University of Chicago Associate Professors of Medicine Jessica Ridgway, MD, MS, and Neda Laiteerapong, MD, MS, were recently awarded a research grant to study health inequity in substance use disorder screening and treatment among Black people living with HIV. This grant was awarded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH, through the NIDA Racial Equity Initiative, a landmark program aimed at addressing racial and ethnic disparities within the field of addiction science. Ridgway is a co-director of the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research Clinical Sciences Core and Laiteerapong is a member of the Third Coast CFAR.

Substance use disorder (SUD) and HIV are syndemics that both disproportionately affect Black Americans. Structural racism related to inadequate access to healthcare, stigma, and criminalization, especially among those with intersectional identities, such as Black gender and sexual minorities, further exacerbate disparities in HIV and SUD outcomes.

Jessica Ridgway
Jessica Ridgway

“Achieving health equity is important to eliminate these disparities and achieve justice for people who have been marginalized and experienced structural racism,” said Ridgway.

Only about half of HIV care sites routinely screen and refer patients to substance use treatment. A promising strategy to address structural barriers to substance use screening for people living with HIV is the use of electronic patient portals. Portals are secure websites that give patients access to health information and allow for secure messaging with providers. They are associated with improved health outcomes and patient engagement with clinicians. Importantly, these portals can alert clinicians when a patient living with HIV has missed an appointment and suggest a follow-up call.

This grant will implement and evaluate multi-level interventions to decrease barriers to substance use screening and treatment through a program the grant’s investigators call the ePORTAL HIV-S. ePORTAL HIV-S will be implemented at the Chicago Department of Public Health-funded South Side Health Home (S2H2), the main provider of HIV prevention and care services for Chicago’s South Side, a majority Black community disproportionately impacted by HIV and substance use disorder.

University of Chicago’s Russell Brewer, DrPH, MPH; John Schneider, MD, MPH; Jade Pagkas-Bather, MD, MPH; and Harold Pollack, PhD, are co-investigators of this grant.

For seven years, Ridgway has served on the Clinical Sciences Core, providing a variety of services to the TC CFAR members across all HIV research disciplines. In turn, the CFAR has helped her tremendously with developing new projects.

“The preliminary work for this grant was supported by a CFAR pilot award and CFAR administrative supplement award,” said Ridgway. “The Clinical Sciences Core provided clinical informatics resources and consultation that were vital to this work and in obtaining this new grant.”

Neda Laiteerapong
Neda Laiteerapong

As a leading researcher in individualized treatment for diabetes and a commitment to improving care for individuals with physical and mental chronic diseases, Laiteerapong is looking forward to becoming more involved in HIV research as a co-principal investigator of this grant.

“This R01 grant allows me to continue to work within my mission of improving the science of mental health care for people who have been historically marginalized,” said Laiteerapong. “It also helps me stretch my work into people living with HIV, which is a population I have always wanted to improve the science of caring for.”

View the recent Population Health and Patient Portal Mental Health Screening for People Living with HIV workshop presented by Ridgway and Laiteerapong.

Research reported in this news story was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01DA058965.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.