Darnell N. Motley, PhD, is committed to examining and challenging how structural factors such as racism, homophobia, and health stigma attempt to limit the experiences of racial, sexual, and gender minorities and individuals living with HIV. Motley, director of Structural Interventions for the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination (CCHE), uses qualitative research to inform the development and adaptation of interventions intended to impact social determinants of sexual health.

After completing his graduate studies at DePaul University and his postdoctoral training at the Edward Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital, Motley joined the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) as a Senior Researcher in 2018, becoming a Research Assistant Professor in 2020. At Ci3, Motley supported research on the relationship between structural factors and sexual health in sexual and gender minority communities of color. He also led the Chicago site of Work2Prevent, an ATN study focused on developing and piloting a career readiness intervention tailored for Black and Latinx MSM and trans women. After moving the intervention to CCHE’s The Village to better engage with participants, Motley found that they could also be linked to services much more easily.

“I think we have 95% retention in the second version [of Work2Prevent]. Like for follow-up, that’s kind of unheard of, but folks were invested in what we were doing,” said Motley. In addition, the intervention demonstrated high feasibility and acceptability, and participants who completed the intervention evidenced an increase in weekly hours worked in formal employment settings and a reduction in reliance on survival sex work.

“It was nice to be able to support them in that way and to see many of them now in the workforce, […] feeling more confident in seeking out jobs they really want versus just taking whatever sort of offered to them.”

In January, Motley was selected to co-lead a CFAR Community Collaborative Award with Chris Balthazar. The award allows Motley to collaborate with Taskforce Prevention and Community Services to build infrastructure for continuous community feedback and involvement in developing, implementing, and disseminating HIV research focused on sexual and gender minority communities of color.

“One of the problems of research that I came in fussing about was that it was often led by people who weren’t in the community, and the findings were often without the context of the community,” said Motley. 

“When they have listening sessions around what the next priorities are, I can say working with my CAB for the last X amount of time […] they’ve identified these things as really critical in terms of Black sexual health for those SGM communities.”

Motley’s work  has been published in AIDS Education PreventionResearch in Human DevelopmentJMIR Research Protocols, and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.