded pilot study employed focus groups and surveys to explore mental health, stress-coping mechanisms, and trauma among mixed-race gay men and transgender people. Jolivette is working in partnership with San Francisco’s Native American AIDS Project (NAAP).

David A. Patterson, PhD (Cherokee and Irish descent)
Assistant Professor, George Warren Brown School of Social Work
Washington University in St. Louis

Title: “Healing in volumes©: A new approach to HIV”

David Patterson is working with Native American Community Services in Buffalo, New York, to develop a Native American-specific intervention addressing safer sex practices by adapting a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-proven practice.