The resilience of people living with HIV (PLWH) and barriers and facilitators to PrEP uptake regarding messaging and communication are assessed in two recent papers published by Walter Gómez, PhD, MA, MSW. Gómez is an assistant professor of the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Chicago and an affiliate member of the Third Coast CFAR.

Walter Gómez
Walter Gómez, PhD, MA, MSW

A key factor in understanding the lived experiences of PLWH is resilience. In Gómez’s article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, he explored the concept of resilience in a qualitative study involving 22 PLWH. The study assessed resilience processes corresponding to positive reappraisal of life events, positive reappraisal of self, and community as resilience. Results showed participants who have lived with HIV longer are more engaged in the psychological processes of resilience, while those more recently diagnosed with HIV engaged in additional social processes. However, these processes were not mutually exclusive and the ability to perform resilience through community seems to be key to optimizing outcomes. The study concludes that better understanding of the distinct and diverse pathways through which PLWH engage in resilience may inform interventions promoting optimal well-being.

Although Black and Latino sexual minority men (SMM) are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection, they only account for 10% and 12% of PrEP prescriptions, respectively. Through Gómez’s review published in the Current Opinion in Psychology, 16 qualitative studies were surveyed to assess the barriers and facilitators that impacted PrEP uptake and retention among SMM during its first decade on the market and sought to underscore the importance of messaging and communication in these processes. Findings highlight several key features that could inform more effective PrEP enrollment and retention efforts for SMM. For example, information needs to be more accessible, both in terms of availability and clarity, and messaging should underscore the potential of PrEP use to enhance feelings of sociosexual agency and empowerment among SMM.

Gómez’s research focuses on addressing health inequities among SMM. With the goal of informing innovative interventions, he engages with syndemics, intersectionality, and stress and coping theories and frameworks, along with mixed and qualitative methods. He has consistently worked in interdisciplinary settings to address social problems such as HIV prevention, aging with HIV, and methamphetamine addiction.

Gómez earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, MA at the University of California, San Francisco, and MSW at the University of California, Berkeley.